People say that because our state of awareness is heightened when we are afraid, that we most likely have more vivid memories of times in our lives when we have experienced fear.
I don’t remember being afraid, but how could I not have been? I was about four years old when my grandfather passed away, and his wake is the earliest memory I have.
I remember watching the casket from a distance, but my mom tells me I went right up to it. I remember seeing my grandfather, still, but somehow at peace. I remember a lot of red, and I remember two stairs that led to a hallway with water fountains. From what I’ve read about memory, I know that these could very well be false memories, but for whatever reason my brain deemed the experience important, and to this day it is seared in my mind.
I did not have a traumatic childhood by any stretch of the imagination, but for some reason fear has often been my enemy.
As a young girl I battled fear at bedtime for years. I don’t necessarily remember fighting my parents about going to sleep, but I do remember lying there fighting the fear. I’m not sure when this ceased to be an issue, but I think it was around the time my mom and I starting singing “All that I Am” and “Give Thanks” every night.
Part of me must have known even then that there is great freedom in surrender and thanksgiving.
As a child I battled other such fears as haunted houses, rollercoasters, team sports, and speaking up in class.
Well, my best friend can attest that I have survived countless haunted houses over the years; (no thanks to her imagination about such places being the perfect scene for a crime!) and a crush motivated me to overcome the rollercoaster “shockwave” at Six Flags Great America.
I actually enjoyed intramurals in college (albeit briefly) and in training they couldn’t get me to shut up in class!
And although I have seen, through these “smaller” fears, and later though “larger” fears, that fear is conquered through the power that comes with surrender, the love that comes with thanksgiving, and the self-control that is learned by just taking one step forward, telling yourself that no matter what God is with you and everything will be okay, I find myself stuck again in fear.
A year and a half ago it was labeled anxiety by the doctors, and even though there is somewhat of a stigma attached to it, I think on a subconscious level I found it easier to talk about than some deep seated fears I may of felt but didn’t quite understand.
And though medication and breathing techniques stopped the fear from coming out in panic attacks, it did not stop the fear altogether. But I wanted so badly to be better that I convinced myself that I was.
It is honestly only in these last few weeks as I’ve taken intense inventory of my thoughts and emotions that I realize I’ve been scared on some level all along. And this fear was down so deep, bottled up so tightly, that its only option, the doctors say, was to manifest itself in physical ways.
So for the past year I have fought fatigue and weakness, headaches, and even seizures, to avoid, as Ann Voskamp put it:
“Fear of failing, fear of flailing, fear of arrows, fear of the way marked narrow, fear of that sheer rock in front of me that begs me to believe and be brave and climb”
In the past I have fought the dark with songs of surrender and thanksgiving and I have fought haunted houses with friendship. I have fought rollercoasters with desire (selfish though it may have been at the time) and I have fought team sports one hit at a time. I have fought shyness with my passion for knowledge and I will fight this nagging fear of the future with whatever tools the Lord gives me, starting with the Word of God.
“Because the Word is the only life hack that will hack up the lies from the pit and let you live free” (Ann Voskamp)
What strikes me all of a sudden is how strange it is that I don’t remember walking up all by my four year old self at my grandfather’s wake to see him lying in the casket.
I’m not remembering how brave I really was.
That’s the funny thing about memory: sometimes it takes the people who love us the most to encourage us, fill in the big picture, and remind us of who we truly are.
“God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful. He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love. It helps us control ourselves” (NIRV)