Sounds redundant, but the Lord’s widened my eyes to its ramifications recently…
Scary, how it costs us. Scary, the precious life—the joy, the peace–lost in its stranglehold.
I’ve battled anxiety and its sister, fear, my whole life, especially since becoming a parent. (Let’s be honest–I never really knew fear until then!) But lately God’s been placing this roadblock more deliberately in my family’s path; showcasing its toxic manifestations in our lives; encouraging us to face it.
Honestly, the whole process is breeding contempt in me for that wretched word, fear. And so I’m embracing, knowing it’s for my best—our best. Because even from here I can feel an easing; I can see light emanating on the other side of this struggle—where fear’s grip is loosened, and our family can live unencumbered. FREE…
…I see it frequently in my seven-year-old son, with divine wiring similar to mine, as he struggles with his own thorn of apprehension. It’s the parental cross we bear, when our weaknesses appear, painfully amplified, in our young ones. Fear, when he faces a new experience. Fear, when he tries a new thing. And often, something my husband and I know he will love, if only he’ll let go and trust.
Most recently, however, fear’s choking weeds have sprung up in my ten-year-old daughter’s heart, pillaging her peace.
Lily (my darling with a penchant for drama) was scheduled to have a tooth pulled at the beginning of the summer. Orthodontist’s orders. An unpleasant reality, but inconsequential, nonetheless. Or so I thought. (Apparently I suffer from amnesia; of the selective variety. Or perhaps it’s PPTSD: Parental Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, manifesting itself in memory blockage.)
Whatever the case may be, one would think last year’s tooth pulling gone awry (yes, involving the very same drama princess) would have tipped me off to the horrors awaiting me. But no. I stormed headfirst last week into another episode, one that would far exceed its predecessor in both dramatic intensity and emotional toll.
A mere thirty seconds into the procedure, the dentist threw up his hands at my daughter’s torrential tears and referred us to his wife’s pediatric practice. Once menacing fear wrapped its clutches around my girl, that was that. No tooth pulling was to be had that day, satisfying my itch to cross this to-do off the list. Only an exhaustive/exhausting debriefing including soothing words, hair-stroking, enveloping hugs, pep talks, prayer, and fear-themed Scriptures.
…Punctuated with a gentle, yet firm “But next time, the tooth MUST come out”.
The next morning, bathed in new mercies, we walked confidently into round two; promises of a child-friendly, plush and painless experience bolstering Lily (and me). And the new office’s colorful palette and Disneyland-ish décor didn’t disappoint…at least not at the outset.
Alas, our sweet dreams came to a screeching halt as the hygienist opened the examining room door to a veritable monster in the closet: THE CHAIR.
It took only the reclining mechanism to upset my daughter’s precarious confidence. Even despite the docile jungle scene papered on the walls, and the flat screen blaring cartoons enticingly on the ceiling, her dammed-up tears began to spill, and she lost it. Heart and soul–became a hyperventilating basket case before my eyes, not to be consoled until restored to her upright position on the non-threatening floor.
And there I was, reduced to a nervous, teary mess myself, feeling as if somehow this were my fault. Despite the dentist’s assurances: “We see this all the time. I promise.” It’s what we mothers do best—blame our poor selves. Some of us (moi), more accomplished than others. After all, considering my history, surely my messy genetics were to blame…
After repeating our pacification ritual, we departed the dentist’s office yet again, Lily’s mouth still hosting tortuous tooth “J”, and me, defeated, clutching yet another appointment card and our last resort—a prescription for Valium. By this point, I’d had it—I was ready to let “J” stay. Fear was beating my daughter–all out consuming her, just as it had had its way with me so many times before. Torture. Times two.
But, onward. I dragged my crew to the grocery store, that odious destination that only promises to make a bad day worse, at least in my world (we all have that place, don’t we?). In line, however, my children granted me momentary respite, fleeing to the magic penny-horse. I chatted gladly with a glowing older gentleman wearing a neck brace; his static grin a bright spot in my dreary day. The man was selling happy, and I was buying.
“What did you do to your neck?” I inquired.
He replied, exuberantly, “I’m recovering from [some spinal surgery whose many syllables escape me], and it’s just miraculous! My back pain is completely gone!”
Then, smile fading into regret’s abyss, he added:
“My only regret is that I waited ten years to have it. I was so afraid.”
His words hit me like an icy blast—and I almost winced, feeling the weight in that moment, of all the life (oh, ALL) that despicable thief, fear, had raped from this dear man. Trapped for ten years under a net of debilitating pain, held captive by terror—of the unknown.
Well, I’m having none of it.
For fear of all it denies me. And my family.
I don’t want to live in fear’s shadow. And yet I have. Missed out on life-giving, life-changing, even, joy-promising experiences in its odious name. I hate it.
And so I’m making a conscious effort to change. To shed anxiety and trepidation; cloaking myself instead in BRAVE. To take a deep breath, plunging headfirst into promise. Into abundance as God designed it to be lived—hand-in-hand with Him.
Like tandem skydiving with my Creator.
I’m in. You?
Come to the River…
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:18 (Message)