How powerful is the hand of fear, how strong its grip. And it has my boys – my little princes, my sons of thunder – in it every day. They wrangle and scrap and holler. They break things and chew with their mouths full and torment the dog as little boys do. But they tremble more than little boys ought.
Noah had his football playoff game this past weekend – for a boy relatively inept at sports this was the pinnacle of accomplishment for him. His hands shook at breakfast. He was ice cold. During the game, his anxiety choked him and he fumbled snap after snap. He sobbed on the sidelines. His body was more uncooperative than usual because he was stunted by fear.
Noah brings me every flyer for a group, activity or fundraiser that comes home with him. I am content to throw half of them in the trash. He retrieves them and waves them in my face, “But we HAVE to!” He is afraid of being left out – that something good might transpire without him, that he will not be accepted otherwise.
Jesse’s night wakings have begun again. He cannot fall asleep, and when he does, we can nearly count the hours, until we hear the crack of the door hinge, and he is finding a space between Matt and I where he can bury himself in safety. We were playing hide-and-seek with his sister a few days ago, and it was my turn to hide. My foot gave away my presence, and Jesse yelled “I FOUND YOU!” only to burst into terrified screaming when I jumped up and said, “Boo!” He is afraid of Bigfoot (no thanks to Noah, who delights in telling Jesse that he is real). He is afraid of being lost, or left alone. He is afraid of being hurt. He clings to me like a monkey baby, hanging on my leg, laying on my stomach. He tells me he is safe there.
My anxious sons feel something I cannot pry from them, though I would love to take it on myself. I quietly stew, “Did they get their anxiety from ME?” (I am, too, a very anxious person). Anxious about my SONS being anxious. If that’s not neurotic, I don’t know what is.
I have lived most of my life as a prisoner to anxiety and fear. I know that gnawing, white emptiness in the stomach’s pit that nags well into the dark hours. How have I managed it?
I remember how deeply I am loved.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
I remember that I am never alone.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
I am made perfect in love. I am not dismayed. I am strengthened and upheld by a God who clearly knew we humans would be prone to fear, as much as His words speaks about it.
As they get older, my boys may need more help than we can give them in managing their fear (Jesse has already proven this), but always, they will know they are deeply loved, they are never alone, they are strengthened and upheld – not only by their parents, but by their Heavenly Father, who conceived of them before the world began.
I pray, someday, I might watch their fears leave them, and take flight.