High River United Church of High River, Alberta


Fear on the Loose

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I watched my husband move toward the edge to look into the chasm of the Victoria Falls.  My whole body reacted.  I felt weak, my knees rubbery and panic gripped me.  I needed him to move back from the edge and it needed to happen now.  Now! NOW!


Though Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is classified as the largest water in the world and there are no fences along the edge of the large chasm, my reaction was not logical. David was on his belly, inching forward. He was safe. He was being cautious.  So why did I go into such a huge reaction of fear?


Only 6 weeks earlier, our 5 year old nephew had been killed in a farming accident.  My brain was taking one trauma and bouncing it over to another situation.  Our worst fear had happened six weeks earlier.  Now as I watched David crawl on his belly toward the edge of the chasm, my whole being was screaming, “The worst can happen! Danger! Danger!”   I was overcome with fear.


That’s what happens with fear.  Something unexpected happens – disaster happens – and it puts us on full alert.  Most of the time we live with a bit of naivety, a protective sense of innocence, that allows us to function in the world, to enjoy life and to trust that things will work out just fine. Realistically and statistically that is true. A thousand things could go wrong each day.  Hundreds of disasters could happen.  But they don’t.  We go through the day just fine.  Life is good.


But then something happens – a flood that turns a regular school day, a regular work day, upside-down, with us fleeing in front of flood waters or being trapped as the waters rage around.  Summer plans are swept away with the flood waters and we face the cruel reality of homes, businesses and lives torn apart. Our naivety is gone.  We are no longer innocent. We know bad things happen.


Unfortunately, the fear that was natural to feel in the face of the disaster creeps into our whole life until we see danger around every corner and feel fear in every situation. Pay attention! Where has fear crept into your life?  Where is it shaping decisions and reactions that it never shaped before?  How is fear effecting your children in ways it never did before?


Having experienced massive flooding in High River, it’s quite natural that we feel caution as spring approaches and the snow melt in the mountains begins.  But when fear enters our lives, it doesn’t stay put.  It begins to tell us that everything is dangerous.  We begin to worry about things that we never worried about before.  Fear takes over, hurting our relationships and robbing us of joy in living.


What fears are controlling your life and your children’s lives?  Have you given up an activity you used to enjoy because you are now too afraid to do it? Do you find yourself worried about whether your children will accept Jesus when before you were content to let them find their own spiritual path, trusting that God’s love is broad and inclusive? Are you spending more time at home, afraid to go out?  Do your children express more fears – of things that seem nonsensical to you but are very real to them?  Are your children having more nightmares and bad dreams?


On one hand, there are things to be afraid of in this world and there are times when caution and being prepared serve us well. On the other hand, we are meant to have joy in our living and feel free to explore and embrace life. We are not meant to live in a state of watching for danger around every corner.  Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.  I have come that my joy may be in you and your joy may be full.”  (from the gospel of John)


We live however in a very fearful society, even though we are living in the safest time ever in history. The trouble with living in a constant state of fear is that our systems can’t handle it.  At some point, if nothing is done to soften the fear, then the alarm system gets messed up. Ever wonder why there is a rise of people undertaking “extreme” sports? Fearless people are really not the ones we should be admiring. Being fearless isn’t a good thing.  We are meant to have just enough fear to protect us.  But when we live in constant state of fear, when we are raised in a culture that points out danger around every corner, our natural caution gets shut behind a wall of defenses and we become what is perceived as fearless – which means that we don’t know fear when we really need it.


So what do we do with our fear?  How do we keep it from creeping into every aspect of our lives, ruining relationships and stealing our joy in living?  How do we keep our alarm system in healthy mode rather than overdrive?


To soften our fear, we need to make friends with it. We need to acknowledge it. (and we need to acknowledge our children’s fears.)  If we push fear away or bury it, it only gets bigger in order to get our attention.  Instead we say, “I feel afraid of that waterfall chasm.”   We acknowledge the fear and we make friends with it.  We get to know it, “Logically I see that David is safe on his belly, but I feel the fear right from my toes to the top of my head.  I feel weak and rubbery.  There are tears in my eyes.  And this is all okay. It’s how I’m feeling right now.”  We can draw our fears and journal our fears.  We can tell stories about our fears, and maybe even find something to laugh about.


Once we’ve acknowledged and made friends with our fear (we can help our children learn to do this as well), then we can choose whether we act on the fear or not.  We can explore whether there really is danger that should move us to caution or whether, logically and realistically, everything is just fine. 


We can practice ways of calming our fear in the moment such as breathing deeply right to our toes, holding our breath for a few moments and then exhaling slowly.  We can choose to picture in our minds our favourite calming scene (mine is sitting in a lawn chair, on a mountain lake shore, drinking tea and watching, believe it or not, a waterfall).  We can imagine ourselves a tree, rooted in the ground, and let our fear drain through the roots into the ground, as warm sunshine fills and soothes us from above.  We can teach our children these and other ways of soothing fears and finding balance, always though after having made friends with (having acknowledged) our fears.


When fear is on the loose in our life, it takes away the gift of living.  And it can take away from the lives of those around us.  Imagine what it is like for our children if we are always telling them, with fear in our voice, “Don’t do that! You might hurt yourself.”  Now there are times for caution – a hot burner on the stove, for example – but not everything is as dangerous as we might make it out to be.


We must not make our kids responsible for our fears.  Children will quickly pick up on our fear and upset and try to protect us – which is not their job.  We need to be responsible for making friends with our own fears.  And we need to be there to help our children make friends with their fears.  We need to be the ones to whom they can turn to find rest from their fears.


Yes, there is danger in our lives.  There are things of which to be afraid.  But there are far more things that are good and wonderful and lovely in our lives.  Our days are filled with a thousand times a thousand more beautiful happenings than dangerous happenings.  We are not meant to live in fear. We are meant to savour the wonder and joy of life in the intricate beauty of the world God made.


As you go into this day, I invite you to hold these words in your hearts and minds: “Do not fear for I am with you; do not be afraid for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you. I will hold you with my strong arm!”  (Isaiah 41:10) 


God’s love is stronger than our fear.  All shall be well!

May 14, 2015                           ©Susan Lukey 2015

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