Fears Within


We’ve been dealing with a lot of irrational fears lately—it’s bound to happen wherever there are small children and large imaginations. My five-year-old son has been particularly afraid of group situations, hiding behind my legs when we attend events, pressing his face into my skirt as we greet people, and generally refusing to engage anyone he doesn’t know well.

Of course after several weeks of this, my justifiable fears, kicked in. Had he had a bad experience recently? Was he fearful of someone in particular? Had he been harmed and we didn’t know it? So one day, after yet another battle to enter a crowded room, my husband and I decided to talk with him, our own hearts equally terrified by what he might tell us.

The conversation went something like this:

Why didn’t you want to go into the room, honey?

There might be a bad guy in there.

                *sharp fear, remain calm*

Well… what would he look like?

I don’t know. Big.

                *more fear, this time accompanied by stomach churning*

Have you ever seen a bad guy in that room before?

No. But he might be there.

                *yep, still fear, breathe deeply*

What would this bad guy do if he was there… (*small voice* ) would he hurt you?

No, he would steal the money and run away.

            *?!?! what?!!?!*

The money?

Yeah, like on Superman. Are we done? Can I go play the Wii?

So for now, we’re putting away the Batman and the Superman and the video games until his overachieving imagination can distinguish between fantasy and reality.

But all this has only reminded me how powerfully controlling fear is. How it can paralyze us and make even the most everyday occurrences absolutely terrifying. How, in a very real way, we can get sucked into a vortex of emotion and possibility and even begin to fear fear itself. And as if our own minds weren’t predatory enough, how other people can manipulate our fears and use them to intimidate and oppress us.

Each one of us has our own set of “bad guys in the room.” For me, it’s worrying whether my children will grow up well, whether we’ll ever settle down in one place, whether people will like and approve of me. Some days I’m the courageous warrior leading her small army onto victory; other days I just want to hide behind my mother and retreat from the world.

And when I let my fears dictate my choices, I end up doing just that – retreating from situations that are uncomfortable, from people I don’t know, and from opportunities that are uncertain. I end up retreating from life in all its glorious, messy complexity. And in the end, I teach my children to do the same.

But I’m also discovering that there is something tremendously empowering, something unexpectedly emboldening about faith. Because when you believe that there is a God in heaven, there is purpose and meaning to this life, and there is joy in loving other people, suddenly instead of retreating from the world, you can take it on. When you believe that all things work together for good, that He has plans for your future, and that He loves you with an everlasting love, you can risk finding out what that future is.

And when you believe that He is the everlasting, almighty, just judge of the universe, you realize that even if there are bad guys in the room, they won’t be there for long.