It all started when I read my six year old’s writing assignment for Thanksgiving: Tell me something that you’re thankful for: A-Z. Most kids would happily write of apples, balloons, cats, and ducks. Not my Haley Jane.
Listen to letter A: I am thankful that Aligatrs are not in are howse.
Letter B: I am thankful that nuthing Bit me.
Fast forward to Letter X: I am thankful I nevr so a fox.
Haley is acutely aware of all the traumatic things that could possibly occur in this world, and this Thanksgiving, she is just thankful that none of them have happened to her yet.
Today as we were having a picnic lunch out on the patio, a black bug the size of a molecule landed on Haley’s shoulder and she began to cry…uncontrollably. She started to bring her lunch inside where she could eat in peace, but I intercepted her before she got to the door.
“Haley, you are NOT going inside; this is RIDICULOUS.” I was firm.
“MOM…” she whined, “Almost EVERYONE in our family has been stung by a bee (Only Colby and I have ever been stung), and I DON’T want to get stung.”
“Okay, you know what?” I was starting to come up with a plan. “Come here. Sit on my lap.”
I had to pick her up and carry her stiff little body over to my patio chair because she wouldn’t comply.
“Now, I want to talk to you about this. What’s your BIGGEST FEAR?”
She didn’t even take a moment to think about it, “Getting stung, getting bit, getting run over by a car, getting our house burned down, earthquakes…” I had to cut her off.
“Okay, let’s just go there. Let’s just SAY that it your fears ACTUALLY came true. Let’s pretend that you were getting stung by a swarm of bees during an earthquake while your house was burning down….”
Okay, before you write me off as an insensitive mother, I think it’s called cognitive restructuring therapy and I read about it during my class COUNSELING METHODS. We all have fears, and as you can probably tell by my offspring, I struggle with many of them. I guess since it’s one of my weaknesses, I’ve had to learn how to manage them.
When our baby was getting ready for her second open-heart surgery, I was going through–what I can now look back and see to be–major stress: inability to accomplish small tasks, numbness in my face, and trouble sleeping. As I was talking to my friend Eileen, it became clear what my main fear was. I kept envisioning sitting in the waiting room during her surgery and seeing the doctor walk grimly and apologetically into the room with the worst news a parent can hear.
I thought that I was doing myself a favor, preparing myself for this scene. Almost as if…if it did happen, I would be ready because I had already practiced my response. My husband says that I do this as a way of trying to control my environment, and…I can’t really disagree with his assessment. However, in my attempt to control the future and prepare myself for the worst, I didn’t take away any of my stress. I only added to it.
My friend’s advice was simple, yet profound. GO THERE. Go to the waiting room that is laced with darkness and anxiety, fear and trepidation and watch the doctor walk in with tears running down his face. Imagine that you are sitting there and your biggest fear happens.
Now picture Jesus there in the waiting room with you, holding you while you get the news.
Back to the conversation on the deck:
As I look back at Haley’s Thankful journal, a theme emerges: she is afraid of pain. I think that’s the common denominator for all of us. Health problems, accidents, natural disasters…they all bring pain and discomfort and no one likes to feel those things. Even losing a loved one is scary for us because we don’t want to experience the pain of loneliness and grief. Interestingly enough, dying is not one of the things Haley is afraid of. As she was listing off her fears, she caught herself before adding death and said, “Well, dying is not so bad because then I don’t have to even WORRY about bees or fires or earthquakes or getting run over.”
It was at that moment that my four year old, Darcy, looked up from her water experiment on the ground and added, “Are there CARS in heaven? Cause I know there’s streets of GOLD.”
I’m not sure, Darcy. All I know is that it is a place where there is no fear. Because, as we’re told, “Perfect Love casts out Fear” (I John 4:18). And for that, I am thankful.