Fear is a pretty potent force. You have your fears, I have mine. Some monster out there on the horizon dares you to challenge it while something inside of you begs you to play it safe.
We can fear failure.
We can fear loss of something we currently hold.
We can fear being alone or stuck in one place forever.
We have all experienced the occasional dread when we think of how and when we might die.
Yes, there is anxiety available on a hundred different levels for you and me today and, by the way, there are thousands of doctors with tens of thousands of prescriptions to help soothe your fears. I counsel people weekly who are controlled in one way or another by the tentacles of fear and worry. Watch the news for fifteen minutes and you discover thirty reasons to spend the day in dread. Are you aware of your fears? Have you gauged how much sway they are holding in regard to how you are living your life…or not living it?
When Landon was seven years old, he was afraid of the basement at the home we had just bought. He wouldn’t venture down there alone. Here’s a little excerpt from something I journaled at that time:
“Landon and I made a trip to the game store yesterday so he could spend some of the fifty dollars he received when he read through his Action Bible. He was thrilled to know he had some hefty cash to blow at his new favorite place and he spent thirty minutes before finding the right game selection. He chatted up the teenage girl behind the counter, talking about video game technology that is now foreign to my forty-something’s understanding. The girl placed his game in the bag and we got home for him to enjoy the fruits of his labors. His big sister was reading a book so she wouldn’t go downstairs with him where the gaming console is connected. Amy was trying to rest her still-recovering leg and needed some downtime so she couldn’t tackle the stairs to accompany him. I encouraged him to go down and play by himself for a bit and that is when he informed me that he was too afraid to be down there alone. He was very serious and I recognized that he had an unreasonable anxiety sinking its claws into his young heart. Being his dad and desiring to help him in virtues like faith, trust and courage, I took some time to talk to him about why he must face his fears and go ahead and risk the descent into the netherworld of the bottom floor of Castle Lyle. In the end he declined to do so – fear had won the day. We had talked about it, prayed to God for courage and reasoned through why there was no danger at all that he needed to fear. Nothing worked, and so he chose not to play his game that he had been so excited about. It was difficult but I chose to let him make the decision in fear instead of rescuing him from the disappointment of not playing his game. He needs to begin learning that it takes faith and courage to enjoy this life, and that there will always be reasons to stand motionless on the sidelines and tremble. The new game still sits unopened on the coffee table. Fear had robbed my boy of pleasure and I suddenly found myself as a student of this same lesson.”
I actually remember that day from almost six years ago like it was yesterday. I learned something from it that is still with me today.
My adult fears have the same effect on me that Landon’s did on him that night. I don’t always trust my Father and I sometimes miss out on blessings that await me. That less-than-courageous inner voice sometimes takes the lectern and begins to teach me of my insufficiency, my weakness, my lack of wisdom and limited endurance. The giant in the valley roars his words at me, and it is then that I see that my taunting Goliath is actually in my head. Fear is a frustrating force and I know of no other means to deal it a death blow other than confidence in a protecting, empowering God, and the call for me to move in faith. At some point we have to take the risks. There is a defined moment when we are called to do what we would rather not, and it is only then that our courage grows and our fears atrophy. When we feed our worry and dread they develop muscle and sinew and their fangs and claws grow sharper at their points. Your personal basement is dark and intimidating but, truth be known, whatever it is you are fearing is so small in comparison to your great God. His love for you eclipses the object of your fear. His grace for you will provide emergence from the long valley. His voice to you will not only empower you to begin to confront the monster in the shadows but will also speak whispered reassurance directly to your fretful heart until the fret finally fizzles. I need today what Landon needed that night when he was six.. and I’m convinced now that God was showing me something important to learn and retain: the monster in the basement doesn’t exist. The real monster is the lack of trust I sometimes carry in the darkened places of my heart.
Landon went to bed that night having not played his game. We pray together each night and he asked me three requests to petition God for. The final one was this: “Ask God to give me courage tomorrow so I can go into the basement and play my game.”
It was not long before Amy and I had to actually limit the amount of time Landon wanted to spend in that basement playing his games. He overcame his fears, one scary step down the staircase at a time. He has grown up in many ways since those days, but he’s still learning where the courage is to be found.
I am too.
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