“Nanas never get scared, right?” one of the Beans asked a while back. With Halloween lurking, our previously safe-looking neighbourhood had morphed into one haunted by witches and goblins, ghosts and skeletons.
As much as I would have loved to reassure her that I never feel fear, I couldn’t. My childhood terror of witches (breath snatching, nightmare inducing) has long gone, but I still dislike them – no matter in which medium they appear. Like my grandchild, I’d rather banish those ghosts and skeletons hanging from trees, along with zombies, colossal hairy spiders, vampires, bloody hands reaching over the tops of fences and large bloodshot eyeballs on the loose.
Psychologists say it’s important to expose a child to some things frightening. Halloween, scary movies and similar media, they say, desensitizes them somewhat, without posing actual danger. Then, they theorize, when something truly fear-worthy shows up, they’ll handle it more calmly.
That didn’t work for me. The graphic illustrations on the pages of our family’s table-sized Grimm’s Fairy Tale book haunted my childhood nightmares – as did the Hitchcock stories and accompanying creepy sound effects played to us in Library period.
Not to downplay the very real presence of evil in this world, the things that frighten me most these days aren’t the ghouls and goblins that once made me tremble. A different fear-list sometimes haunts my sleep and robs my peace of mind. Perhaps my list of spooks is similar to your own.
The idea of suddenly losing a loved one frightens me. So do house fires and hazardous roads. The approach of a large, unfriendly looking dog quivers my innards, as do spiders that show up suddenly – like the one that marched up the piano keyboard during church one day – as I played. And ever since a mosquito turned our lives upside down a decade ago, I’m apprehensive about those too.
I fear forgetting an appointment, as I did just this morning. (Thank God the Preacher keeps better track of my calendar than I do, even when it’s only a mammogram).
Careless drivers make me shudder. So do phone calls in the middle of the night and unidentified medical symptoms. Neither do I warm to unidentified noises while alone at home at night.
There’s more: War. Alzheimer’s Disease. Joyless living – especially that. The consequences of thoughtlessness and impulsiveness, especially my own. Not having my family join me in Heaven. Spiritual malaise.
Philippians 4:8 provides a wise recipe for combating fear: “…keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.”
Rather than forcing me under the bedcovers, as did my childhood fears, my adult fears lead me to faith. They remind me that Jesus conquers darkness; that God knows the path ahead and is present there. And they drive me to take my fears to him in prayer.
Darlin’ child – Nanas do get scared sometimes. But I’ve learned something: God is bigger than whatever haunts us.