We moved to the Florida swamp on Eglin Air Force Base when I was 13 and lived there until just before my 16th birthday. We’d play in the woods, catch snakes, observe alligators walking down our street, and play “Ghost in the Graveyard,” which is a fun hide-and-seek style game played best when there isn’t even moonlight out.
I was entirely fearless. At the Ranger Camp (that’s what we called it), I had my own room for the first time in my life. I loved having my own room, my own space. In a family of 6, this was where the introvert in me would recharge with ease. I especially loved bedtime. I’d shut out all the lights, shut my curtain, and listen to my parents listen to old Willie Nelson records while I drifted off to sleep.
But one night babysitting, I watched one of those 1980’s television show knockoff of The Twilight Zone. I don’t remember which show. But it was about a “shadow man who lived under the bed.” It creeped me out. Bad. Like nothing ever had before. I can’t even tell you why, because if I told you the story you’d laugh. However, I have an incredible imagination, and the more creeped out I got, the worse my imagination ran with it.
When the parents of the kids I was babysitting came home, it took everything in me not to ask for the husband to walk me home. We were in a super safe place — he had absolutely no need to walk me home. So, I didn’t ask, but I ran all the way.
My parents were in bed when I got there. I popped my head into their room, told them I was home, then went to my sanctuary, got ready for bed, shut out the lights, and slipped under the covers.
As I drifted off to sleep, I heard something. A crinkling and crackling. My adrenaline rushed through my body, my heart started pounding, my mouth went dry. I wasn’t making it up, I wasn’t imagining it. This was a real sound, inside my safe place, in the dark, and I couldn’t see anything.
I lay there for several seconds, trying to decide what to do. Finally, I lunged out of my bed and hit the light switch before my feet even hit the ground. There, on my nightstand, was a Florida Palmetto bug, crawling through some papers and a candy wrapper.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a palmetto bug, and for the faint of heart I won’t show you a picture, but they’re huge. I remember one scratching on our sliding glass door one time and my mom thought it was our dog wanting in. So, I killed the bug and tossed it outside then spent the rest of the night terrified to turn off my light.
Why? The bug was gone.
Because I realized as I lay there that I couldn’t see it. And that sparked the beginning of my fear.
The imagination with which God has gifted me to create stories started working against me. By the time I was 20, I was afraid any time I was alone, and it grew and grew until I was 35-years-old and visiting a friend in Tallahassee, Florida. Kaylee was visiting her paternal family there and I had baby Scott. My friend lived in the woods with no visible neighbors. I had arrived a couple of hours before she got home from work, unpacked my car, and then realized how isolated I was.
Scott was barely 1-years-old. There was no other human being in hearing distance of me. As I thought about that, the fear descended until I sat on her couch, clutching Scott, and staring at the floor, afraid to look up and see a danger from which I could not escape and from which no one could save me.
Terrified. Frozen. Until I heard her car pull up and I was able to snap my way out of it.
I decided at that moment that I could no longer live like that. I had to battle it. The Bible tells us to put on the whole armor of God to protect us from the enemy. Within that armor is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
I determined to fight the fear with the weapon I had at my disposal – the Sword of the Spirit. I looked up every verse I could find that had to do with being afraid, and this is just a fraction of what I found:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.Psalm 34:4
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”Psalm 23:4
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”Isaiah 41:13
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”Luke 14:27
…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.2 Timothy 1:7
Over and over and over again, the Word of God told me, “Do not be afraid.”
Now, when I start to feel that fear fall on my shoulders like a cloak, I’m able to brush it off and I will vocally say, “God has not given me a spirit of fear. Do not be troubled, neither be afraid.” And I’ll continue pulling verses out of my fear repertoire until it flees.
I am no longer afraid to be alone. I’m still not a fan of the dark but I cope.
If there is something in your life that is prohibiting you from going forward — if you’re proverbially frozen and staring at the floor, unable to move because of whatever it is, I encourage you to dig through the Word and find the references that will help you battle back whatever it is.
God wants us thriving and succeeding in working for His kingdom. If something is stopping you from utilizing whatever skills and talents He’s given you, you have the power to battle that back the same way I had the power to battle back the fear.