“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”
My older girls raced outside, tumbling over each other in their speedy way. They jumped onto the swings and pumped their feet to go higher and higher. They chased each other down the slide.
I watched from the kitchen window to make sure they were safe, were playing nicely, were obeying the rules. Every time they travel outside my backdoor, we review. Don’t leave the backyard. Don’t go into the woods. Don’t even go to the side of the house and certainly not the front. Stay where I can see you through the kitchen window. Come when I call. You may say “hi” to our friendly neighbors, but do not enter their yard. At all times, Mom needs to know where you are.
They’ve heard it so many times that I start the sentences and they complete them.
And as they closed the door behind them, I called them back for suntan lotion to protect their fair skin.
I sat down in the quiet to rest and read and then I heard them—two tiny voices screaming, hysterical, shrieking, piercing. Not a hurt cry. A fear cry. More like terrified. I ran, crossing over the gravel driveway without shoes, looking right at the two little girls perched at the top of the slide. I could see them safe in front of me. So, what was wrong?
Expecting a rattlesnake or tarantula, I arrived at the foot of the slide and demanded to know what had happened. Were they hurt? Were they bleeding? What monster had threatened their well-being and brought me out here with my heart in my stomach, knowing they were in grave danger?
It was an ant. A teeny, tiny, almost not visible black ant that had crawled onto their slide.
“It’s a fire ant, I know it,” screamed my oldest girl, face all red and hair wild, tears wetting her cheeks.
I bluster. I don’t really know how to react. It’s not a fire ant. It’s the tiniest of tiny normal black ants that are only really scary at a picnic as they invade your lunch. Even if it were a fire ant, it shouldn’t cause that much fear. So, I calm them. Then I instruct them. I say, “God tells us that He “has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Then I tell them, “Even if it’s a fire ant, even if it’s a spider, even if it’s a snake, even if it’s a monster, even then you don’t have to be be afraid because God is bigger than all those things.”
This morning, I gave myself the same instruction. I read a devotional from a woman sharing about her childhood horrors from sexual abuse by a neighbor and it struck those familiar chords of fear that paralyze me just as my daughters were frozen in fear at the top of a slide. In the car as we waited for school to start, I talked it over with my precious girl. “If anyone hurts you,” I say, “you can always tell me. It doesn’t matter what they say—if they threaten to kill me or dad or you or your cat. If they say it’s your fault. If they offer you candy. No matter what, you tell me.” And in all the innocence of a child who doesn’t really know about evil, she said, “I don’t think my friends from school would hurt me mom.” Yeah, I know.
This world really is a frightening place to live, though—for all of us certainly, and especially so for moms. All of the evil that exists, the sin-state of this world, the reality that people hurt other people, people harm innocence—it’s enough for me to panic and want to hide away and take my children with me.
And it’s not just the big things that sometimes make me worry, but just the possibilities that exist in the unknown. I registered my oldest girl for public school the other day. In September, she’ll step onto a school bus with a driver I don’t know and other children I’ve never met. I’m afraid. It’s a true confession of what is lurking in my heart right now. I’m afraid she’ll get lost in a school so big (if you knew my daughter, you’d understand this). I’m afraid she’ll miss the bus and be scared herself. I’m afraid mean kids will tease her and hurt her so sensitive heart. I’m afraid of the influences I can’t control. I’m afraid she won’t know how to maneuver the cafeteria system.
It’s true that this world can be a scary place to live at times. It’s true that most of the monsters we battle are far more destructive than a tiny black ant and not so easily overcome. It’s true that bad things happen and people get hurt. But, there’s another truth I cling to in this moment; it’s what coaxes me down from the slide where my fears have pinned me. God tells us, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
We don’t travel through this world alone. Even in the darkest places when fears of the unknown transform into the horrors of reality, God is with us. That is why we need not fear. He does not leave our side and in the moments that we collapse with the overwhelming terror of it all, He strengthens us and helps us and lifts us up in His right hand to safety. He commands us to “fear not” and then clasps our hand as we take those first uncertain steps into the shadowy places that we’ve been running from.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King