Running several leg lengths would allow me to vault myself past the first couple stairs so that “it” would have less chance to grab my ankles and pull me into the black abyss. Such was my strategizing after about 7 years on semi-hostile planet earth.
Of course my burgeoning rational capabilities argued The Boogeyman didn’t exist and couldn’t possibly live under the basement stairs in a space of 4h x 3w, but my older brother was quite convincing. He had the ability to authentically mimic a police car siren so that my parents pulled off to the side of the road, looking for the flashing red and blues more than once. He could imitate several of The Muppets, like Gonzo and the Swedish Chef and other TV/movie characters. I was convinced a job was waiting for him in Walt Disney’s studios, so you can see why I might have been inclined to give him the benefit of “possible” when he told me to be sure the boogeyman didn’t grab me from under the stairs. Oddly enough (sarcasm), the boogeyman never entered my conscious consideration prior to his suggestion.
My bother seemed to have early natural insights into Pavlov’s classical training and “little sister” was a quick learner, making associations and being affected by something akin to B.F. Skinner’s operant concept of shaping and chaining. Hence, a long period of leaping to skip stairs and avoid capture when I ascended from the basement of our family home, began. Somehow this “act” would supersede the long armed mystical reach of the boogeyman. I mentally calculated risk probabilities. “If I jump and land on that stair, that one, not the lower one, I’m safe.” Since I could only leap so far, I had to settle for the third step as safe, rather than the tenth. Can you relate on some level?
This “act of faith” (more aptly named superstition) caused me to become a leaping lannie as a child. I leapt the stairs and bolted the rest of the way to the top each time. I also ran down the hall and leapt into my bed; then the creatures who hid beneath and in my closet couldn’t get me-especially once the covers were pulled over my head, even the one at the foot of the bed had to obey “the rules”!
As a preteen, I would regularly return late from a long day’s ride, as dusk would fade to black. One night I’d had enough, I leapt through the house door from the dark of night, demanding the barn be burned down! (The barn was actually an old 2-story house drug over from the neighbors, which appeared haunted in particular times of day or night.) Logic: a new, real barn wasn’t a bad idea after all, and the sense of being watched from the second level windows was bad enough, but those creeps in it were creeping me out!
I was also a strong perceiver from a very young age, so I “felt” a lot of things, including in the “barn”. Fortunately my mother’s wisdom and knowledge of the bible exceeded mine and she opted to go pray in the barn instead of striking a match. It was peaceful after that; I’d been convinced it was now unoccupied except for flies, horse dung, and swishing tails in the heat of the day. It would do.
But then there were the Christian ghost tales, the stories of various demons showing up in places they shouldn’t- like the church. Isn’t that a sacred place off limits to devils and vampires alike?! And the pastor seemed a little afraid, or something… Then there were the people who felt like something was sitting on their chest making it hard to breathe-more than one story snuck in my earshot. I decided in my first decade plus that I didn’t want to “see” spiritual things and be further terrorized. For a long while I shut my eyes but I still felt so much.
There were also the kind of creeps like lust, who often stood behind me or across the room- their watching eyes seeming to bore into me. As time passed, I felt other people’s oppression, depression, and other “-pressions”. Restaurants and crowded places came to feel like a big jangle of sensory stimuli, until I wanted to leave. Hospitals-I felt ill within minutes of entering them.
Over the years I was undulated with fearful stories, and little evidence of God’s great powers, until even into my twenties I felt like fear was my stalker, encroaching my every aspect of life, backing me into a corner, stealing my confidence and sharing it’s many disappointments. A generalized anxiety became my “mostly normal”, and I felt hyper-sensitized to the awareness of “the darkness” in its various forms.
It’s partly why I liked to be alone on the back of a horse. There, was freedom. There, was an awareness outside of fear and intimidation. Nature, animals and especially horses were where I felt God most, where I came to know his presence best, and where many first lessons about peace, healing, and wonder were learned. It’s the place I first began to sing, and his presence is where I learned the truth about what kind of spirit I was given.
Had I heard and known these things first, and only, it would have changed the way I had been shaped. Thank God, I learned the truth, and I was reshaped in love. I didn’t need to unlearn the old, rather new learning overwrote the old code I’d been programmed or conditioned to respond to.
When I understood the kind of spirit I’ve been given*, I stopped being afraid. I began to know confidence. It took a little time to learn who He really is, but I’ve been persuaded. As for fear, fear is at least twofold.
1) We’ve learned fear through associations, experiences, and pain.
2) Fear is a fearful spirit which counsels out of its own fears, making it the worst kind of counselor.
So what makes us so afraid? The problem is never the problem. We’re most afraid when we feel powerless. Something or someone in creation feels bigger and more powerful than we do, in a threatening manner. It’s also something we learned. We have been full of childlike faith, believed the “impossible”, and we have cowered at mere suggestion, because we learned pain, and we learned fear and we learned so many things from the knowledge of good and evil. We weren’t meant to. We were meant to learn Him- this spirit of love, peace and joy.
We were meant to be powerful, to feel confident, to know our dominion. We were intended for power, love and soundness.
We’ve been given a spirit. Deliberately. On purpose. But this spirit is different. This spirit is holy, a spirit of counsel and of might, who is wonderful, wise and understanding, just and true. The spirit we’ve been given is one of power, love and soundness. One who acts as our advocate, our strengthener, our teacher and leader into all truth. We’ve been given the spirit of comfort and reconciliation. The spirit who reveals the deep mysteries of God and creation, filling us with knowledge too wonderful to know on our own, a spirit of revelation, a spirit who distinguishes between truth and lies, and brings freedom from the slavish bonds of fear. A spirit who echoes our adoption as children of God.
Because we’ve been given this kind of spirit, our own spirit becomes just as He is. We are joined as one and we receive His love, his soundness, his wisdom, his fearlessness, his courage, his strength, his truth, his thoughts, his power and might.
This last year has been something rather special. Before 2015 began I received two themes from the Lord: Grace, Grace and Rest. These were not predictive of an easy, simple year; rather they were words to live by, words to anchor in, words to meditate on, to reassure, to empower. Prior to that the theme had been on how to stand.
2015 was the year my family would hear frightful things, things meant to make our hearts believe and feel the worst kinds of fear-fear inducing words and phrases like:
He has cancer, numbered days, it’s matasticized, here are some options-what do you want to do? radiation, chemo…
We don’t know- you can try this, okay, try that, ultrasound, google that,some people never get better, this test, CT scan, okay more tests, heart monitor, cardiologist. We can’t help you more, eventually you’ll be better.
Your mom’s had a stroke, can you come (to the other side of the country)? and upon arrival- You need to decide, your dad isn’t able to. What do you want to do?
I’ll probably be gone a month, sorry about Christmas, I really wish I could be home with you and the boys but …
They stopped life support, she’s gone; dementia…He can’t live alone, what do you want to do?
We’re sorry to hear about your loss. Let us know what you would like to do.
We have received your withdrawal letter for your program. If you want to enroll in the future, let us know.
What do you want to do? What do you want to do? What anyone wants to do- rewind, fast forward, delete, delete, delete.
I felt a lot of things this year. I’m saying, a lot of things. But fear? No. Not fear. Fear is unwelcome. It’s foe not friend. And something else…
I’ve been persuaded by love.
Perfect, complete love casts out all fear because love is power. Love empowers us to believe that the spirit we’ve been given is powerful and sound, and a stronger strongman than the one who’s been made so popular by fear.
Oh sure, fear hoped I’d take it back, we were codependent for so long! But it’s foreign enough now, when it’s sneaks around I sense it immediately. It feels like a stranger instead of my old counselor. It tried, but I knew it wasn’t mine. It made suggestions, it offered advice as it came within earshot through the words of people it influenced. I stared at them at times; taken aback by their expectations. I realized they knew fear, but not Love.
But I’d already been persuaded. And I still am. I can’t always know what today will hold, what may come tomorrow. Sometimes Holy Spirit (or Homy Spirit as my fingers often accidentally type- ya He’s my Homy too!) gives me a heads up- a brief preview of the future. And other times I’m caught by surprise like any other.
But this one thing I’ve concluded. I refuse to allow fear to steal my peace for now and tomorrow. I won’t be robbed of today, I won’t live in fear of tomorrow. I learned when anxiety or some other form of fear comes knocking, to bring myself to a place of peace within seconds. My feelings cannot rule; my spirit must, led by the spirit I’ve been given.
Maybe you’re facing a difficult situation right now, or maybe one is coming and in this moment, you are blissfully unaware. We may face many dangers, but fear is optional. We don’t usually think so, but we can choose to be afraid, or not. Love is a choice as well. You’ve been given a spirit, but He is Good; receive Him in all his goodness and benefits. As He is, so we are in this world.
A few key verses that helped reshape my thinking and being:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
For [the Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption [the Spirit producing sonship] in [the bliss of] which we cry, Abba (Father)! Father!
But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.
1 Corinthians 2: 10-12
Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny]…
Now we have not received the spirit [that belongs to] the world, but the [Holy] Spirit Who is from God, [given to us] that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts [of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly] bestowed.
But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you. But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you [to do].
Isaiah 11: 2-4
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord—
And shall make Him of quick understanding, and His delight shall be in the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord. And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, neither decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness and justice shall He judge the poor and decide with fairness for the meek, the poor, and the downtrodden of the earth…