Most of us would love to have our fears released but it that really possible?Perhaps the following testimony of our youngest daughter will give us some insight into honoring and living with our fears.
I am all too familiar with fear. I am a six on the enneagram and have been a sensitive person since birth. I vividly remember checking my closet before bed to make sure no one was hiding in there. I always asked my mom to please tell the shoe store salespeople not to help us so I could avoid talking to them. I have learned how to navigate my fears through the help of a great therapist and spiritual director. I also was guided by two faith filled, human, and grounded parents.
I recently had an experience that gave me new insights into my own fears and those I see developing in my own beautiful children. My husband and our two young sons were driving back home to Texas from visiting his parents for Thanksgiving in Illinois. We were on our last day of travel and had stopped for lunch. Our youngest needed a diaper change, so I took him into the stall with me where there was a wall pull down changer. He looked up at it and started to get teary eyed. His voice quivered, and I felt his very legitimate fear. I asked him a few questions and spoke to him gently to let him know he was safe. This isn’t new for us. It is how we address fears and how we try to communicate regularly with our children. (Of course we ALL have those days and hours where we wish we could change the way we speak.) Compassion and empathy are at the root of our home, and the home in which I was raised. After listening carefully to his fears, he and I decided it was better to change his diaper standing as we talked about the favorite toy he griped tightly in his hand. We came to the end of the change with smiles on our faces.
We left the bathroom and went back to our table. A few minutes later, a kind older woman came up to me and said, “I just wanted to thank you for how you spoke to your little one in there, you’re babies are going to be just great in our world.” Tears formed in my eyes as I thanked her for her support and gift of connecting. I didn’t know someone else was in the bathroom with us. She could have left without saying a word to me.
As a mom I have many fears. Am I doing the wrong thing? Are they going to be okay? Am I doing too much? Am I doing too little? What I realized that moment in the bathroom with our son is that the greatest gift we can give to each other is to sit with one another’s fears. We need to hold the fear and each other. I didn’t try to wipe away his fear because it was something he was experiencing on a very real level. We talked through it, and I comforted him. I didn’t tell him “to get over it” or “just toughen up.” I gave him the opportunity to experience his fear, and helped him realize there are ways he could move through it. Through the kind woman’s encouraging words, I felt supported and held in my own fears. A gift from a complete stranger. We deserve to be held, and we deserve to be community to each other in the midst of all the fears we face in our ever changing world.
May we hear a fresh, “Fear Not” each day of the year as we remember to hold each other’s fears as the incarnate Jesus holds our fears. “Fear not for I bring you good tidings of great joy…” Believing this and the simple act of listening and holding each other will change our fear filled world.
Rev. Jolene Bergstrom Carlson and Emily Carlson Tucker