Fear, Jesus, and Me

Aug 22, 2018 by

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Nathan was nine years old when I rode with him through a moment of pure terror. We were at Disneyland with my parents, Haley, Kristy, and her kids. All day long, Nate and his cousins had been talking about riding Splash Mountain. Tower of Terror had also come up, so when we earned a Fast Pass I was thankful they chose the high-end log ride.

Let me just start by saying that Disneyland has mastered the art of lacing cuteness with a disturbing edge. We spent thirty minutes in line in a humid cave listening to the intermittent screams of people plummeting over a waterfall while bunnies and barnyard animals sang “Zippity Doo Dah.” With every chorus of screams Nathan looked more hesitant. The boy behind us, who kept blubbering, “But this ride is sca-rr-yy,” wasn’t helping the situation. Someone less kind might have pointed that out to his parents, so I’m glad they ended up near us.

Nathan leaned in and whispered, “Mom, I don’t want to go on this now.”

We almost got out of line. If we do, I will not make a big deal about it. I know what it’s like to be scared and then feel bad for chickening out. I didn’t want to be one of those parents who forced her kids to do things that gave them nightmares later. If Nathan had trauma with my name on it, it wouldn’t be over a silly ride.

But I also knew Nathan would regret it as soon as his cousins exited Splash Mountain wonderfully soaked and chattering about how much fun they had. He would probably regret it before that, like as soon as we got out of line. This was not a roller coast that went upside down in three different directions. It didn’t even have seatbelts. I gently pointed the lack of seatbelts out to Nathan, and to myself, because frankly, those screams were scaring me too.

“It’s safe. See. Kids littler than Devon are getting on.”

I thanked God for the fearless preschooler who hopped into a log and had to be told to hold onto the bars.

Nathan finally decided to brave Splash Mountain. We piled in. He gripped the handrails for dear life. I put my hands over his and scooched up as close as I could to him. I could feel fear coming out his fingers and hands and legs, and his determination to do this.

“It’s okay,” I whispered. “I won’t let go.”

The creaky climb to the top was the worst. It always is. We passed the creepy singing bunnies and went over the first mini-drop. Nathan let out a That was actually fun gasp. Then we headed for the big drop.

“We’re almost done. You ready?”

He leaned his back against me. “Okay.”

I squeezed my eyes shut (I hate big drops) and know he did too.

At that moment, we fell off the edge of the universe. At least it felt that way. Both of us released our pent-up fear in unison shrieks that split the atmosphere. Then we realized we hadn’t died after all and started laughing. We got wonderfully soaked.

“We did it!” I hugged Nathan from behind.

Kristy called to Nathan from behind me, “What did you think, Nate?”

“That was … cool!”

He and his cousins stumbled off and ran ahead comparing wet clothes. I felt so incredibly proud of Nathan for getting on the ride instead of letting fear send him to a bench with Grandma. Looking back on that milestone moment, I’m thankful that I had enough personal experience with fear to take his seriously.

I’m sure Goofy would’ve been proud of this kid too.

In my opinion, the worst person to have around when a kid is hesitant to do something is an adult who can’t seem to remember what fear feels like.

Three years later when Nathan went to Disneyland with his middle school band, I got a text from him: Mom I rode Splash Mountain two times and California Screamin’ Three times and Tower of Terror. No punctuation. He included a picture of the picture they take while riders are falling off the edge of the universe. Oh, the look on his face!

You might have noticed that fear has come up a few times on my blog lately. I’ve been challenging myself to overcome some and seen the difference it makes when “I’m afraid of that” is met with empathy.

It feels terrible to walk through life afraid of things that the rest of the group finds super fun, or at least not that big of a deal.

It’s even worse when someone feels the need to make us feel silly about it, is visibly disappointed in us, or worst yet, implies that God is upset with us.

I know about the 365 fear nots and that God calls me to be courageous.

But I also know something else about Jesus.

He experienced everything that we experience, including fear.

[bctt tweet=”He experienced everything that we experience, including fear.” username=”JHanscomeWriter”]

I realized recently that He was afraid to the point of weeping and sweating drops of blood, and the Bible still calls him sinless.

The Bible doesn’t say that God was disappointed in his Son that night in the Garden before his crucifixion, or that he reminded Jesus how many times he told others to fear not. He didn’t say, “You of all people should know better than to be afraid. You know the end of the story.”

He stayed with his Son until he could finally say, “Your will be done.”

It took remembering this for me to grasp that, like anger, fear isn’t sin, it’s what we do with it.

I’m beginning to wonder if how we treat someone else’s fear matters to Jesus just as much as how we handle our own.

Whether that’s true or I’m overthinking it, I’m thankful that, with every scary step we take, we go into it with Someone who gets it.

[bctt tweet=”With every scary step we take, we go into it with Someone who gets it.” username=”JHanscomeWriter”]

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