You know how they say that you pass things down to your kids? Not just green eyes or saddle bags or dramatic personalities or a love for music. Those things are okay. (well, all but the saddle bags, but there's nothing I can do about it. I inherited them, and my daughter will too, poor girl.) I'm talking about the things we wish we DIDN'T pass down- like sassy, smart mouths, and the stress switch that goes from zero to 500 in a heartbeat, and the ability to LIE with a straight face.
And fear. I have struggled with it since I was a girl. I remember listening to one of my favorite records (Charity Church Mouse and Psalty The Singing Songbook...and it was an ACTUAL record, too) and getting SO scared when Risky Rat tricked Charity Church Mouse into signing a contract with him, even though it was a dream, that I had to go and sleep in my parents room.
And later, I would turn on all the lights on my way to and from the bathroom at night, because the light lessened the fear of monsters and robbers. And I can remember even as a 10, 11, and 12 year old, sneaking into my parents room and asking my dad to pray for me, because I was scared and couldn't sleep. In fact, I have called my Dad to pray for me because I was scared more than once since I've been grown.
I truly, truly wish I could have somehow kept from passing along this particular trait to my kids. I hate it when they are afraid. Seeing the terror in their eyes hurts my heart.
I know its unfounded fear, of course. There aren't monsters or robbers waiting for them upstairs who will magically disappear if I walk up with them and turn on the lights as we go. But I also know, because I have experienced it, that the fear doesn't hear the rationale. It fills you with panic, and your heart races, and you wonder how you'll catch the next breath, and in a last ditch effort, you run as fast as you can to the person who isn't afraid, because they can protect you.
My poor little Gabe, who is 3, has recently started waking up in the middle of a dead sleep, crying and shaking, saying there are monsters or bad guys in his room, and he's scared. Not only when he's sleeping, either. Yesterday he came careening down the hall and launched into my arms in the middle of the afternoon, telling me that a bad monster was chasing him.
Over the last several weeks, as he would wake up screaming, I would do what my dad always did when I woke him from a dead sleep. I would pray. "Lord, I ask that You would settle Gabe's heart, and that You would be with him, and remind him that he doesn't have to be afraid, because You are here. Amen."
But yesterday, all in a flash, I remembered something that changed me as a girl. I remembered the first time I decided I would pray for myself. I was terrified about something (I can't even remember what) and I said, out loud, with my voice trembling, "I don't have to be afraid, because the Lord is with me. And Jesus lives IN me, and His angels protect me. So why should I be afraid?"
And just saying it myself calmed my heart. Something about His name, and my lips using it with authority, made the fear shrink.
I've done that for years, every time fear rises in my heart. I did it today, when I was trying to make a decision that I was afraid wouldn't be the right one. Out loud, I said, "Jesus. Help me. I'm afraid. Be with me." And my heart calmed, and my hands stopped shaking quite so badly.
Yesterday, when Gabe bolted into the room in terror, I remembered that first time I took charge of the fear, and I pulled him close to me, and I said, "Gabe, remember what Mommy told you? Jesus lives in our home. And His angels protect you all the time. Monsters can't get you. So you go tell the monster that, okay?"
And my sweet little baby set his lips, and drew his brows together, and turned. He looked down the hall, and he pointed his finger. And he said "Monster, you can't get me. Jesus and angels take care of me. Go away!"
And I cried.
Because his monster is fear, and he looked it in the face and told it to go. I'm glad he did that, because it reminded me to do it too. And I needed the reminder today.
Every time my hands shake and my heart races, and every time the dark seems thick enough to suffocate me, I am going to remember those curls bouncing on his head as he stomped his foot and pointed his finger at Fear...and told it he knew Who was with him.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1