I vividly remember the weekend that I knew something had to change. We were away at an adults only weekend with my college besties and their husbands and Josh (my hubs) announced he was headed out to ride jet skis with the guys. Immediately, I was so anxious, I was almost shaking. Please hear me, my man wasn’t about to ride out into a turbulent shark infested ocean. It was a lake in the middle of Oklahoma without so much as a whitecap. I grabbed him, white knuckled, and begged him not to go. I just knew he would die. My girlfriend’s husband looked right at me, and with the tact that only a dude could muster, he said, “Stop it Maddi. He’s a grown ass man.” How in the world did I get to a place where I was scared of everything, all the time? Gosh I’m thankful for that call back to reality.
I wasn’t a scared teenager. I was actually fairly reckless. But two kids and four years into motherhood, it felt like the ground had fallen out from beneath me. Our youngest had spent a week in the hospital with Pneumonia & RSV. We all caught her pneumonia. We lost our precious baby when I was 11 weeks pregnant. My husband was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Over the course of a year, I went from care-free to a Mom who spent my free time googling every symptom I spotted in my kids, convinced we were all one diagnosis away from dying of a deadly disease.
As one could only assume, my butt ended up on a counselor’s couch. I spent the next few months there untangling the trauma I had experienced. But fear had made room in my house, like an unwelcome guest, it showed up with boxes and moved on in. I would imagine some of you think I’m nuts right about now. But others are just nodding your heads with tear-stained cheeks. I’ve become convinced that nothing steals a mother’s joy like fear.
Fear of failing our kids – fear of losing our kids – fear of our kids experiencing pain – fear of not being enough – fear of being too much – fear of dropping the ball – fear of missing the important moments – fear of being anything less than excellent – fear of sickness – fear of disaster – fear of accidents – fear of fear – fear of being misunderstood.
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
It’s the sign hanging in my living room so I can preach it back to my heart day after day. Slowly, through time in counseling, prayer, friends and a patient husband sowing into my life, I began to find my way out.
I remember sitting with a friend, who was a short season ahead of me, and telling her, fear is this ugly terrible black pond. I saw in her life that she was wading in knee-deep and then turning around and getting out. But I was stuck in the middle, treading water, and I couldn’t figure out how to get out. The water was too thick. The unknown was too scary. My dear friend, wisely told me, “I’ve learned that thanksgiving is my way out.”
The shower became my hiding place. When fear would wrap its grip around my throat, I would get in the shower and cry. Out loud I would talk with my Rescuer, “You’ve told me to be anxious about nothing. But talk to you about everything. To thank you and ask for what I need. And you promise to give me peace and protect my heart and mind from fear.” My feelings told me to be afraid, but I was learning that my feelings were great indicators but terrible dictators. I was in charge of what I would believe. In the scalding hot showers, I would just start in with the thank you’s. “Thank you for water. Hot water. Dinner. Hot dinner. Grass growing. Kid’s laughing. A husband to fight with. A husband to make up with. Sweet moments with the kids before bed time….” and so the list went on.
Before I knew it, when the crap would hit the fan, and a kid was naked and screaming about socks feeling funny, and another one needed a bottle, I was talking with my Rescuer all day, out loud, “Thank you for this little one’s loud voice. May she learn to use it to defend the powerless. Thank you for baby hands and hot coffee. Thank you for new morning mercies and your forever friendship. Thank you that you promise to listen every single time I call out to you.”
Years have passed and the black pond of fear still calls to me. Daily. Sometimes every single minute. I have four little bitties who need endless amounts of everything from me. My baby ate a penny a few months back and I recently had to spend time on the phone with my insurance company convincing them that I was in fact in the room, she wasn’t in the care of a negligent babysitter, and they do need to pay her ER bill since it was all my fault. (That was a two beer and a glass of wine kind of night) Immediately, I could feel it – fear of failing my kids – and yet thanksgiving (not a fourth glass of wine) is still my way out. “Thank you Daddy that You were there and saw what I didn’t. You helped the penny pass without surgery. But if she needed surgery, You would have met us there and your presence would have been our comfort. And if the worst case scenario were to happen, You would have brought her home, and one day soon, we will live with You there, together forever because of Your goodness.”
I don’t think that courage is the opposite of fear. I’ve come to believe that the opposite of fear is faith. Faith is a tunnel I walk through. It carries me from the grip of fear straight to the throne of the Risen King. I think thats why scripture reminds us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God. Because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Faith – I get to choose what I believe.
And if I know anything by now, I know that what I water grows. If I water my fear they will get the flu, I just get more scared. If I water my fear that I am not a good mom, I only see more evidence of that. If I water my fear that God isn’t going to come through for us in the end, I just keep trying harder to meet everyone’s needs. But if I water my faith in His goodness, I start seeing seedlings of it everywhere. They grow into flowers and all of a sudden, I’m following Him into the hard and messy because I am just sure that HE WILL SHOW UP. AND BE GOOD AT BEING GOD. AND BE KIND. AND MERCIFUL. AND SO VERY FAITHFUL.
I’ve noticed lately that on my cell phone video’s of the kids and I, I am laughing, like, a lot. Theres this verse in the Bible, in Proverbs 31, about how a godly woman can laugh without fear of the future. I used to tell God that I thought she sounded like a straight up idiot because there was plenty to be afraid of and that woman didn’t know that Dr. Google would always always always bring bad news. I didn’t pray fervently to become her. I actually still think she sounds a bit intense. But over the last 5 years, God broke something in me. He’s becoming strong in my weakness. I laugh more lately because I am convinced that HE IS PERFECT LOVE and He will always kick fear in the butt.
My oldest just asked what I was writing about. Laughing a little, I said, “I am writing about how I used to be a really scared Momma all the time but now, because of God’s kindness, I am not as scared.” She just rolled her eyes and walked away. And I really think we are all going to be ok.