I could tell from her cry that the fear was as sincere as it could be. Mommas know the differences in their kids’ cries. It starts when they’re young – there is the hungry cry, the tired cry, the change-my-diaper cry. . . As the baby gets older and is better able to communicate, some of the cries stop altogether, but there are a few tears that linger – the hurt cry, the angry cry and the scared cry.
At five and a half, Eliza had not cried the scared cry- not like this – in a long, long time. I recognized it instantly though and my heart hurt for her heart. I got on her level and did my best to help teach her how to address this very real, very valid fear.
“Look at me Eliza. What do you know to be true? Look at me. Let’s think this through. Look at me. Look at me. The hippo isn’t real. Look at me. It’s just a robot. It can’t get you. It won’t get you. Look at me. I am right here. You aren’t alone. Look at me. I won’t let it get you because it can’t get you.”
Her sobs slowed and she slowly began to repeat the truths after me – “The hippo isn’t real. Mommy is here. It’s just a robot.” We hugged and I took her hand as we proceeded into the restaurant to look at the aquarium of Finding Nemo type fishies.
Parenting that day outside of the Rainforest Cafe of the Opry Mills Mall, was definitely a moment where I felt the weight of my responsibility as a parent and, also was reminded about my role as a child of God as well.
Two of my three daughters have been deathly afraid of the life-sized animatronic hippopotamus outside of this particular restaurant. We’ve even nicknamed the whole mall, The Hippo Mall. On one level, it seems something silly to be scared about, but from their small vantage point in a time of their life where they are trying to ascertain reality from fantasy – it is a legitimate some thing to fear.
Eliza had been dreading that moment when we would arrive in THAT corner of the mall. Her feelings were so overwhelming, she could not rationally think through what she knew to be true. She could not talk herself off the ledge. Her cry was one of desperation and despair.
As her parent, I know that she is old enough to handle this kind of thing – if she knows how. As her parent, I know that is my responsibility to teach her how to face this fear. As her parent, I know that teaching her to handle this fear gives me an opportunity to teach her how to face other fears, bigger ones, scarier ones, ones that won’t be so easy to conquer.
So, I taught her to focus on the things she knew to be true. By teaching her to speak truths aloud, she can hear her own voice reminding her heart of what her brain already knows. That silly hippo no longer has a hold over her. His power is lessoned as her faith is strengthened.
Walking away with her little hand still grasping mine, I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit.
This is why I read the Bible daily.
This is why I should memorize more scripture.
This is why I need to intentionally preach the gospel to myself.
I had studied a long time ago the inverse proportional relationship between faith and fear. When one increases, the other decreases. The more faith you have, the less fear and vice versa. If my faith increases, my fear will decrease. . .
When I find myself afraid, I need to do the very things I taught Eliza to do in the midst of that busy Nashville shopping mall. . . .
Look at Him. – Just as she struggled to take her eyes off the thing causing her fear and refocus on her loving parent, I know I struggle too. I can’t seem to take my eyes off my circumstances – that they will get worse or get me while I stop to look to God. Yet, He gently, consistently and patiently calls me to look at Him.
What do you know to be true? – My God is bigger, My God is stronger, My God is higher than any other. (Do you know that chorus too?) He loves me. He has good plans for me. He will never leave me or forsake me. As I claim these truths, He shifts my perspective. What seemed so large, so overwhelming and so frightening no longer seems so daunting. He is given the rightful, dominate place and position over me and my fears.
Just as I reminded Eliza that I loved her and was there to take care of her – our God loves and cares for His children in the same way.
A few of the most fear-filled moments in my life were the hours I spent birthing our three loves. The Holy Spirit never failed to bring truth to the forefront of my mind as I dealt with painful contractions. The specific passages were ones I had memorized years before, but focusing on their timeless truth helped me to overcome my fears.
Despite His continual faithfulness in circumstances big and small, I still so easily become irrational and, at times, inconsolable over things that should not scare me. Satan knows my deepest insecurities and unashamedly exploits them.
His grace intervenes. Praise Him!
I need to be reminded of His presence in my darkest places and I need to know His truth reigns over all my feeble attempts of bravery and bravado. The Holy Spirit whispers, reminding me to look at Him, to reflect on what I know to be true. As I speak the promises of God aloud, my heart hears the truth my brain knows and I am encouraged and empowered. My faith increases and my fear decreases.
Just as Eliza and I moved on, hand-in-hand, so will I. As faith, slowly and surely displaces my fears, I can walk confidently, holding the hand of my God who understands and controls what I cannot.
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