Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fear Does

When I had four littles and needed to leave for an afternoon, I would find some brave soul to watch them.  Then I would quickly sneak away. But before I fled, I would create a spreadsheet listing all of the directives I thought necessary to keep the littles alive. In addition to the multi-page document, I would leave the sitter soft foods for them to consume, like noodles or yogurt or applesauce, because I was afraid of choking. and cooking. and fires. and knife wounds.  And I would instruct the littles, that, in my absence, they COULD NOT, at any time, create a fort to sleep in that was airtight (like they could actually do this with blankets and clothespins) because I thought they would surely suffocate.  In the winter, I checked the veracity of the carbon monoxide detector repeatedly before I left because a rogue squirrel might get caught in the chimney; then they would breath the poison gas created by this blockage and die quietly.  And if it was summer, I made my littles wear life jackets at all times since I was sure they would wander over to the neighbor’s pool and drown.  I forbid them to start fires (as they often did outside!) and hid all of the matches in a cupboard above the refrigerator.  And I told the babysitter not to let them on the screened porch above the patio because I thought they might push through the screens, fall out the windows and crush their skulls on the cement below.  I hung blinds without cords because I thought they might strangle themselves.  I vetoed a trampoline because I thought they might paralyze themselves.  And I never ever called medicine “candy” for fear they might find the Flintstone vitamins and overdose themselves. 

At this time in my life, I thought that if I could just control all of the variables, I wouldn’t have to be fearful.  I truly believed that if I took all the risk out of all the experiences that my littles might encounter, I could relax and be a good mom.  I spent much of my time contemplating how to make the world a safer place for them…and a less scary place for me.  But you know what?  I never could control all of the variables.  In fact, the fear of these unknowns controlled me and I was often paralyzed by worry. 

How do we do that?  How do we live our lives in faith in the One who controls all things?  How do we trust that His Sovereignty is good?  How do we rest in His choices for our lives? Our kids? Our future?  The struggle is real.  The worry is palpable.  

The solution, however, lies not in our control, but in our complete surrender. Here’s how my surrender happened: As I read through the Bible, I started to look for the ways God described Himself. I looked for his character qualities and found that God is always faithful, always strong, never changing.  He called Himself a fortress, a shield, a rock, an anchor.  He described Himself as a tender mother, a devoted father, a rescuer, and a victor.  He showed compassion, intuition, loyalty, and sacrifice.  He said that He was GOOD.  I had to choose to believe He was all of these things.  All the time.  Because if I didn’t believe this, I was calling God a liar.   In this choosing, my attitude towards God changed. As I grew in my knowledge of the God who created me, He grew bigger in my heart. 

When I finally started using my transformed mind, I was enabled to grasp Romans 8:28  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.  And when this same mind told my heart what was true, my belief in God’s good sovereignty replaced my anxiety with a sense of awe.  This process has taken a long time…more than a decade.  Probably closer to two.  In fact, God is still working on me to show me that He is truly Lord.   

Since I now know that God is bigger than I can imagine, and His plans are always for my benefit, I have been able to “lay my worries on the table” and walk away.  Sometimes, I lay them down…and pick them up again… multiple times a day because, like he did to Eve, Satan will whisper slyly in my ear, “Did God really say…?” But then, like the weapon it is, the Word of God comes to mind and defends me, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) and "Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." (Psalm 116:7) and I remember that the laying down is right.

My littles have now become bigs.  They cook and cut and eat chewy things like meat and nuts and grapes not split in half.  They sleep in real, somewhat air-tight, tents in forests. with bears (they don’t sleep with the bears…the bears are in the forests) No squirrel has ever attempted suicide in their chimneys. They have learned to swim to save themselves, their skulls are still intact, and they build fires that would impress you. They have blinds with cords, do flips on trampolines, and have never overdosed on vitamins—probably because they never take them.  But now they do lots of other scary things, as if the bears weren’t scary enough; they drive cars on highways, fly in airplanes by themselves, and go on dates with people I don’t know.  They even get married and move halfway across the world where I can’t help them at all. 

The thing I can do, however, is surrender; I plan to keep on doing it. Because I am fully persuaded that God is good and faithful and always, always trust-worthy. Fear is no longer my master because God is now Lord of my mind…and my heart. 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~Romans 8:38-39

“Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.  Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, and Thy beauty fills my soul, for by Thy transforming power, Thou hast made me whole.”
 ~Jean S. Pig­ott; 1876