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Fighting Fear

“…and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.” Gen. 35:5

Almost three weeks ago, I got a phone call, my caller ID said “private number,” from a man who identified himself as “Robert Dudley, D-u-d-l-e-y.” He said he was calling about a book he was working on, Unusual Unique Things in the United States, and he wanted to include my propane tank in the book. He had learned of it at www.Ohiobarnes.com:
This rarely happens to me, but in the first minute of conversing with Robert, I got really creeped out. My senses were on orange alert for the rest of the conversation, which is probably why I was able to remember so much of it and replay parts at random in my head over the next couple of weeks. To be honest, it could have been a very normal conversation, but because I was creeped out, some things he said or asked, threw up red flags for me – questions about my children, did my daughter ride a bus to school…
We ended the conversation with the understanding that Robert and his wife Barbara would be coming to photograph the propane tank and would call either Monday or Tuesday of the following week. After hanging up, I immediately started working on a backup for that visit. My mother was coming for the weekend – could I ask her to stay over? How about insisting he come after 4 p.m. when more people are around, but then Gwen would be here and maybe that was who he was after. I settled on getting my neighbor Jeff’s (see my hero from the last post) cell phone number and just keeping my phone handy. I told Jeff and his wife about it. I’m sure they thought I was/am paranoid!
Through the week of waiting for the Dudley’s visit to come around, I really struggled with fear and negative fantasy at night in particular. I’m no fiction writer, but when it comes to spinning worst-case scenarios, I could win a Booker Prize or something. I was having something of a relapse from the intense fear I felt for months after my baby Hunter died. I tried to keep the thoughts at bay by calling on the name of Jesus – and it worked, like it always does, but only for as long as I kept my eyes on Him. My focus kept shifting back to negative fantasy.
By Monday, I had actually calmed down quite a bit and wasn’t afraid to get the call that the Dudley’s were in town. In fact, I reasoned that if I did get the call, if a man and woman pulled up at my house, there would be no problem. Well, I didn’t get the call. The call is more than two weeks late now and I have no explanation for why I haven’t heard back.
On the last day I was expecting the call (Wednesday after the Monday-Tuesday timeframe Dudley had given me), I was still wrestling with negative fantasy. No call had spawned all kinds of new possibilities. In my devotion for that Wednesday, I prayed God to give me peace. I can’t stand being afraid. And God did. I read of the story of Jacob leaving Canaan after his son had ticked off the locals and how his clan got away without a problem because the terror of God fell upon the towns. I claimed this verse and it gave me peace. If Dudley had meant me any harm, I believed the terror of God had fallen upon him and he didn’t pursue it.
Just so no injustice is done to Dudley, I have to admit that there could be a lot of explanations as to why he never got back to me. But whether or not he was legit is not the point. The point is that God gave me peace over my negative imagination.
Well, that was sweet peace for one day.
The next day, I was taking a walk with Chaise (he was in a stroller) and a truck passed me just as I was about to go on to the no-outlet road that leads to my house. When I got about 20 feet down that road, I heard the truck come up behind me and stop at the T where my road and the county road meet. Three men without shirts and appearing to me to be drunk got out. I was down wind from them and could smell old beer mixed with body oder – gag! The driver yelled at me a question about whether the road they were on went back out to the highway. I answered a couple of questions about directions then I kept walking, civic duty done.
Another of the men yelled out, “She’s got a nigger baby! She’s got a nigger baby! Hey Bi…! Hey Bi… come back here!”
My split-second reaction was fury. I wanted to rip the cajones off that guy. But a voice loud and clear in my head said, “Just keep walking. Don’t look back.” So I did. And I didn’t hear anything else from any of them. Just the truck starting and pulling away. I pulled out my cell phone and called the police and reported them for driving drunk. They had two miles (one on gravel road) to go before they would be off that county road, so I thought if a police car happened to be in the vicinity, they might intercept them when they hit the state highway.
The incident set my mind reeling again. I had been on a no-outlet road when they saw me. They could find me again and the baby toys in the front yard would be a dead giveaway. Whereas Dudley was a big unknown, these guys were obviously not law abiding citizens and they obviously were very racist. I haven’t heard anyone say “nigger” outside of a movie or historical reference in almost two decades! I always joke with people when I’m giving them directions to my house that when they start to hear “Dueling Banjos” they’re almost there. But this was some serious back-woods stuff! And yet, if these guys were from my county, I know they weren’t from my neighborhood by the questions about directions they were asking.
Phoning the police, though I believe it to have been the right thing to do, actually worked against me later. Now I had all these revenge-related plot lines in my dark thoughts. This day was the worst. I was irrationally afraid.
The next morning, when my husband left for work, I went to the door that leads to our basement and even though it was locked, I put a chair under it. Then I brought my cell phone in the bedroom and locked that door. My actions had gone way past prudent into the realm of the ridiculous.
When I finally got up that morning, God met me at my morning devotion with another special selection. The devotion read: Don’t let your fears rule your actions.
Besides being just what I needed to hear, I had to acknowledge that a God big enough to put that sentence before my eyes on the day I most needed it must certainly care enough for me to protect me if those goons did come looking for me.
I wish I could say that was that and my mind was at peace from that point on. But the truth is that I continued to struggle. I had the verse from Genesis and the other devotion in my arsenal now and so I battled fear much more effectively. I was able to quickly redirect my thoughts when I caught myself slipping. But it wasn’t until last Sunday night that I really felt at peace.
Sunday night, I shared an abbreviated version of this post with my church family. They prayed for me – various ones prayed specifically for me – and as the words were coming from their mouths, I could feel peace coming over me. And that was that.