Just a head’s up this is a bit long. And a bit honest. If you’re into that sort of thing, here’s my heart.
A little while ago we were sitting around the table with some friends, and our conversation starting turning towards current events and how the world is (for lack of a better way to say it) going to hell in a handbasket. Someone brought up the fact that apparently 2015 was the best year in history for the average human being, though anybody who reads the news regularly would probably have a hard time accepting that statement. Maybe reading the news regularly is part of the problem? I often struggle with finding a balance between being knowledgable and informed while regulating what I should and shouldn’t read/watch/discuss in order to keep my attitude positive and to avoid living in a state of crippling fear.
I’ve had to recently tell myself, as bluntly as possible, that fear is sin. Not trying to smooth the edges or justify my fear is the only way I can see it for what it is, something I need to get rid of – immediately. The bible sounds like a bit of a broken record for all the times we’re told, ‘do not fear’ yet I still struggle almost every day to follow through.
The conversation continued as a friend said, (they don’t yet have kids) “Maybe having kids would help? I mean that you’d be so busy that you’d have less time to read about these things or dwell on them.” No. That is, unfortunately, the very opposite of true. Sure, I have less time to read the news as my attention is pulled back and forth between the other 5 living creatures in our home who need something of me all the time, but it doesn’t make me worry less. Because since having children I’ve developed the ability to worry far more over far less. I worry for me. I worry for Henry. I worry for Hadley and Aslan. Actually, it usually happens in the reverse order.
In all honesty, while 2015 may have been the best year in history for the average human, it was the scariest year of my life. Every time a shooting or act of terrorism happened I’d spend the entire night awake running through ‘what ifs’ and nursing my worries into full blown fears. It got worse and worse with every tragedy.
In the summer of 2014 we went to Ottawa to celebrate Canada Day. People had warned me that it was going to be crazy busy, but I really wanted to experience Canada Day on Parliament Hill so Henry, Hadley and I drove up for the day. I remember looking over the day’s program online a few days earlier to see what all was going on, but I mentally discarded the information that wasn’t a part of our own plan for the day. In particular, the part where the program listed the firing of the cannons. So there we were, packed shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands of strangers on the street in front of parliament, my 5 month old baby girl strapped to my husband’s chest, pretty much right between east block and the war memorial statue. And the cannons fired. I kid you not I had never been so afraid in my entire life. The sound was so loud, and in the 30 seconds from the time they went off to the moment I realised everything was okay, my mind raced wildly with the possible horrors that could be happening. I wanted to run for my life, but it was so crowded I couldn’t possibly do so. I have never been so anxious and afraid, and I can remember that feeling like it was 5 minutes ago.
After calming myself down I was able to talk some reason into myself. This was Canada. Canada is a safe country. We were only visiting, but even still we live in Finland, which I would say is even more safe. Don’t worry Ashley, this won’t happen here.
And then came October 22, when Corporal Nathan Cirillo was fatally shot while guarding the war memorial that I had stood meters away from that previous summer, before the gunman stormed centre block and opened fire. I cried so many tears that night as I watched the news. Tears for Cirillo, tears for Canada, tears for myself as I was forced to understand that this could happen anywhere.
Since that day, the headlines that flooded my social media feeds have pushed that point further and further every time. Sydney. Nigeria. Beirut. Paris. Colorado Springs. San bernardino. Istanbul. This could happen anywhere. My fear got so bad that I would avoid large crowds whenever possible. Going downtown was act of faith. I’d pray for safety every time I used public transit. I was looking for places to hide whenever I was not at home. I didn’t know how I could possibly conquer this.
It became clear to me that I needed to address this when my fear started to infringe on my humanity. When whispers of prejudice or racism entered my thoughts, I knew that fear was to blame. And if I was going to choose to love the people around me, even if they were different from me and I didn’t understand them, I was going to have to learn how not to fear.
I started to pray in earnest for God to take my fear from me. I knew that I was not meant to live under the weight of fear, and my fear had gotten unbearably heavy. God started to reveal verses that I could use to battle my fear from all around me. In sermons I’d watch online, though the main subject was never specifically fear. In a devotional about praying for husbands. In wise words from incredible friends. It has, in complete honesty, been a painful journey. I want my surroundings to be safe and secure in a predictable, visible way. God wants me to trust that he will keep me safe and secure within the storm of this world. I’m learning.
But the other day while I was reading a devotional (Day 4 from the ‘Hymns’ series from She Reads Truth) God spoke to me through the words of the hymn, ‘How Firm A Foundation’ and Deuteronomy 31:6.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deut. 31:6
How Firm A Foundation
(I love this version)
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
I felt like it was time to share this struggle. Because I am finding freedom. Because I know in the wake of all the horror that has happened over the past few years I cannot be the only one with this struggle. Because maybe you’re like me, choosing to show love even when it may not be easy. Choosing to fight fear, because fear is not a legacy I want to pass on to my children.