Fear ruled my life as a child. Since I didn’t know how to process the death of my brother and the grief reaction of my parents, anger erupted over seemingly inconsequential things. Doorknobs left holes in walls; biscuits flew across the table like torpedoes; and nightmares plagued my sleep. Thus, night after night I dreaded going to bed. Every shadow, every creak represented a bigger-than-life monster.
At four, I didn’t realize the real monster was grief and loss. That’s what triggered my “unexplained” anger and fear, which I learned later my parents longed to address but didn’t know how. At best, Mama tried to soothe me with scripture, then left the light on in the hallway. Invariably, however, I’d end up terrified, screaming, “Mama, Mama!” until finally I heard her voice at the bottom of the stairs. “Come on down,” she’d say, her tone laced with exhaustion and frustration.
Embarrassed, but relieved, I’d creep down the lighted steps and crawl in bed beside Mama. Daddy would grunt and roll over, never acknowledging my fears. I guess he thought Mama was best for such things. Little did he know how much I needed him—to take me on his knee, to hold me, to assure me, to listen to my fears, to really hear me.
Mama would ask, “What are you so afraid of?” Her twisted features left me feeling less than adequate, like something was really, really wrong with me.
“I don’t know,” I’d reply, equally frustrated with myself. I felt like shrinking into the covers, dissolving, becoming invisible. Anything to make the horror go away and my parents think better of me. Because, surely, they were disgusted with me.
Eventually, my nighttime trauma dissipated. Somewhat. It’s likely I only learned how to mask my fears. Without intervention in the form of loving, godly guidance to help unearth the root causes of my fears, they only morphed into other angers and fears. Which erupted into negative behaviors: irritation over little things, performance-driven living, defensiveness.
It’s taken a lifetime of living with and learning from my heavenly Father who continually calls me into His light. To get to the bottom of my fears. In His presence, He uncovers the causes and applies the comfort. He provides a loving community of believers in which I find wisdom and healing.
We all deal with unpleasant emotions, often generated from our thoughts surrounding circumstances beyond our control. But our Father, who is intimately acquainted with all our fears, calls us down the stairs of our grief and loss and into His marvelous revealing and healing light.
Eileen Rife, author of Laughing with Lily, speaks to women’s groups, encouraging them to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His amazing story. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com.