When Alex was four he had a genuine fear of spiders.
I sympathized with him because I, too, struggle with being in the presence of the creepy little arachnids. But because society leads us to believe the myth boys shouldn’t be afraid of anything, Dan and I would all but tell him he “wasn’t” afraid of spiders as he all but ran away from them.
The fear seemed to intensify as time went by, causing us to analyze the situation. We began to focus less on the spider and more on Alex. What Alex was really saying to us was “protect me” from this threat. What began to matter less was whether the fear was real or perceived. Regardless the type of fear it was, he was sincere about how he felt.
So, what resulted from our finding? What behavior modification did we interject into our lives to address the fear and cry for protection Alex had made abundantly clear?
First, we acknowledged his fear, recognizing it as real to him. Second, we moved in close to him during the time of fear. We would repeatedly tell him, “Daddy and Mommy will protect you. Daddy and Mommy will protect you.” Finally, we would eliminate the source of the fear.
As time went on, the faith Alex had in us to protect him grew greatly. He knew Daddy and Mommy would protect him regardless of the circumstance. As his faith in us grew, we began to involve him in the “elimination” phase. It was here, after we acknowledged his fear, moved in as a sign of protection, and reminded him verbally we would protect him, that we began having him “eliminate” the source of fear. Most of the time this meant getting a paper towel and scooping the spider up in it, carrying it to the bathroom and flushing him down, down, down. Oddly enough, as Alex grew through each incident, we found him needing the acknowledging, nearness, and support during elimination of the source of fear a little less. He realized we were there to protect and comfort, but his maturity allowed him to step out on his own to deal with the situation with which he was faced.
Although spiders still make the hair on my arms and neck stand at attention, I know I can conquer them fairly easily. But what about when my world is really shaken to the core? What about when …. well, you fill in the blank. What then?
In 2 Samuel 22:2-3, David exclaimed:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior — from violent men you save me.
What a powerful verse! It sounds like David knew exactly what it meant to be both frightened and protected. What can I pull from this portion of scripture that allows me to experience the same? There are four thoughts I can glean and cling to when fear overcomes me.
The LORD is my rock. The metaphor of the “rock” in scripture proved significant to the Israelites. The rugged terrain noted throughout scripture was very familiar to both the Old Testament Israelites and the New Testament Christ followers. The mounts of rock rose high into the sky and presented with crafty crevices designed by the Master’s hand. These crevices proved beneficial to weary travelers. They provided a place with which to rest and be protected from the elements. The stone structures were immovable and impressive in stature. As a result, when the written word referred to the Lord as being a “rock” this gave the people of the day a clear picture of who He was — an immovable, protector who is ever present.
My fortress. The word “fortress” is a military term used to describe a place of support and refuge. When I hear the word I envision a war-time situation where brave soldiers, laying their lives on the line for a cause much greater than themselves, find rest within a fortress. They feel protected and are able to relax enough to rest and recharge.
My deliverer. By definition, a “deliverer” is someone who rescues an individual from danger or a harmful situation. What this characteristic of Christ leads me to believe is that I will walk through situations through which I will need delivering. I may need to be delivered from a hairy 8-legged creature or a situation beyond my control.
What I love most about these three descriptions is the small two-letter word in front of each of them: my. The Lord is my rock. The Lord is my fortress. The Lord is my deliverer. To Alex we were his rock, fortress, and deliverer. He was presented with a situation that frightened him and we protected him, supported him, and rescued him from his present danger. If as earthly parents we will do that for our son, what more will our heavenly Father do?
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:25-32)
No matter what “it’ is, I can stand confident in knowing I have a rock who longs to serve as my fortress in order to deliver and protect me from what has me in a stronghold of fear. When I allow Him to do His work, I mature through it. I begin to have a “history” with Him that shows Him a faithful deliverer, rescuer, refuge, fortress, and rock.
As Alex’s daddy, Dan had to show himself a dependable father who, like our Heavenly Father, will be his protective fortress, delivering him from his frightful situation. Although I continue to be dependent upon Him, the scary moments in life, like the spiders in Alex’s, become less about the spider and more about the faith and belief.