Fear Is a Four-Letter Word

Fear Is a Four-Letter Word

I’ve never been the kind of person who rushes in when others are rushing out. I admire people who can put aside their own fears and act with bravery and courage.

Me? I’d rather avoid, deny and run away.

If I’d been in the story of the Good Samaritan, I’d be one of the passers-by, and my main reason would be fear.

What if I couldn’t help? What if I messed up? What if I contracted some kind of disease from the man’s wounds?

Fear.

What a four-letter word.

I know all the verses in the Bible about fear and how many times it says “Do not fear.” I know it in my head but I can’t seem to get it to my heart.

A recent mouse incident in our house proved opportunity to examine  myself and the fears I carry through life.

I was the first one to see the mouse. My son and I were cleaning. I’m embarrassed to say that we’d let the plastic bags from the grocery store pile up in the pantry. (Note: I hate plastic bags and try to remember my reusable ones whenever possible. But it’s not a perfect system. I’m forgetful.) I was removing them when I saw the signs: droppings. Still, I tried to convince myself that maybe that was left from the last mouse we’d had, months ago, just after we moved in.

But when I moved the next batch of bags, a little gray streak scurried to the back of the pantry and disappeared. I screamed and ran toward the back bedroom. My son screamed and headed that way, too. We sat on the bed and let our heart rates calm. Then, I went back to finish the job of cleaning the pantry floor. I pushed a trap close to where I’d seen the mouse and sort of let it out of my mind. I hoped it had just disappeared back into the wall and we’d never see it again.

A few days later, I was sitting in the kitchen at our computer chair. The kids were both home—it was a Saturday—and my husband was getting ready for work. The kids were running through the house, leaping and jumping. They ran into the kitchen, then back out, and as soon as they’d left, another little grey blob caught  my eye as it streaked across the kitchen.

I screamed again and froze. I didn’t want to move because WHAT IF IT TOUCHED MY FEET OR I STEPPED ON IT OR I DON’T KNOW WHAT?!

The kids had jumped onto our bed, and I eventually joined them. We huddled on the bed as my husband dressed for work. Then I saw the little shadow peek out from behind a chair in our room. And I screamed again, making my husband jump. I pointed to the spot and he started tracking the mouse. It ran into the hallway closet where my husband, bless his heart, tried to rig up a way to trap it. He almost had it when it escaped from the closet and, of course, into the kids’ bedroom.

We salvaged shoes from the closet and escaped to the car to take my husband to work. I’d like to tell you the day got better, but really, it didn’t.

We spent most of that day out of the house on a gorgeous 60-degree Saturday in March. Our daughter was almost sick just thinking about the mouse. I put on my brave face and tried to tell her what her dad had told her: there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just a mouse. It’s not going to hurt us.

But I did my fair share of tiptoeing through the rooms and avoiding the areas where I’m sure it would be.

On Sunday, I had the chance to confess my fears to God, and as a family, we were able to enjoy a relaxing day together.

Monday morning, I saw the mouse in the kitchen again. My husband positioned two traps in the path it had taken and I felt like maybe, just maybe, it would be the day we ended the mouse hunt. Our daughter was relieved to go to school.

My husband and son went to Lowe’s and when they came back, the mouse ran across the kitchen. My husband resumed his attempt to catch it but it disappeared.

And that’s all I could handle.

I spent the rest of the day dreading and crying.

Over a mouse.

Part of it was hormones. But a lot of it was fear.

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“I can’t live another day like this.” 

I don’t know if I said the words out loud or not, but that’s where I landed when I broke.

Whatever the fear, we often give it the power to paralyze us. I kept telling the kids that we couldn’t let a little mouse stop us from living in our house and doing our normal life things. I don’t know if they bought it, but I had a hard time buying it myself. The truth was: I was letting a little mouse keep me from living.

I wondered if our fears look like those little mice to God. If we make more of them than He does because He knows all things and sees all things and has power above and beyond all things. If we limit our living because we’re afraid of something that isn’t as big as we make it.

Because let’s face it: on the first day, it was an itty bitty mouse. By day 5 it was a mouse-monster intent on destroying our house and eating us in our sleep. I was feeding my fear more than my faith, and it had grown out of control.

I had forgotten that I was a human. It was a mouse. And it was more scared of me than I should be of it.

On Monday night, we finally tried peanut butter as bait. We put it in the middle of the trap and retreated to the living room for our usual TV watching. Less than an hour later, we heard sounds from the kitchen. When my husband investigated, he found the mouse and disposed of it.

I sighed with relief, and I couldn’t wait to tell the kids in the morning. I knew it would ease our daughter’s anxiety over the whole thing.

And it did. They both showed relief at the announcement.

Then, not long after my daughter got on the bus for school, I saw another mouse run across the kitchen.

I jumped and uttered a not-quite scream while my husband prepared another trap with peanut butter as bait. This time, it took less than 10 minutes for the mouse to find the bait and meet its end.

I should have been more relieved. We had two less mice in the house than we’d had in the previous days. But I still walked around vigilant and cautious and tiptoeing.

Because if we had two mice, couldn’t we have three? Or four? Or an infestation?

There I was feeding my fears again.

Truth is, it’s going to take some time and effort to renew my mind in this way.

Next month, I’ll write more about that.

In the meantime, I’d like to know I’m not alone in my fears and how I handle them.

How have your fears kept you from living the life as God intended? What steps have you taken to overcome your fears?

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Lisa Bartelt About Lisa Bartelt

Lisa has been writing stories for more than a decade, first for newspapers and now as a freelancer, blogger and budding novelist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Read more at her blog, Beauty on the Backroads.

Comments

  1. Ack, a mouse! Yes, seems so silly when you think about it after, but I can definitely relate. We had one once and I screamed and jumped up on a chair just like in the cartoons. And what else are we afraid of? I’m going to remember this image when I’m running from my fears in life!

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  2. Thanks, Cherie! I’m reminding myself too!

    [Reply]

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