NOTE: Gary Walter is one of the people I met after joining Dream Stoker Nation. I have only been following his journey for a brief period of time. Despite our short acquaintance, I have been encouraged by his pursuit of his dreams and by his writing. I believe you will be too. Enjoy.
This post originally appeared on Gary’s blog, here.
Hardly noticeable at first, it starts small. You wonder what it is, so you strain to listen. Is it just your imagination, or is it real? Suddenly, you’re wide awake, listening to every creak and grown in the house. You wonder if you should be scared, or merely curious? You wonder if what you feel is normal, or if you should be very afraid.
Like a child lying in the dark, you are paralyzed by fear. What is it? What woke you up? No, there’s no intruder, and there is no critter, the voices you hear are in your heart. Imagination? Maybe. Real? Yes. Are you anxious? Absolutely. And afraid. Yet, here in the grasp of your warm bed, there is nothing you can do about these fears. The fears are real – the circumstances that created them, well, maybe you just misinterpreted them. Yes, maybe there is no reason to be afraid – but then again, you are.
At the age of 14 we visited my great-aunt and uncle in San Bernardino, California. During the Winter months they rented a mobile home in a park that catered to retired folks. I thought it would be fun to sleep on the deck in the warm California Winter. Shortly after midnight I woke up to the sound of coyotes. They yipped, they barked, and they growled. The ferocious beasts were on the move – and they weren’t far away – maybe within a block or two of where I lay in my sleeping bag.
I was terrified – certain that they were coming after me.
I was terrified – certain that they were coming after me. Their predatory noises got louder and I grew more and more terrified. I was scared to even breathe. The door into the house was just three feet away, but I was afraid the terrible coyotes would get me. I lay very still for the next half hour – listening as the coyotes attacked a neighbor’s pet dog (we learned the next day) and unable to move.
Since that night, I’ve learned that coyotes are relatively harmless and I’ve often encountered them in the wild. I’ve even stood next to wild wolves in the Alaskan Wilderness. But too many times, I experienced similar fears in the middle of the night. Often, like with the coyotes, those fears turn out to have no basis in fact or reason. Some situation, circumstance, or event in my life triggers the fear – and it’s usually too big and too ethereal for me to solve at 3:00 am. I am relegated to tossing, turning, and panicking.
It’s an unholy fear – one not based on anything tangible or credible. I cite the Serenity Prayer, I read encouraging scripture, and I cry out for relief. It’s a generational curse, passed on by family and ancestors who went before me. It is irrational, unreasonable, and not worth the effort – but it is real, it is stupefying and paralyzing.
Last week I was reading in Exodus about the Israelite people leaving Egypt. It’s amazing how new things can pop out of a familiar story. But three things struck me in this story:
- God took them the wrong way. If they had taken the most direct route to the Promised Land, they would have immediately ran into the Philistines and He knew they weren’t prepared to do battle yet.
- He deliberately had them “wander” in the desert. It’s been said, “All who wander are not lost.” This was certainly true of the Jewish people right after leaving Egypt. God had them wander to confuse the Egyptians.
- The people were terrified. Despite all this direct intervention from God Himself, they feared death to the core.
- God’s plan was executed with precision. The Jews were rescued, the Egyptians were defeated, and it turned out there was never a reason to fear. It was a plan instituted 400+ years earlier, and on this day, it all came together – miraculously.
(OK, four – but who’s counting?)
I experienced something very similar in the last couple of weeks. A plan that was coming together perfectly, for a role I am perfectly suited for, but as the conclusion neared, I, like the Jews, became paralyzed by fear. It was as if I was 14 years old and surrounded by killer coyotes again.
But unlike the past, I did not resort to dysfunctional behaviors or thoughts to hide from the fear. I didn’t deny the fear, I accepted it. I didn’t mask the fear with food, TV, or other insane addictions. I just sought the Lord, surrendered it to Him, and learned to be still in His presence.
I finally came to the point where I accepted death as an option. Would it be painful? Yes. Would I like it? Probably not. But I trusted God to do what was best.
Amazingly, miraculously, in the end, at just the right moment, God came through and I accepted the role that I’ve prepared for my whole life. Amen.
- PS: Here’s my most recent experience with coyotes.