“Mommy? I don’t want to go to school today.”
Even from the other room I could tell that Gates was on the verge of tears, that there was something different about today’s plea to stay home.
“Why not, honey?”
“Because there’s going to be a tornado drill today and I’m scared.” By this time there were definitely tears, quivering lips and all.
Several minutes of questioning later I finally determined what the issue was. Even though I (and no doubt his teacher) had repeatedly reassured him that this was just a practice he still was certain that there were going to be chairs flying through the air; chairs that were going to hurt when they hit him in the head. After my solemn promise that there would be NOTHING flying through the air he was fine. And off to school he went. When I asked him about it at the end of the day he responded with that air of bored wisdom that all children his age seem able to muster when parents ask silly questions, “It was just a PRACTICE, Mom.”
In my life I often struggle with fear. Fear that tries to hold me back from doing what I should be doing or what I want to be doing. I’m afraid of those chairs that might be flying through the air. (OK, I’ll confess, apart from the snow, cold and lack of mountains, my other reason for initially asking my husband to never move us to South Dakota was an acute fear of tornados. So yes, I am not only figuratively but literally afraid of chairs flying through the air.)
Fear can keep us from a lot of things. Fear of rejection or of losing friends to another move can keep us from making new ones. Fear of looking ridiculous can keep us from using the gifts and talents that we have. Fear of losing a child can cause us to become overprotective, keeping them so close to us that they can’t grow in the way they were intended to grow. Fear keeps us from applying for the new job, from stepping out and taking the entrepreneurial risk, from going back to school for a degree. It makes us hold our tongue when we really want to speak; it makes us lower our gaze instead of looking people in the eyes. All because of some flying chairs that may or may not be real.
Gates and I have a verse that we will often say together when he’s afraid of something; there have been a few nights when he’s had a nightmare and has asked me for his ‘be brave’ verse. The verse is from Psalm 56, verse 3 and simply says “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Time and time again in the Bible we are told not to fear, not to be afraid. I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I don’t think God expected us never to experience fear. We’re human, with human emotions. I think the key is in that verse. WHEN I am afraid (not ‘if’), I will put my trust in God.
Gates had to trust me that I was telling him the truth when I said there would be no flying chairs, and it was the trust that brought him peace. As an adult, I understood something he didn’t. God understands things that I don’t. Do I trust him enough to be at peace when he asks me to step out in something?
What are the flying chairs in your life? Are you willing to risk that they might not be real? Step out, take a chance that this is just a drill designed to make you stronger and wiser, ready for the real challenges. Yes, sometimes the tornados are real. Sometimes the chairs really do fly. But sometimes it’s just practice.
Tomorrow: “DUCK! It’s a flying chair! When fear becomes reality.”