I spent the first 20 years of my adult life battling fear of one sort or another. What if this, what if that? How can this or that possibly work out? What am I going to do?
Born in the seventies, my childhood fears were pretty standard for the time: dolls having secret lives as killers, will I have a date for prom, and the Cold War ending in nuclear war. (Whoever designed the drills where kids hid under desks when missiles were on their way to the east coast clearly did not understand science or psychology.)
As the teen years turned into the adult years fears become a little more “rational.” At least adult fears were about things with some sort of likelihood of happening. By then I knew my face wasn’t going to peel off because of Poltergeists, so fears became about things like loss or failure or physical harm.
For a while in my early adult years I was irrationally afraid to fly, which was inconvenient and annoying because I flew with some regularity. A couple of scary flights (one when even the flight attendant was praying!) combined with 9/11 had me convinced that I would be on a plane that Karen Black had to save or that careened into the Potomac River.
By the time something actually scary happened, I was exhausted from dealing with stupid things and found myself in a real struggle to maintain confidence in God and myself. Three things specifically changed the way I think about fears and the way I react when I feel fearful:
(1) The prayers of others for me.
(2) Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
(3) Revelations about peace.
I’ve probably read two dozen books about battling fear. I’ve read every scripture about fear. And I’ve heard it all from people and gurus: “if you give fear an inch in one area it’ll take a foot in that and ten others,” “you have to fight fear with faith,” and even “you’re a Christian who knows where she’s going so you have nothing to fear in terms of death.” (Side note: never, ever say the word death to a person telling you they have fear.)
Those things are all true, but the two things that finally changed my life as it relates to fear are actually about peace. One of the last things Jesus said was that He was leaving us His peace (John 14) – He understood that fear is a part of the world we live in and He knew that peace is one of the things we’d need the most. And secondly, the words of Moses in Exodus: “The Lord shall fight for you and you shall hold on to your peace.”
He left me peace and it’s my job to not let it go.
Or, I have peace and I just need to keep hold of it.
I loathe fear. It leads to bad decisions, stolen time, stolen happiness, failed businesses, broken relationships, goals not reached, and on and on and on. Life wasted. Lives wasted.
I cannot afford to live in fear any more, regardless of the news or of viruses or of wars or of presidents or of dictators or of sickness or of disappointment. I have to do what I can do – pray, donate, use my voice, wear a mask – and relinquish the rest. I have to hold on to my peace. And maybe if I do that and others do, too, we’ll even be able to help spread some peace.
I learned this week that some people actually fear wrinkles and aging! So many people, that the fears have names: gerascophobia and rhytiphobia. My first reaction was how ridiculously vain and silly. But they’re really no more silly than the fears I had – all fears are a distraction that prevent us from really living.
I sometimes wonder where we’d be or what I could have accomplished if I had learned my lesson about focusing on peace instead of fear sooner. Maybe I’d have a lot fewer wrinkles! But those wrinkles are also my reminder that I have laughed way more than I’ve scrunched my face in anger or fear, and that I’ve smiled way more than I’ve frowned.