365 times, it is said, scripture admonishes us to "fear not"-once for every single day of the year; and yet somehow for my mortal mind never enough to calm my anxious self.
Perhaps the rest of you don't struggle mightily with fear of, well, in a nutshell, everything, but for me it is one of my great-perhaps the greatest-roadblocks. And for as much as I know that, there are a couple of other people who know it, too. One of them seeks to comfort and console, to show that with Him there is no need for fear, His perfect love cast it out long ago. With the other, however, my flawed humanity often forgets to close the door on my personal fear demon, who like a stiff wind needs it left only slightly ajar in order to blast it wide open and dishevel the entire house in an instant.
Too many times have I held back from doing something as my rational head conversed with my trust-at-all-costs heart while a heated conversation between the two ensues.
After our second child was born, I was overcome with fear about subsequent pregnancies. (Those of you who know me in real life can just nod in agreement about that.) The fear never totally went away, but I found courage and strength in God, and gave birth to two beautiful little girls that would never even exsist today if I handed over my thoughts to the Devil. Never even exsist--but that's where the Devil lurks, isn't it, down in the murky unknowns and the shadowy what ifs that have plagued people for ages. And while he is still the Devil, he's not stupid. Imagine the effort he'll put forth to stop God's will from happening--especially if the war trophies are souls.
Sometimes, I think, you can actually *hear* the conversations between good and evil playing out in your head. Almost three years ago, I attended a Mass for Mothers put on by our parish's Elizabeth Ministry group. We were brand new to the parish and the area and it seemed a great opportunity to be with other mothers. But then, at the end of the Mass, the priest announced that there would be a reception in the hall. I looked around and decided to beat a hasty retreat out the back of the church. I had come alone... I hadn't sat near anyone... These women all already know each other... Why on earth would they care to meet me? As the recessional finished, I quickly made my way to the vestibule, where I stopped in my tracks. And I remembered something I had heard at a previous bible study: sometimes, a voice whispered, the Devil will use our fears to prevent us from doing something that will bring great glory to God. I didn't know why, but I knew right then and there that I had to start making my way to the hall. Once there, I was greeted by many warm, friendly women, who were happy to welcome me to the parish. Someone even pointed out another new mom and she and I got to talking. Needless to say, the friendship that developed that day changed not just my new life here, but the lives of many women in our parish. My new friend (and future godmother of H!) encouraged me when I began revamping and coordinating our church nursery and, in turn, I encouraged her as she resurrected our parish Mom's Group. A couple's bible study was formed. A Women's bible study began. At Easter, this group took on the annual egg hunt and using Resurrection Eggs brought the gospel message to hundreds of children.
Having been given these (and many other!) opportunities to hone my anxious nature has actually been a blessing and not the curse it would seem. For all the hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing that I tend towards engaging in, it would seem that perhaps along the way I might have actually learned something. It really is as difficult and as simple as not being afraid.
"But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows." Luke 12:7