A spirit not of fear

Fear. It’s something I’ve wrestled with my whole life.

As a child, I was afraid of the roller coaster that goes upside down, wondering how people could enjoy the possibility of falling out of their seats. The blinking smoke detector, reminding me that a fire is imminent at all times. The shadows that grew on the side of my house at dusk, tall, and overwhelming and certainly out to get me.

As I grew older, the fear drew inward. I battled it day in and day out as I became a teenager in a world driven by conformity. I tried to quiet it. The fear told me I wasn’t good enough. That I was going to fail. That the glances and whispers were always directed at me.

The fear was my worst enemy. It was what I woke up with in the morning and went to sleep with at night. I didn’t want it. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t know how to stop it.

After a few years of re-acquainting myself with my Savior, I don’t hear from the fear so much. It’s more of a dull, water-logged phone call that Jesus helps me hang up on every day. He is my constant reminder. He is greater than the fear.

Every once in a while, though, the fear gets better phone reception. It finds me in a weak spot and calls until I pick up.

I know when it’s happening because, as much as I like to think this is all in my head, my body starts to react physically, too. Racing heart, aching muscles, short breaths.

It’s in these moments that I get angry with God. My head fills with curses and stockpiles every failed plan of mine and I cry out, “Why are you doing this to me?”

The connection from my heart to my brain can’t understand grace in those moments. It can’t remember that it actually isn’t God putting the fear in my mind. It can’t recognize the hands and feet of Jesus I have all around me, willing to help.

The fear is relentless. It wants to smother me.

But in one fleeting moment, when I have cried and screamed and worn myself out, it clicks.

Suddenly, always, never-failing, God grabs my heart and reveals redeeming grace to me. It has been through songs, conversations, books, writing, sunsets, lists.

“There’s this thing called grace.”

“Look up, child.” 

“Take it one minute at a time.”

My heart rate slows, my breathing deepens, I feel peaceful. I feel held.

These moments are my strongest testaments to the sheer, un-ending love and power that God has. In the moments I ask him, “Why me?” he shows me “Why not me?” He shows me that I am a living example of his mercy. He shows me how miraculous trusting him really is. He shows me that while I am still a sinner, he loves me with a love I will never be able to fully comprehend.

He shows me that, just like it says in 2 Timothy, he does not give me a spirit of fear. He gives me a spirit of power, love and self-control.

The ringing gets quieter and quieter the closer I get to him, until it stops altogether.

Hanging up the phone on fear; that’s God.

By laurenstockam

Lauren is a graduate student at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO.

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