Friday, July 13, 2007

What Are You Afraid Of?

Phobias. According to the dictionary this is a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous. There's a very strong spiritual implication there.

As I was drifting off to sleep last night from somewhere in the Random & Completely Useless Thought files in my head, came "tomorrow is Friday the 13th, we just had one of these in April". The only reason I remembered that is because I have two friends who's birthdays are 4/12 and 4/13. Otherwise, I would have never remembered or even cared that we had a Friday the 13th, three months ago. In truth, I really don't care much that today is Friday the 13th either, except for the fact that for many people it's actually a terrifying day. No, it has nothing to do with scary movies that used the hook (no pun intended) of F13 to grab the audience attention, either.

Triskadecaphobia - the fear of the #13 is a very real, even if very irrational, fear. We all know people who have a phobia of some kind - maybe you even have a phobia. There are some really really strange ones, but some of the more commonly heard of phobias pertain to spiders, snakes, closed spaces, heights, water, flying, open spaces and the dark. For me personally, I'm not sure it classifies as 'phobia' but I have monumental issues with bees (read: anything that flies with a stinger, whether it's a bee, wasp, hornet, etc.), with getting lost, and with being unable to breathe.

More than once when I was driving (not by personal choice) in a place unfamiliar to me and I got lost, I paniced. Panic is so undignified and not something I prefer to do - but I suppose that's what phobias cause you to do. More than once when faced with the imminent sting of a bee, I have also completely lost all composure. I've tried hard to conquer this but I've never been able to get past the memories of being swarmed (and stung, oh yes) by hornets when I was 3. The memories are just little patches but I can clearly recall that crawling and stinging sensation felt on every area of my wee little 3 yr. old body. It's the stuff they make horror movies out of.

I found it interesting that today Phil at TeamPyro posted this in regards to the security of God's will:
"Our natural tendency is to seek our security in things we can see. So walking by faith never feels very secure."

While he wasn't posting about phobias, it certainly does apply if you really consider that such things are an irrational fear of something even with the repeated assurance that these things are not necessarily dangerous.

rotten coffee phobiaFor most people - especially people that dont really have any kind of phobia - such an irrational fear of something is ridiculous. They can't imagine being held bondage to such a trivial matter. But for those with such fears, it's really quite horrifying. I know a woman who is so afraid of snakes, that it causes her to lose her breath and begin to shake uncontrollably whenever one is around. Even a picture of a snake in a book will cause this reaction. I know another person who is so afraid of heights that he completely freezes and turns a ghastly greenish color whenever he's been in a situation where his feet cannot touch the ground and there is a possibility of him falling. Both of these folks are perfectly rational people, in any other situation. They're not prone to drama or over-reaction in other situations but when faced with their phobias they simply lose it.

Honestly, I believe this kind of irrational, uncontrollable fear is all a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. It's a domino effect in a way, in that once man fell and all creation suffered as a result, man's emotions, reactions and abilities of reason also became corrupt. Is there a perfectly logical reason to be afraid of the number 13? Nope, not a single one - but it doesn't stop people from being irrational about it. Am I allergic to bees and will I die if stung? Nope, and what's more, a bee sting doesn't even really hurt all that bad anyway. I've whacked my head off of an open cupboard door more than I've ever been stung by a bee (minus the episode when I was a baby) and that hurts a whole lot more than a bee sting, but I don't have a fear of cupboard doors. That's the thing with phobias, they're completely irrational.

When I read Phil's quote up there it made me think about how it applies to overcoming phobias. If we genuinely walk by faith (rather than feeling), we're placing 100% of our trust in the Lord. We trust Him for our safety, our provision, strength, wisdom, guidance and everything else we need - not only in our spiritual maturity but in our day to day lives as well.

Recently my son accidentally electrocuted himself. While he was wet from the pool he touched an electrical cord and it knocked him off his feet. I watched it happen from a distance (and had just said "Samuel, don't touch that you're wet!" but he did it anyway) and as I ran through the yard to him, I ran on pure prayer. In "mother-auto-pilot" mode I ran to him praying the entire way that God would be gracious and merciful and protect and comfort him. I was not walking by faith but running by faith - then held him and prayed for him immediately. I was putting my trust 100% in God's grace for my son's well-being.

If we applied that same mindset toward any phobia we might have, what a liberating thing that would surely be. I know I'd like to be free of my fear of things with wings with stingers. Although my fear of Starbucks is likely incurable - and I'm okay with that one.