I remember going to camp in Athens, Texas when I was about six or seven. Camp was a particularly scary thing for me as a child since I was shy. Camp meant competitive games and swimming. I was afraid of both. This year, though, camp birthed in me an entirely new kind of fear. This fear was the incapacitating kind. The kind that leaves you frozen, incapable of movement.
I don't know who thought the following idea was a good one. One of the last nights of camp, the campers and sponsors sat around a campfire, and one of the male camp workers decided to tell a story. The story was about a young boy who had been abandoned at the camp years before. The man told of how the little boy was raised by wolves and grew into a wild man who grew angry when people visited the camp. At the most suspenseful point in the story, another camp worker jumped out of the woods behind us and screamed, sending us all into a screaming panic and sending some children running towards the campfire in fear. This was a very dangerous storytelling tactic. Thankfully, I was sitting next to my dad when all of this took place, and I remember walking very closely beside him that night as we walked back to our cabins that night. When I returned home at the end of the week, I was convinced that the werewolf boy had followed me home and lurked underneath my bed.
For months, maybe a year, I lived in fear of this werewolf. I frequently had nightmares as a child, and I woke up many times in the middle of the night, terrified. I knew that comfort and security was just across the house in my parents' room, but I could not bring myself to get out of the bed, sure that the werewolf was under my bed and would attack as soon as my little feet hit the floor. So while my siblings felt the freedom to wander into my parents' room in the middle of the night when they couldn't sleep, I was huddled underneath my blankets, wishing for the courage to move but finding none. And so it went for months. Thankfully, I got older and after many nights of feeling fear, I realized that the werewolf boy did not exist and I got over him.
But looking back over the last 33 years of my life, I realize that I have been trading my current fears for new, more grown-up fears. I happily gave up the werewolf fear for a fear of the rapture taking place and being left behind. That one stuck with me for a little while. I can't tell you how many times I got lost in a store, and I was certain that my whole family had been swept up to heaven and that I was stuck in Target, just me and the devil... for eternity. Then I traded in that fear for believing that my parents were going to die in the middle of the night. I woke up regularly to check on them and to make sure they were breathing. And then I got older and traded those childhood fears for teenage fears, which were exchanged for 20-something fears, and now 30-something. You see how this works.
I no longer have werewolf nightmares. I occasionally have dreams about my teeth falling out, and let me tell you how thankful I am when I wake up to find that they are all still there in their place. Being toothless would certainly reduce my chances of marrying well. But like I said, the 30-something fears still linger. They do not rule, but they remain. There are fears of not being fun enough, real enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. There is a fear that I will always be alone and fears that I will marry and not be successful at it. Again. I am afraid of being too afraid to step out and move to Africa. I am afraid of not doing anything with my life, of getting old and looking back and feeling all I did was shop for new shoes and watch Netflix and that I did not make one single difference in anyone's life. I am afraid of choosing a life of adventure and faith over a life of security and the American dream. It is exhausting. And even though I am not six anymore, fear has a way of incapacitating me. It causes me to be incapable to moving forward.
Fear is the opposite of faith. Faith lays fears to rest. And I have said it before, faith comes from reading God's Word. It really does. Romans 10:17 says it does. If you don't believe me, you just haven't read it and discovered it for yourself. When I was a child, I didn't know that I could quote Psalm 56:3 and my fear would be swallowed up by faith. But as an adult, I have learned how to use Scripture as a weapon against my fear. And so today, I choose faith. I choose to quote Proverbs 16:9... a friend shared this with me last night and I am quoting it to myself today. I am choosing to not remain frozen in fear. I am choosing to allow the Lord to direct my steps. I am making a phone call to schedule a coffee date with a woman who runs Village of Hope Uganda, even though Uganda scares me. I am going to do something today.
I don't know what you are afraid of. I hope nothing. But if you are like me, you have them... those lingering fears of not being loved, of getting old, of being a less-than-perfect parent, of losing your job and your financial security, of your spouse not finding you attractive or interesting anymore, of losing yourself in your life of diapers, spit-up, and fish sticks. But whatever you are afraid of, don't let it suck you in. Don't let it stop you. Love people, love your babies, make mistakes, ask for forgiveness, do your best, celebrate each birthday, change diapers, serve fish sticks... again. And bury yourself as far as you can in God's Word. Ignore the werewolf. He isn't real. I promise.