Fear Factor

7:30 AM

I am afraid of two things.

Not spiders.

Not the dark.

Not heights.

Just two things.

(Okay, so I used to think there were monsters under my bed and aliens waiting to claw me out from under my covers, but I don't watch War of the Worlds anymore. I've had my therapy. I'm good now.)

My two biggest fears, the ones that come to life at night, are having my throat slit by a knife and my loved ones abducted. Fortunately neither one of those have occurred in my life, so I live my life with relative ease, squishing spiders, walking through the dark, climbing the heights. But if you wanted to give me a nightmare, one where I would wake up with my heart beating a bajillion times a second, fill it with scary knife-carrying guys who want to take away the people I love best.

Before this post gets any more gruesome or depressing, let me just say that I've spent a good while today summing up my fears. There's actually more than two specific ones (though I can't specifically think of them at this moment), but they all bundle themselves up into one, huge, pulsing fear:

I'm afraid of being powerless.

I'm a control freak. Here's my card. Nothing scares me more than being left absolutely unprepared; nothing frustrates me more than having no one do what I say (you hear that, computer?). As long as there's something I can kick and scream at in a nightmare, I'm more angry than fearful. The second I cannot figure out what's going on -- that's when I start to panic.

I've cried more times over not knowing what to believe about eschatology and Calvinism than a real concrete conundrum. Give me a tough algebra problem and I'll do it, even if it takes two hours -- but if it makes absolutely no logical sense, I flip out. I don't mind hiccups in my laptop's system as long as I can still keep clicking on things, but once it freezes, I lose my cool.

Problems don't bug me. I like problems. It's problems I can't fix. Those are the real problems.

Somewhere along the path of life, I got this notion that I had everything packaged in a pink ribbon. There wasn't really anything I couldn't do if I only sat down to learn it. There wasn't really any problem I couldn't solve if I took my time with it. There wasn't really any way I could wreck my life, because I was invincible. I always got my way in the end, because my way was always right.

How I could live so long in that cloud of delusion, I have no clue. That's what it was: delusion, more so than pride. I really hadn't learned to combat problems; I felt like I always got it right the first try, or I ignored the problem so it was someone else's. That way I never felt powerless. I never had to lay down and play dead to life. I was always on top -- even if I wasn't.

It always bugged me that my recurring dreams involved me either showing up entirely unprepared or lashing out at someone, to the point of angry tears, because they wouldn't do what I say. You know the dreams: the ones where you have to play piano for church but whoops, procrastinated practicing until the five minutes before your cue. The ones where you're trying to find a private place and no one will leave you alone. I woke from those dreams disturbed: they seemed so real, so really me, and yet I was usually so prepared, I usually kept my cool. I wasn't like that...right-o?

Lately I've been becoming way too close to my own incompetency, my true powerless, the frightening and strangely comforting realization that it's truly God who is all-wise, all-powerful. Omnipotent.

Case 1: I knelt next to a girl with an asthma attack, the only person over fourteen around. She could barely breathe. She took her breaths in gasps.

"Do you have an inhaler?"

She shook her head.

"Are you okay?"

She shook her head.

I couldn't do anything. I couldn't. She could die, and I couldn't help it.

Case 2: I came down with laryngitis during camp counseling. I had a fever. I spent my alone time blowing my nose in the girls' washroom. I couldn't function right, and there was still so much I had to do. I don't have laryngitis anymore, nor a fever. I'm still very close to my box of tissues, though. And even while my mother put me on an intense regimen of vitamin C, decongestants and herbal remedies, I'm crummy sick. It just won't go away.

You know why we get the common cold?

To remind us that even though we have preventive measures and nasal sprays, it's still God who grants health. And there's nothing I can do about it except blow my nose and wait.

Case 3: Another frustrating, frightening thing about camp counseling was coming into contact with so many kids who know the Gospel like they know veggies are good for them. Apathy. Or even worse than apathy -- taking an interest in saying all the right things and then losing the connection right before it changes their lives. I spent a lot of time praying, teaching, talking, modeling -- but some of them climbed onto the bus still unchanged. They still didn't get it.

And I could beat myself up for being such a wretched counselor, or I could sink to my knees and beg God, who changes hearts, to take control. I could do nothing else.

We know these are just the tip of the iceberg. I've been struck with insomnia so bad that I work myself to angry tears because I can't fall asleep. I've been in relationships where I'm doing everything I possibly can and the other party just isn't. I've had to submit to parental decisions that make me squirm because I just don't understand.

You know what?

That's good. That's the place where surrender happens.

When I can't sleep, I figure it's because God wants me to talk to Him, to pray for someone. When my relationships start drifting down the drain, I guess it's because I have to realize that God will work something greater through that. When my parents make a decision I cannot agree with, I realize this is a chance grab hold of my pride and give it a good lashing. To learn to submit. To surrender.

To let go of my fear of powerlessness and step into the shadow of the Almighty. A good fear.

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5 impressions

  1. Amen and amen. Thank you for sharing this. I can relate. As an oldest sibling, I like being in charge, knowing what to do, being prepared... God has taught me so much about simply trusting Him and letting Him be in control. Its hard. And its a lesson He will continue to teach me my entire life, I'm sure.

    God bless!

  2. I remember when I broke my leg back at ten years old. I had recurring nightmares about kidnappers breaking into the house and I couldn't run. It scared me so badly that I would sit and cry. Because I felt powerless. For two months, Daddy would often make a pallet beside my bed and sleep there...even though he had to wake early for work and I know that the floor couldn't have been the most comfortable.

    But when Dad was right there on that floor, I knew that he was in control and would take care of any problems during the night. This post reminded me of that and how much more should I trust in the power of my Heavenly Father.

    Wonderful post, Bailey.

  3. It seems to me that both the nightmare-type fears you mentioned at first point back to fear of powerlessness. I mean, if you've just been murdered then you're powerless. ;)
    I wonder if every person has one root fear, and all his other fears stem from that.
    I wonder what my root fear is?
    But I think all people are afraid, to a certain extent, of being powerless. Good thing God is all-powerful; if we truly trust Him, we don't need to be afraid.

  4. Amazing post- I can definitely relate. All of my fears pretty much come down to not being in control, too. I'm also a control freak, and when I don't know what to expect, it drives me crazy.


  5. Hey Bailey!

    I am a fairly new follower and I just wanted to say that I enjoy your posts so much! You are such a beautiful writer!

    I can relate to this post for sure! I to am such a control freak!:)

    Have a wonderful week!


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