The Dictionary app on my phone defines the noun fear as: 1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. 2. concern or anxiety; solicitude 3. something that causes a feeling of dread or apprehension; something a person is afraid of. 4. anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur.
These definitions have characterized my life since I was a little girl. And as far back as I can remember, I was a ‘fraidy cat’ and this fear often resulted in crying when I was little–which drove my ‘big’ sister crazy. When our parents had heated disagreements, I shook and was afraid; she was angry. I was afraid when anything was out of the routine of my life. I was deathly afraid of the dark. Our next door neighbor, Hazel, was a ‘beautician’ and every Saturday night Mama would go over to her house to have her roll her hair–she would inevitably forget the ‘bobbie pins’ and send me back to get them. It was always dark and I had great dread as I ‘flew’ back home. On several occasions, Mama would tell me that I didn’t need to be afraid, no one would want me. (That really boosted my self esteem!!😩) I’m sure it was just her way of ‘helping’ me overcome my irrational fear–I know SHE loved and wanted me ❤️.
As I grew older and began to attend elementary school, I was afraid of the students and especially the teachers. I didn’t go to school until first grade. (Kindergarten was private, costly and, of course, optional in the early 50’s.) One of the fun things we did in first grade at recess was for a group of girls to form a circle around another student and ask, “Who’s the prettiest?” One day we formed a circle around a little girl who was more of a loner than I was. She started crying and said she was going to tell the teachers on us. I was terrified. I, to this day, remember the paralyzing fear in my heart of being in trouble with the teacher.
I now understand that my fearful nature is the reason I was so attracted to my husband, Doyle. He, in my eyes, was fearless. He was quite wild in his youth and I, in some twisted way, admired that he was so unafraid. Now, after many years of retrospecting, I know his fearlessness was HIS way of dealing with his own insecurities. It was only our seeking the guidance of Jesus early in our marriage that we ever accomplished 51 years of marriage.
When I graduated seventh grade and headed to high school, I was once again extremely afraid. I was a little fish in a big ole’ all-girls high school pond. About half way through my eighth grade year, I began to make friends from the other elementary schools that fed into the high school. I had more than one new friend tell me, “We thought you were so ‘stuck-up’ when we first met you. Truth was that ‘look’ was a cover-up for all my insecurities. That cover up followed me all my life and showed back up when I went back to college in 1983–I was 36. (That whole story about going back to finish college is for another musing 😊) One of the first classes I was required to take was Speech. I was in class with 30 or more college freshmen. The teacher was a very young woman who was ‘on loan’ from another college. We were required to give various speeches of different kinds, eg, instructional, informative, persuasive, etc. My speeches were very benign (“How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee, The Importance of Being an Organ Donor, etc.) However, the young men and women gave speeches on “How to Best Get Drunk”, “The Importance of Only Getting Drunk on the Weekend” etc–you get my drift. I was horrified–I had a 16 year old and a 12 year old at home and they would be heading to college sooner rather than later. In order not to look so out of place–though being a non-traditional student, I was obviously out of place,–I did not react at all to these speeches. At the end of the quarter, the instructor gave out ‘awards’. I received the “Poker Faced Award”. She said even after hearing all the ‘stuff’ the students spouted, I never changed my expression. I was not even aware that I was doing that–all because of fear.
Just before retirement–my last year of teaching–I decided I was tired of being so fearful of everything. Doyle had purchased a Harley Davidson a couple of years earlier and we had enjoyed quite a few outings on it. He took many trips with our son on their bikes and I even rode with him on the Dragon’s Tail at Deal’s Gap, NC–318 curves in 11 miles. I think I even wore shorts and sandals on that excursion 😳. I began to think that maybe I needed to learn to drive a motorcycle. What if something happened to Doyle while we were out on it and I needed to drive us home. Plus, again, I was tired of being so afraid. So, I signed up for the Motorcycle Safety Class at Fort Gordon in order to get a license to drive a bike. It was me (60 years old) and lots of young army GI’s. (They were required to take the course to drive their bikes on post.) I was the only one who ‘dropped’ their bike during the class. That should have been an omen that this was not a good idea. When I dropped the bike, several young men ran over to help me, but the instructor stopped them and I had to pick it up by myself. I had so much adrenalin running in my blood, I picked it right up. (It was a 250 cc) and weighed about 300 pounds. Well, with the class behind me and my license on the way, we began to discuss buying a bike of my own. I really loved the little Vespa, small and feminine; but they were quite pricey. I recalled something my instructor said during the class. “It’s better to get a bike with some power, so you can pull into traffic easier when necessary.” So, we ended up getting a Bergman 650 in pearl white. It was beautiful–but it was big, and heavy (500 lbs). With all the white fenders it even dwarfed Doyle’s Lo-Rider. Well, we began to practice. I drove it to the school parking lot on the weekends and drove around the lot. Then we started going out on the road. I was terrified the whole time. You don’t ride a motorcycle tentatively–it requires lots of confidence–which I didn’t have. One day as we were coming back from a jaunt to the store, I turned the corner to get home–remembering to “turn your head in the way you are going”–but I forgot to also turn the bike and ended up in the ditch. That was the last time I drove that beautiful and expensive bike. BTW, it is for sale and has been for years-I really think Doyle thought I would get back on it–NOT! We will be advertising it soon if you are in the market. The ad will read: “A little old lady school teacher’s motorbike for sale.” ☺️ (Prov. 27: 12 NLT “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.)
One side effect of living with fear is that if someone isn’t acting as you expect, you immediately begin to wonder what it was that YOU did to cause it. I have always taken responsibility for other’s actions and behaviors. I begin to analyze and “over think” (as Doyle calls it), hashing and rehashing until I am in a state of anxiety. I am slowly learning that if I did indeed do something unknowingly and caused someone to be upset, I would hope they would feel free to bring it to my attention in order for me to try and make it right. Otherwise I don’t need to take responsibility for their behavior. Psalm 118: 6 says, “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Jesus‘ only commands to us are to “love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” (Matt. 22: 37-38) And then John, in I John 4:18 says, “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. The Bible speaks of fear often and admonishes us to not be afraid.
- Isaiah 41:10 says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.“
- Psalms is full of wisdom concerning fear. 46:1-2 “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.”
- Psalms 112: 7: ‘Those who fear the Lord… do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.”
- II Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.
- Hebrews 13:6 (quoting from Psalm 118:6) So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”
Fear can be a debilitating emotion. I suppose I will always struggle with fear in some form or another. I find that staying in contact with the One ‘who strengthens and upholds me’ helps me to keep the fear at bay and to live my life trusting that “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes” which also happens to be my favorite verse. (Romans 8: 28-29).
Until next time……………………