I had walked underneath this tree countless times over the years. On every daily neighborhood walk with my trusted four-footed friend. Every Sunday afternoon walk with my husband. Every walk with my daughter, lacrosse stick in hand, ball bouncing.
Never was I even remotely suspicious of the potential danger looming overhead.
Every day last summer I walked beneath these limbs, never imagining that I should be walking in fear. Then the fall winds blew and carried away the nest’s protective camouflage. And on a crystal clear, blue-sky winter’s morning, my head tossed back, eyes heavenward, I caught sight, for the first time, of what had eluded my vision for all those months: the largest hornet nest I have ever seen.
It had been there all along, I just didn’t know it, so I didn’t know to be afraid.
When I held my second baby in my arms, I had no idea that there was a dangerous disease brewing within his tiny body. I knew nothing of autoimmune diseases and autoantibodies. I just knew that he was perfect, and so I didn’t know to be afraid.
When he was a toddler, I would hold his tiny hand in mine, unaware that soon I would be pricking each one of those precious chubby little fingers, eight times a day, to draw enough blood to check his blood glucose levels. I didn’t know any of that yet, so I didn’t know to be afraid.
When my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at age five, the leaves blew off the tree of my heart and Danger was no longer hidden; it made itself perfectly clear each and every day.
You’ll have to count the carbohydrates in all the food your son eats. You will calculate his insulin doses and inject him with the lifesaving liquid. Be sure to calculate carefully. Oh and make sure he doesn’t eat too much carbohydrate or fat.
Be aware if his blood sugar drops too low; he may become disoriented or feel shaky inside. If so, you’ll have to test his blood sugar and give him the right amount of juice to revive him.
Yes that’s right; it’s about 7-10 blood tests by finger prick per day and 5 or more shots of insulin per day.
The doctor sounded so confident.
I was terrified.
Did I mention that my son was only five years old? His body was so small, and he was so active, that the tiniest amount of insulin would send his blood sugar crashing down, low beyond low. His blood sugars seemed to have a will of their own, despite my best efforts at controlling them. I was his mother, his caregiver, and yet I was powerless against the force of this disease. Try as I might, I could not strong-arm this disease to yield to me and to my best intentions.
And that’s when the real fear set in.
Fear is an understandable response to that which we cannot control. We all have fears. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear for our child’s future. Fear for a successful career. Fear of being all alone. Fear of dying.
We all experience fear. The danger lies in allowing fear to control us.
The real question is, what do we do with those fears? Do we face them – by which I do not mean do we rise up against them, but rather, do we turn our face, our entire body toward them, transfixed by their seeming power over us, and refuse to acknowledge fear for what it is? Fear is quite simply our emotional response to that which we cannot control and which we imagine will be our ruin. Fear is an emotional response. Fear lives in our imaginations.
Fear is something we choose to give mental space to.
And the trouble with fear is that fear takes all the truth out of the world.
Fear speaks lies to us. Fear makes us small and powerless. Fear exhausts us, even while it holds us captive in inertia. Fear says, there is no hope. Fear guides us to dread. Fear warns, don’t take a risk; danger lies ahead. Fear causes our eyes to see nothing but dead ends ahead.
Fear robs us of our hopes and dreams.
It’s so easy to fear what we can’t control, especially when our fears involve someone we dearly love. But when we choose to agree with fear, we block ourselves from embracing hope.
Jesus of Nazareth said this about fear, “Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”
Perhaps instead of staring fear full in the face, being frozen by it, locking eyes with it, and in so doing, entering into agreement with it, what if we would turn 180-degrees away from fear and turn our gaze toward hope instead? What if in our 180-degree turning we discovered not the evil face of fear but the loving face of a gentle God instead? The face of a God who beckons, Come, trust in me and I will give you rest. Embrace me, not fear, and I will hold you in my arms of hope and love.