It’s 4:20 AM. I’m exhausted and I wish that I could sleep. But something keeps me awake.
Crushing, gut-wrenching fear.
It keeps me awake. Even if I could sleep, the nightmares would come. They always do.
What am I so afraid of? Death. Not my own, though. I’ve never feared my own death. But I’m terrified that someone I love will die… again.
This particular fear, and the accompanying nightmares, has stalked me since I was four years old. I look back and see a succession of loss upon loss. And I know that eventually the next loss will come. It’s just a matter of who and when. That’s what my fears fixate on. My mind constantly asking, “Will they be the one? Will it be today?”
My story isn’t exactly unique. I know plenty of other people have lost those dear to them through death. Most of them don’t experience this kind of fear as a result.
Honestly, it seems ridiculous, even to me. After all, I’ve survived every funeral so far. I’ve survived life with the dull ache that comes from missing people who have been gone for years. It’s just a part of life. What makes me so afraid of experiencing it again?
I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle it next time. I’m afraid that it will be more than I can bear.
This fear eats away at my life, stealing joy, peace, rest and health. So I search for a cure. I cry frustrated tears for every voice that tells me to “just stop worrying”. I want to. Oh, I want to.
My desperate search leads me to a book. I start reading and wonder if God sent me this book. I read sentences that take my breath away because that is me she is describing. About the same time, my husband gives me a gift, a new journal. Is this from God too? I pick up my pen and begin my list. I look for the gift, for the grace in the moments. I start my own running list of one thousand gifts. I think that maybe the practice of learning to be grateful is helping calm the fears slightly.
But here in these early-morning hours, fear once again raises its ugly countenance to torment me. I pick up the fountain pen and spill ink across the journal page.
87. Fear so crushing, that it drives me to my knees.
88. Assurance that there is grace in EVERYTHING.
89. The promise of hope to come.
I’m still a long way from one thousand, but maybe the journey there will change me. I hope so.
The fear is quieter now, but it’s still lurking on the peripheral. And God reminds me of something I read.
“I want to take both fists and splinter that door with an ungrateful demanding for more. Why can’t we be allowed days indefinitely? How can God ever expect us to say good-bye to the eyes, ears, hands of those we cherish more than our own?
Is it because His heart awaits us at Home? Because if we don’t say good-bye here, when will we meet Him there? Because these are the lens words for a life: Precious in His eyes is the homecoming of the saints (Psalm 116:15)….
When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn’t all become gift?” – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
I stop short. I am owed nothing. Everything is a gift. A gift that I do not deserve. And even more, that which I fear above all is precious in God’s eyes? How can such a hard thing be precious?
Perspective, and mine is so earthly. I do not recognize the divine in the moment because I don’t see as He does.
I have so far to go. But perhaps I’ve taken a step or two in the right direction. Truthfully, I will probably battle this hideous dragon called fear for the rest of my life. Even so, that doesn’t mean that the dragon will win in the end. Because all really is grace.
“For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9