I don’t know about you but fear can get awfully loud inside of me. The more attention I give it, the stronger and louder it gets. A childhood memory of mine reminds me of this painful truth, but it also shows me the beauty of what’s on the other side of fear when I choose to face it. It all dates back to the old neighborhood I grew up in on White Pine Road.
I have so many fond memories on that street. Many of them are with Anne. Her beige house adjacent to our white one were exact replicas. It didn’t take us long to find out it wasn’t just our homes that were so much alike. We were more than just neighbors. We were two peas in a pod, kindreds from the very beginning.
Of the countless memories I have with Anne, one stands out as the most vivid; a sleepover we had planned on a Friday night. We must have been seven or eight years old and it was going to be amazing! We spent all week planning out the details. We were going to stay up all night watching movies, playing games, spying, and most thrilling, playing pranks on her brother and sister. It was going to be perfect.
Well, Friday night came and I ran across to Anne’s, overnight bag in tow, for the best night of my life. We huddled together in her room to go over the plan one last time. Her eyes widened in great seriousness as she quieted her voice and exaggerated every word slowly and with great articulation. Something like, “we’ll watch a movie first. Then, after my mom tucks us in and goes to bed, let the games begin.”
I was all in. Life just couldn’t get any better.
Everything started out as planned and when Anne’s mom prayed that goodnight prayer, my heart began to pound with anticipation. We were moments away from the time and place I’d imagined.
“Amen!” Night girls!” Anne’s mom said as I opened my eyes from the prayer. Anne’s eyes were still closed. “Ah! Smart! She’s tricking her mom. I love this girl,” I thought as I followed her lead and closed mine until the sound of footsteps were far off.
“She’s gone!” I whispered finally. Anne’s eye stayed shut.
“Anne, she’s gone, come on!” I said as I shook her.
To my absolute horror, Anne grunted and rolled over fast asleep.
You would have thought the sky had fallen. I was crushed.
I actually think I may have had a panic attack as I stared at Anne’s curled up body breathing deep in sleep; her peace completely disrupting mine.
The sound of deep breathing coupled with the tick of a grandfather’s clock became maddening. “Who is this girl?” I wondered as my world became nothing I thought it should be.
Minutes felt like hours before I worked up the courage to find the cordless phone in the kitchen. “Mom, I want to come home!” I cried cupping the phone in the furthest corner of the house.
Little did mom know that the “trauma” I was coming home from was about to open a whole new can of worms. For the next six years, sleepovers landed me in closets with a cordless phone begging mom or dad to come get me. The minute I heard loud breathing, I was done. And if there happened to be a loud clock in the room, forget it. Get me outta there!
The not-that- big-of-a-deal failed sleepover was a really-big-enormous deal to the seven-year-old me. The emotions I felt pushed fear into the driver’s seat to lead me from one defeat to the next at attempted sleepovers.
Desperate to keep me from hurting again, fear locked me up in a place that promised to keep me safe. A place where safety was paramount. Paramount to peace and joy and rest, it was a miserable false sense of security.
Fear brings you back to your most vulnerable place over and over and keeps you there. It locks you up in the pain of a past experience while you miss the joy of the present. It uses past fear to manipulate you into another.
But there is good news. I am learning, both from this experience and many others, that my greatest blessing is only found on the other side of my greatest fear. But I won’t get that blessing unless I first have the courage to face my fear.
So after six years of many failed sleepovers, I had a chance to really face my fear head-on. Several of my friends planned on going to teen camp, and since I had grown tired of missing out on the things fear was keeping from me, I decided, with quite a bit of hesitation, to sign up. One solid week of sleepovers. Yeah.
I remember mom coaching me before the big event. Her voice calm and nonchalant, trying to soothe me. I wanted desperately to believe her words. “Tor, you’re gonna be ok. Don’t anticipate what’s going to happen next, don’t freak out, don’t worry, just lay there, pray, and know: you’re oooooK,” mom told me.
My head believed what she was saying was true but my heart seemed to have a mind of its own. I had a history of failure in this department. A pile of fearful experiences on my back. The weight felt heavy.
Regardless, I moved toward my fear and made it to camp. I was finally at a place where I wasn’t willing to give up what fear was keeping from me.
“I can do this,” I thought as I lay in bed that first night. I took a deep breath as the room went dark and pulled the sheet up to my chin. Just then, I heard it. The loud hum of a fan drowning out the sounds that had scared me most – you know, breathing and clocks!
I’ll never forget that moment. The sound of that fan drowning out my fears made my heart believe what my head had been trying to say. “I’m ok! I can do this.”
I was more than ok, I was free! I couldn’t wait to tell my mom and dad it was over. With the comforting hum of a fan drowning out my fears, the whole sleepover debacle was over.
And now I see it! Fear loses its power when something gets louder.
Like the hum of that fan, the hum of God’s voice drowns out all that scares me most in life. His voice must get louder than the fears that enslave me. Freedom is waiting on the other side.
Until I come to the place where I am unwilling to be denied what fear is keeping me from, I will miss the blessing of freedom waiting for me.
And sure, I may get some bumps and bruises while busting through it. Let’s face it, fear is a tough opponent. But I’ll take pain for the freedom that comes on the other end.
There’s one more important lesson I learned from all of this. There is another aspect of fear. Fear doesn’t just hurt me. My fears cost those I love most more than I am often aware. For my relationships sake, fear has to go.
I heard it said, “your greatest fears will become your children’s greatest disadvantages.”
As my kids came to the age of sleepovers, the fear I thought I had laid to rest began to stir awake. I couldn’t imagine my child lying awake like I had so many times at attempted sleepovers, feeling scared and alone.
I remember my sister-in-law called one night and sweetly inquired, “did something happen at our house that is worrying you? I notice you haven’t let the kids sleepover when we ask.”
Now, there is a difference between being led by fear and being led by wisdom. Sometimes, wisdom says “no” to sleepovers for legitimate reasons. But this was not the case. It was fear from my past experience as a child.
I had to allow the hum of His voice to get loud again, reminding me that I could trust Him and that He loves my kids more than even I do. I had to remember the freedom that comes on the other side of fear and move toward it for my kids. Because “there is no fear in love.” (1 John 4:18)
So, as I love my husband, kids, extended family and friends, I must choose to love without fear, the way I was designed to. Allowing my Heavenly Father’s voice to hum loud and true. I can courageously move toward what scares me most because I know what’s on the other side. Freedom. And I’m after it – for me and those I love.
Oh and Anne, if you’re reading this. I ain’t mad at cha. I mean, a girl needs her beauty rest. Thank you for the countless childhood memories and this “scary” one that taught me so much. I am grateful. XOXO
“Whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” 2 Peter 2:19
“But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 1 John 16:33