Recovery Room: The White Line of Fear

In 2015, I’m hosting various writers, pastors, and counselors as they step into the Recovery Room. Here, we’ll discuss the things that supplant inner sobriety and connectedness to an abiding God. Couldn’t we all use a little recovery from something? 

Today, welcome Kimberly Coyle, a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family and her faith at her blog, kimberlyanncoyle.com. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport. Connect with her on Twitter @KimberlyACoyle

Welcome Kimberly to the Recovery Room!

*****

My mother says it started with three-year-old me crying over imaginary spiders. Years later, it progressed to double-checking the lock on the door more than once before leap-frogging across the empty floor space into bed at night. I pulled the blankets up high and tight, until they rested just under my chin. I kept a pile of them at the foot of my four-poster bed for this exact ritual. I said a prayer, “Please protect me, please protect me, please protect me.” I pulled the covers taut. I laid awake for hours, wondering how long it would take for someone to fight their way through the blankets before they reached my skin and bone. I imagined witches. I dreamt up killers. I conjured up demons.

It still comes to me at night, this Fear that paints itself like a white line down the center of my spine. It is the center line which seeks to guide my every thought and desire—the line that glows in the dark on a road leading nowhere. It is a poor stand-in for faith, it illuminates nothing but itself. Fear turns my eyes from the real light shed by the Holy Spirit as my mind wanders down unfamiliar paths and roads I’ve never driven.

Fear and I are intimately acquainted, so much so, that I can’t imagine going to sleep without this familiar tension rising—without the white line beckoning me to step further into my fears, to abandon faith on the darkened roadside, to give in and follow it.

I no longer have to imagine things that go bump in the night. I have the evening news and twitter and various online news sites who readily step in. I have the local gossip, parenting magazines, and a television filled with “entertainment” in the form of murder and mayhem. These feed the Fear, and I know it, but I find myself returning to the familiar feel of it time and again. I think I’m strong enough to resist the pull, but I always regret the road it leads me down. I regret the way the familiarity of Fear lures me in.

As I try to wind my way back from the well-travelled road to Fear and into the arms of perfect love, I no longer have the childlike comfort of a security blanket. When I feel the familiar creep of Fear, I have a few practices I turn to regularly to keep me working towards recovery. I stop engaging in conversations or topics that feed into Fear. I don’t watch the news when my husband is traveling. I don’t read novels or watch movies with extremely disturbing themes and images. Practical, yes. Helpful, absolutely.

But real life doesn’t come with a trigger warning.

When real life and real loss and the real sin of this world enters in, I begin to think I’m powerless against it. When I attend the funeral of a friend’s son who overdosed, or watch another friend’s marriage and faith unravel, I begin to hear the lies of the enemy, rather than the truth of the Spirit. So I remind myself of it repeatedly. When my mind falters and my heart fears, I stretch my arms out to gather all of my racing thoughts back in. I bring them under captivity, and gather everything that would seek to exalt itself above God and I submit these thoughts to Christ. Once I release them, I’m better able to follow Paul’s words in Phillipians, better able to meditate on all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

I know there is no cure-all for Fear this side of Heaven. I will be tempted to walk its thin, white line my entire life. But I recognize it as a counterfeit, one that would have me believe it speaks the truth. As part of my recovery from Fear, I bury the truth inside and alongside my childish prayers of “Please protect me” I hear another voice whisper,

“Love wins.

Love wins.

Love wins.”

*****

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  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    “the familiar feel of it . . . ” isn’t that the truth, Kimberly, the way our addictions are comforting in some way because they are habit – familiar terrain. I think in that way addictions attach themselves to our identity – I don’t feel fear, I AM Afraid. I don’t feel anxiety, I AM Anxious. This is where I find the language of scripture – the deliberate repentance (turning away), the surrender and need for deliverance – so helpful. Thanks for sharing here. I too slept with blankets up to my chin and had a whole list of procedures for handling whatever might come my way in the night.

    • Yes, exactly! I don’t feel fear, I AM Afraid. And yes to deliberate repentance. You’ve given me much food for thought, Kelly.

  • pastordt

    Ah, my, this is way too familiar to me. And yes, you are so right. It is a deadly voice, that Fear, deadly. Praying for all of us who do battle with this one — it’s a ready-at-hand enemy, that’s for sure.