Have You Ever Been Fearful?

Last week I let my fears get the best of me — and it’s not  the first time.

Many of my bad decisions over the years have come from a place of fear. I wish the fears were related to grizzly bears or insects because it’s pretty easy to rid yourself of those types of fears since they’re obvious.

My fearful tendencies are usually more subtle because I’m great at rationalizing them or ignoring the deeper causes all together.

A few weeks back my husband got me a pony (actually a mini horse) and I was thrilled for about three days.

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Here’s what triggered an insane panic attack that also lasted about three days (not including the physical recovery time):

  1. When the lady dropped off Hobbes he was much bigger than I imagined he would be — and to be fair — much cuter. He was also skittish and head shy. This we had been warned about but it was still unnerving since he was at least a hundred pounds bigger than I thought he would be. The kind lady had spent a year working to get him used to people and did a great job but he still has a long way to go. The FEAR set in when she mentioned he needed his hooves trimmed ASAP.
  2. I called a vet-recommended farrier whose tone let me know right away that he thought I was an idiot for taking in an unknown rescue animal. The more he talked the more I could feel my excitement draining from me while fear flooded in. He said he’d come by in a few weeks. That meant each day that I woke in dread of his call since Hobbes was just barely letting me touch him.
  3. Randomly, this other lady who I’d been talking to over the last few months who does Christ-based equine therapy for humans called me about something. When I told her I had a mini horse now she was super excited for me, but warned me that if there was one thing I should know it was that  Hobbes should NEVER EVER be given second cut hay because it is too rich and the horse could die from founder (which is a sort of fever in the feet). She continued to give good advice that I don’t remember because I was pacing the floor waiting for her to hang up. As soon as she did I raced to the barn and tore the second cut hay outta there.
  4. I spent the day driving around to all the places in the county that I could think of that had first cut hay to no avail. I also forgot to eat. By nightfall I was a mess and spread the lovely anxiety all through the house as my husband called the guy he knew —  but the guy was drunk and didn’t have any hay.

Did I mention that I burst out crying to a few people I didn’t really know over the course of the day?

Now here’s the part I find so amazing. I had been praying to God to reveal my weaknesses and also to make it clear that the revelation would be from Him. I assumed if ever I got an answer it would be something about impatience.

As I walked through the two days of hell that I basically created I felt in my soul that God was answering the prayer: FEAR OF MAN IS MY IDOL OF CHOICE

The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25

You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it. Deuteronomy 1:17

If I were to say to you that I was afraid for Hobbes and his health that would only be the side of the thing I wanted you to see and maybe applaud me for, but the truth is as I ran around all day my thoughts were about the condemnation and shame I would feel if it were exposed to the unknown farrier and the unknown imaginary judges that I was imperfect and in way over my head.

Fear and shame run rife in my family, but that doesn’t mean I get to wallow in it. I wallowed for a little while until I remembered a sign advertising hay I’d passed many times. This is silly but even at my age I still feel a strong anxiety about phone calls especially when I’m in need, but I knew that I could not let my husband make the call. I knew God was basically saying that fear just wasn’t a foolish thing but a total lack of faith in Him and an idol that kept me from living a victorious life (church speak).

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”Matthew 16:23

I called and the guy on the other end answered.

“I’m really hoping you have hay because I’m desperate and freaking out because we have a mini horse and there’s no way he’ll lift his feet for the farrier and I’m irrationally afraid that he’s going to die of founder by tomorrow morning — he won’t right???”

There was a long pause. “Hey, take a deep breath. Your horse will be fine. Okay, what I want you to do is enjoy tonight with your family. I’ll set a few bales of hay out tomorrow morning and you come by and I’ll give you some help since I have a few minis myself.”

There was something in his voice that was super Zen.

I was shaking on the phone because as he was speaking I knew God was showing me what life could be like if I didn’t carry around a whole ton of pride and shame.

When I got off the phone I burst into tears. Our adopted daughter came beside me and said, “I didn’t know you were anxious like me. That’s another way that we are like twins.”

Apparently she was happy about it.

When I got to the horse barn the next day I was a lot calmer. I realized that if Hobbes didn’t get his feet done right away it wasn’t all my fault — after only a few days of knowing him. I wasn’t a superstar trainer. This would be a huge learning season for me. The man with the hay took time out to show me ways to calm Hobbes  (and me) down. He was so kind and not judgemental!

It reminded me of how in elementary school I was so humiliated that I didn’t already know the stuff the teacher was being paid to teach me. Irrational but me — STILL.

IMG_0250The lady who gave us the horse called and offered to come show me how to handle the hoof situation (this also made me cry because she offered to drive an hour and a half for free!). When she came Hobbes was a brute and didn’t let her do a thing which was oddly comforting.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with punishment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

 

 

Further reading:

LAY ASIDE FEAR OF MAN

DETOXING FROM THE FEAR OF MAN

FEAR OF LOSING APPROVAL

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Slaying Dragons

Was the trial sore?
Temptation sharp? Thank God a second time!
Why comes temptation but for a man to meet
And master and make crouch beneath his foot,
And so be pedestaled in triumph? Pray
“Lead us into no such temptations, Lord!”
Yea, but, O thou whose servants are the bold,
Lead such temptations by the head and hair,
Reluctant dragons, up to who dares fight
That so he may do battle and have praise.
— Robert Browning.

 

It’s counter-intuitive this Christian walk. To battle against dragons with meekness …

 

“The quietness and openness and vulnerability of meekness is very beautiful and very painful. It goes against all that we are by our sinful nature. It requires supernatural help.” John Piper

 

My sinful nature says I should borrow someone’s shotgun and go coon hunting today after waking up to half of my chicken flock dead. My favorite Dominique who managed to live for years with crippled feet was one of the victims. Only two days ago we found one of our ducks dead, too. And then the other (right after I agreed to take a few ducks from a friend to keep the second duck company).

 

My sinful nature says we should re-home our foster kid. My husband fears this kid destroying our peace — and our marriage. After three years she’s only improving on ways to be deceptive. Frankly, we worry that her desire to be promiscuous will lead to us  raising her low-IQ offspring well into our eighties. It puts to the test our notion that every child is here for a reason and deserves love. Some days I just want to slink away to some cave and let the world fend for itself.

I don’t want to feel my blood rise at the sight of this kid who insists on touching upon each pet peeve of everyone in the family.

Examples:

My husband has trouble with his weight so she asks him constantly if he’s eaten her ice cream or done his time on the elliptical.

I have trouble dealing with her insisting she’s right about things she’s so obviously  clueless about. I spend countless hours fuming about the steps of long division and the proper way to engage strangers in public places.

rudolph jettmar

Rudolph Jettmar

Meekness is a concept I struggle to wrap my mind around. If I want to fight the good fight, I want it to be done in a series of active steps that leads to an outcome I’ve decided upon.

The notion of handing over these desires to a higher power seems ridiculous and insane.

In the face of evil raccoons (who happen to also be cute) and unfit parents who get away with abuse and then just disappear what does meekness offer?

I’ve always thought of meekness as a mousy way to be. I imagine a weaker version of me curled up in a corner somewhere (still fretting and wringing my hands).

But meekness is something different. I think it’s that point when you realize that, despite your handmade armor and big plans, you’re powerless in the face of sin and evil. Sure you can slay a few dragons now and again with only minor scrapes, but then you turn and realize that those were just the baby dragons.

For the last two weeks my husband has been battling his mother while, for the first time, developing a relationship with his mostly absent and passive father (who is now dying of cancer). My father-in-law’s pain had brought a certain poignant beauty to their encounters, yet a dragon that has stalked my mother-in-law for years in the form of depression and addiction chooses now to scorch anyone in breathing distance.

I’ve seen this wrath, delusion and animal fear before in other cornered addicts I’ve known. Meekness in the face of it shows true bravery and strength. My husband and I take turns fending off the flames with as much meekness as we can muster, but I’m seriously less patient than he is.

In the evenings after the dragons have gone to bed we sometimes (more often than I’d like to admit) find it hard to be meek with each other. I’m disgruntled and want to slash away. My husband is just exhausted and doesn’t want a battle-frenzied companion at his bedside.

The problem with dragons is that, if they can’t kill you outright, they equally enjoy recruiting you as ally before they send their flames when you turn your back.

“Meekness begins when we put our trust in God. Then, because we trust him, we commit our way to him. We roll onto him our anxieties, our frustrations, our plans, our relationships, our jobs, our health.” John Piper

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

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Franz Moser

HOW DO YOU SLAY YOUR DRAGONS? I’d love to know! Tell us in the comments below.

LINKS:

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEEKNESS AND HUMILITY

GOD’S CURE FOR PRIDE AND ARROGANCE

NOT TO WORRY

Writing Idols

“It is indeed a remarkable fact that sufferings and hardships do not, as a rule, abate the love of life; they seem on the contrary, usually to give it a keener zest; and the sovereign source of melancholy is repletion. Need and struggle are what excite and inspire. Our hour of triumph is what brings the void.”
William James.

It is not my habit to live in the present. I either linger on past moments of tenderness or future dreams of glory. Suffering brings the present–the present as gift and challenge. Living life as a cup in need of filling (by other people, by success, by healthy foods and by writing) is a sad fiction with tragic consequences.

So often I strive (in search of what?). I don’t believe creative pursuits are meaningless or bad yet when I make idols I miss things. I hunger after food that does not satisfy. I forget others. I avoid others. They interfere with my goals (my declared and undeclared wants disguised as needs).

I’d like to write a better post this week yet winter lingers here at Middlemay Farm with a host of sufferings and difficulties. I confess that January felt laden with disappointment, boredom and wasted time. February was no better until one day when I’d gotten up especially early to get stuff done before having to wash staph-infected goats with lime sulfur (yes, it smells of rotten eggs) I stumbled upon a verse from the Bible.

“The Lord is peace.” Judges 6:24

Four simple words. Words almost cliche. Yet they struck me as the opposite of how I’d been living my life. After years of striving, yoga, green smoothies, tantrums, therapy and complaint, I suddenly saw that I’d bought into the lie that I was a cup “needing” to be filled. God led me to write novels. Some may scoff at such a notion but there are just some things that jump out at you in life. The mission placed on me, embedded in my DNA, is to write fiction for those of us who are terribly flawed. Those of us who believe we’ve taken things too far and are irredeemable. I once was there.

But missions can get corrupted as easily as anything else. A review comes in. A reader finds a book’s characters too damned flawed. For a moment, maybe even a day, I wander the farm wondering: Is it true that some people are just not lovable?

On an intellectual level I believe God loves us–all of us, but I fall prey to feelings, and feelings lie. I let my characters go through quite a lot of hardship. They grow that way. I love them and the people I write for. Fictional characters live in the past and future.

In the NOW there are real people who suffer minor slights and major catastrophes all around us. I find them insufferably flawed. I say to my husband things like: if this one goat I love does not get better soon I want her taken out back and shot. Do I mean it? Sometimes. Maybe? Not really.

It’s very easy for me to blind myself to the suffering of others when I’m stomping my feet and needing my cup filled.

So what is this peace?

I used to think it was an easy thing for the Lord to have peace. If I had complete control wouldn’t I have peace?

Honestly I’d have to say no. It’s obvious that none of us are gods, but I make idols of people and things all the time. Idols bring no peace. Striving brings no peace.

I think the point of the four words is that while there are lesser things to love, to struggle with and to mourn over God remains present. As in the moments. Right now. As writers we create characters, serenely aware of our deep love for them (would our characters know that as we allow their suffering?). Unlike us God isn’t scripting for an exciting dystopian young adult novel. His story is sadly not as well known as it should be.

At the end of our suffering there is peace–something we are only awake to on rare occasions in this life. Those times in suffering when a nurse stays with you all night or when a dog jumps into your sick bed. Those moments temporarily fill our perceived empty cups. But here is where we look at it wrong. God’s peace is for the givers more than the takers. To look at a creative pursuit or mission as a love offering to others instead of a way to pant after good reviews and limelight is to change everything.

I’m no saint. I hate kids, animals and the world for brief moments every day when I’m looking to be filled.

But there’s something better.

PEACE.