I imploded into a single point of black nothingness inside the core of my body—I no longer had vision or access to the outside world. Panic, sheer terror pressed me inward from all sides, smaller and smaller, until I was lost, overwhelmed by my most secret, insidious fear that lived buried within me, always there, never openly acknowledged but intimately known. What was I going to do? How could I possibly respond to the words that had reduced me to such a horrific state of existence?
I had never lived free of fear as a young person. Fear awoke with me in the morning, ate my meals with me, played with my friends along side of me, went to school with me, and when I went to sleep – yes, fear slept with me. Fear had been introduced into my life very early through a dad that couldn’t communicate love and was emotionally and physically cruel. Mom displayed her love to me, but her fear of my dad was the stronger lesson imparted. Fear had taken on its own identity and had become part of me, no longer just a response to my father. It kept me from eating spaghetti at summer camp when I was in third grade because the dread of getting a drop of sauce on my face far out weighed my hunger. It caused me to forget my lines at an elementary school play and caused me to freeze to speechlessness during my solo in a junior high musical. My fear grew to the point during high school that I forgot my name during a phone call at a slumber party and inhabited my mind to such a degree that my grades in school became no where near my potential as all of my study time was taken up with writing “Help me!” on my notebook paper where no one could see. I ended up in the emergency room several times through aborted suicide attempts, times of reaching out to the world to be rescued. My fear kept me as still as stone when psychologists reached out to me. I was reduced to tunnel vision and feeling faint if I had to speak in front of anyone I didn’t know. The help I sought in those early years was never able to overcome my prison walls. Fear was now living my life for me.
Mary Yellow (name changed to protect her privacy) and I attended an adult Sunday school class at Canterbury United Methodist Church in 1980, thirteen years after my high school graduation. We had hit it off very well together. We were both mostly loners who had busy lives that were filled with many responsibilities and people: I had my husband Ronnie and my two children, and Mary and her husband were the overseers of a home for unwed mothers. Life had taken many upward turns from my tumultuous youth and getting together with Mary to chat over coffee and pray about the stresses in our busy lives was important to me. One-on-one relationships weren’t threatening to me any more, and I enjoyed the camaraderie of a close friend. I loved being accepted by Mary. She always shared how she loved the way I was raising my two daughters. She enjoyed my company also. I was one of the few not intimidated by the fact that she was a psychologist; in fact, I sought her affirmations in my life.
We met in her kitchen on a pleasant, sunny morning. Settling into our seats, we sipped our coffee and began sharing our family news and prayer needs. I shared how I listened to Jesus speak to me in my thoughts. He and I had developed a sweet relationship with each other over many years, and I loved to asked him questions and seek his guidance for myself. This fellowship I had with him was very private and personal to me. Sharing it was giving a precious gift to Mary, becoming naked and transparent about the real “Elaine.” Immediately Mary jerked back and withdrew from me; shock and dismay were written all over her face.
“You hear his voice?” she queried with a soft voice.
“Yes,” I replied in a whisper as I recognized that something had gone very wrong. Gone was our enjoyable camaraderie. Gone was the pleasant, sunny morning. The tension in the air was alive with electricity and shock began to permeate my body.
She looked at me and pronounced the words of doom: “Elaine, you are emotionally disturbed and need professional help.”
My worst nightmare had become real. I had thought the bondage to fear had ended and that I was O.K., but now it poured back over me in a thick, choking blanket that smothered all my senses and left me without body or reason. I reached out to the only source of help that I knew—Jesus. “What am I to do! How do I respond to Mary!” I cried out in my thoughts from that tiny point of life that was me in the darkness. Immediately rosy, sweet warmth and strength flowed into my being. I expanded back into my body with courage and peace. I had the answer. A smile played on my face as my inner being began to dance with a newfound joy and freedom.
“I will take my reality over yours any day, Mary,” I told her.
Looking back at that day, I am thankful to Mary. While I grieved the loss of her friendship (she never met with me again), her statement had opened a new door for me in my life, and I had stepped through it. In the past I had lived my whole life dominated by fear, an emotion that had permeated every fiber of my being as a parasite, its roots spreading into every inch of my body, crippling me and draining away my energy and life. After restraining it for many years, fear had burst forth again and, with Christ, I had met the challenge. Facing this insidious hidden fear, that I was still emotionally disturbed, I realized the truth, I was no longer ill. My hidden fear turned out to be a lie and ceased to exist. Today I know that I never have to face any type of fear alone. Jesus is right here with me. He is my “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Psalm 46.1). I am free.
Holy Bible. King James Version. Cleveland: World, n.d.
Praise God for the truth that in Him we have freedom from fear and a sound mind! Elaine, welcome to FaithWriters and thank you so much for sharing this testimony. Some would have crumbled at the moment of Mary's comment, but the Lord definitely showed you the truth. With love, Deb