Do you feel afraid of what’s ahead?
Maybe it’s changes that you’re anticipating—a new season for the family, new job, new commitments. Or maybe it’s the old that you’re afraid of. You’re afraid the old problems will stay the same and you can’t handle them much longer. Or perhaps your plate is full, very full, and you know more is about to be added. You’re afraid to add one more responsibility because you doubt you can fulfill any of them well.
I know the feeling.
This week is Lucas’ birthday. Yes, it’s a happy occasion. I love to celebrate his life and remember the joy he has been to our family. But his birthday also reminds me of the fear I felt before his arrival. It reminds me how fear grips me when I feel like I’ve lost control.
My fear actually began about seven months earlier when I sat in the driver’s seat of the parked Blazer with a white envelope in my hands. I did not feel like I was in the driver’s seat of our family’s plan, and I was afraid that the paper in the envelope was only going to confirm that feeling. Gary was out of town and my suspicions had been rising. So I went to the closest lab for a pregnancy test (we lived in Venezuela before the convenient home tests were available).
I had conflicted feelings before opening the envelope because Gary and I had been hoping to get pregnant for about four years. Timing didn’t happen as we planned, so instead we pursued adoption and eventually brought our twins home (I’ve written about that here and here).
The twins turned our world upside down. If the Green house were one of those glass globes that you turn over to stir up the snow, our household was upside down and someone was shaking it rigorously (but no pretty snow in Venezuela).
It was when I was hanging on for dear life—“survival mode” is how I described that season—that I became suspicious that another life was on the way. We had barely had the twins for six months, and now I was sitting alone in our Blazer parked on the side of the street daring myself to open the envelope.
You already know that the test was positive since you know that we’re celebrating Lucas’ birthday this week. You probably don’t know that when I saw the word, “positivo”, I sat in the car and sobbed.
I feel bad for admitting that because it doesn’t make for a warm fuzzy story about the beginning of life–but I try to write honest. I felt ashamed at the time because we had been longing for this news for years. But that was before we had twins. We had already given up on the hope of pregnancy. Another one, now? In just over a year’s time our family transformed from the manageable three of us to “one of those missionary families” with too many kids to fit on a row in the airplane.
More than anything, I was afraid.
I was afraid for myself–that there was not enough of me to give to another being. . I felt like a dishrag that was already wrung out for the last drops of energy, and now I would need to find even more to give. I feared that I couldn’t be the mom to all four kids that I wanted to be. And we lived in Venezuela, which meant we didn’t have a grandma around the corner to lend a hand. I was afraid of doing this on our own.
And I was afraid for the kids. How would the twins react? Would it set them back on the progress we were making? Would they feel jealous? Neglected again? Would we be able to meet their special needs? And our oldest, would he get lost in the shuffle?
My fears gushed out in tears. I had a brief talk with God that would be continued when I had more time. This time I talked, he listened. I would try to listen later if I was lucky to find a quiet moment in the house.
Next I put on a happy face, started the Blazer and headed home to our five year old and two year old twins. Gary returned the following day with a necklace he bought on his trip— a guilt offering for leaving me with the three little ones. And I reciprocated with a surprise that left him speechless.
So this week it’s Lucas’ birthday. Nineteen years later, and I’m thankful to say that we made it. It’s not because of any heroic action on my part of facing my fears. I really didn’t have a choice.
Lucas was coming, whether I was ready or not. His birth story emphasized that point–he arrived two weeks early at a moment when I was the only one in the upstairs bedroom of our home. (Our doctor went downstairs because he thought it would still be a while. At the moment that Gary left to get him, Lucas made his arrival with an audience of one—me!)
His birth punctuated that I’m not in control.
His birthdays since then remind me of 3 things—
- Fear shows up in the wake of losing control. Fears nagged at me because I felt out of control of our family’s unfolding story. Take a look back at the times you’ve been afraid and see if it’s accompanied with losing control. And if you feel afraid now, it’s likely because there are circumstances out of your control. Often we never had control to begin with, but we think we do. As we face the reality of how little control we actually have, fear steps into the gap.
- “Do not be afraid.” God tells his people, “Do not be afraid,” repeatedly throughout the Bible. He knows we have this tendency to fear as much as he knows about our desire for control. So over and over he tells us, “Do not be afraid.”
- “I’ll be with you.” When he tells us not to be afraid, it’s often partnered with the promise, “I’ll be with you.” He doesn’t promise that circumstances will be easy–he actually warns us that life is going to be tough. He doesn’t promise to give us control either. But he does promise that he’ll be with us. He does not leave us to face life’s unknowns alone.
Tomorrow Lucas will come home from the dorms for one of his favorite meals—spinach cannelloni. As he blows out the candles we’ll remember how special he is to our family (I can’t imagine the Greenhouse without him!).
And I’ll remember that God is with me. He met me in my fears. We made it (not to say there haven’t been some crazy times!).
If you’re feeling fearful of what’s ahead–
- Look back at how God fulfilled his promise in history and in your own life story.
- Let your heart absorb the words God continuously repeats to his children—
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Are there times that you’ve been afraid and seen God’s presence get you through a season? What helps you when you start to feel you’ve lost control?
(Linking up with Grace and Truth)