death

Guest Post: Insipid Fear

angry CoyoteNOTE: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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The passing of a good man

Last night a good man’s body died.

I say that because, based on the physical evidence and my personal spiritual beliefs, his consciousness and the essence of who he is, left the body on Sunday.  The time in between was spent in the company of his adult children and older grandchildren.  Witnessing moments of their grief and emotion and trying to be supportive and encouraging while remaining unobtrusive all while dealing with some ongoing emotional issues of my own has been an interesting thing.

I’ve known this family for 16 years and it has been a sporadic, distant, and sometimes hurtful relationship between the various family members and myself.  But, in all that time, this man never really participated in the family drama.  He was a quiet, solemn, and conservative man of faith.  If he disapproved or disagreed with you, he didn’t ridicule, belittle, or diminish you in any way.  He was the center and the calm in the midst of the storm.

We never really got to know each other at all.  My piece of that is because I was so busy struggling with my own issues and trying to protect myself from perceived rejection, I didn’t make the effort and assumed he didn’t care to.  However, since he was the grandfather of my youngest child, I recently made the effort to make sure she spent some time with him and her grandmother.  I’m so very glad I did.  The love that he displayed for her whenever she was around was immediate and genuine.  The smile that would light up his face and the laughter that would rumble out and fill the air were wonderful and warming.  Due to another recent death in the family, we actually got to spend some time in his company the day before his stroke, this past weekend.  It’s comforting to know that she made him smile some more just before he left us.

I had an opportunity to visit him in the ICU.  It was just the two of us.  I could see that the essence of who he was had moved out of the physical body.  As I stood there, my hand holding and touching his, I was overcome with sadness and grief because I hadn’t taken the time or made the effort to truly get to know this man and because my daughter didn’t have enough time to be with her grandpa, as well as the knowledge that the man I love was suffering such a great loss.  A few hours before he fully passed, I was made aware that he had carried a picture in his wallet of my two oldest children from the first year I was in relationship with his son.

That revelation comforted me and helped me to understand that, even though we always felt separated from the family, in his mind we were part of it.  I realized how much time and opportunity I have wasted because of my fears, misconceptions, and false beliefs.  I’m now facing the fact that I’ve been as guilty of judging the members of his family and rejecting them, as I have felt judged and rejected by them.

Sadly, this loss is what it has taken to wake me up, grow me up, and move me into willingness to step out of my comfort zone to be more interactive with the family as a whole.  Gladly, the family is coming together and connections are being made, that will hopefully grow beyond this period of grief and loss.  I’m looking forward to forming and facilitating attachments to family for myself and my daughter in ways not experienced by me and other members from my side of the family before.  I’m grateful for this legacy given to me by the passing of this good man.