An Army of Shadows
Fear and Nonsensical Scenarios
The past few months have been challenging for me. It all started in May with my last post, “The Beauty of Failure.” I received some feedback that was difficult to process. Weeks passed and I found myself walking backwards into reclusion. I didn’t want to talk with anyone. My passion for Without Fail faded. Fear took over as I thought about the concerns people had for me and my family. In the silence I created for myself, the voice in my head became increasingly louder. I started to wonder if my friends were right. Was I exposing myself to danger? Would my vulnerability come back to destroy my personal and professional life? What in the world was I thinking by sharing my story in public?
All of this started to stress me out. A few times I wanted to shut everything down and run for the hills never to speak about our story in public again. At the same time, we started to plan a family trip to Maty’s parents and their church. At first, I wasn’t concerned about going. But as the day to travel came closer, I became terrified and started reaching out to my core team of friends who support us. I told them that I was fearful of what people in my wife’s family, church, and community would think of me. I was the son-in-law that failed miserably. I had preached in their church before, but now I was coming back as the screw up and one who shamed the daughter of their beloved pastor. How in the world could I face the embarrassment that hung over me like a dark cloud?
I started to embrace the fears that people shared with me in May and accepted the other fears I’d created in my own mind. The temptation? Not to go to Belgium to be with family and never to step foot in their church. It would be healthier for me to stay far away from any place that could do any further damage. Further, I started to deal with increasing temptation to sooth the pain by giving into other primal instincts: food, drink or sex. Now, I share all of this because it’s helpful to understand the battle was in my brain. Meaning, that I needed to pause and develop a strategy to fight against what I was experiencing.
The Lizard Brain
I’m not a neurologist or psychologist, but I’ve read a little about something we all deal with called the Lizard Brain. The short explanation, as I understand it, is that it’s the part of our brain that processes primal emotions, like fear. Obviously, this is a good thing because it can keep us safe from danger. However, on the other hand, processing fear at this level can also create damaging scenarios that are unlikely to happen. And that’s what was happening to me the past few months. Because of fear, my Lizard Brain was screaming loud and “helping” me to protect myself. But, this part of the brain lacks the ability to process information at the reason level and therefore lacks context and truth.
Tell your mind to shut-up!
Remember the movie Home Alone? At one point in the beginning of the film when Kevin realizes that he’s all alone, he opens the door to the basement. He’s terrified of it, but drums up enough courage to slowly walk down the steps and venture into the fearful world his mind created. As he advances, there are some noises and then we see the furnace start to come alive and take on the form of a monster. Kevin, who is terrified and screaming, sprints up the stairs finding refuge in a safer part of the house. Later on in the film, when survival kicks in and he needs to defend his house against the Wet Bandits, Kevin goes down into the basement to lay out several booby traps for the advancing robbers. However, as he walks past the furnace this time, even though the monster shows up and roars a little bit, Kevin looks at it and simply says, “shut-up!” The monster quickly resumes its true form of a furnace.
An Army of Shadows
So, to bring this article to a close, I want to share a few things I’ve learned. First, I experienced a trigger in May that was fear related. I started to feel that I was becoming surrounded by a hostile army that was there to destroy me. Reacting to that fear, my Lizard Brain started to engage with life-saving counter-measures. One of those was to retreat to a safer place. While in that place, my mind wondered and I started to create non-sensical scenarios in my head that tempted me to think I was a complete failure and I should go back to the primal behaviors that were familiar to me. However, instead of giving in to temptation, I prayed to God for help and read the Bible. I shared my struggle with friends and received their encouraging words of support. Finally, I took the trip to Belgium. Last Sunday, as terrified as I was, I walked into my wife’s church. Fearful of rejection and shame, I became extremely guarded. Feeling surrounded and overwhelmed, I stepped cautiously into the room with one eye on the exit. But something amazing happened; people who knew us and our story started to come and give me a warm hug. Their faces were full of delight as they embraced me with love and hospitality. Their greetings were genuine; they ushered Light into my heart. This led to a comforting realization: my mind created a reality that was not so, it was only an army of shadows.
Set your mind on things above
I hope that you’ve found this post comforting. If you’re reading this as a Christian, find rest in the words of Colossians 3: 1-4 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
So when your mind starts to play tricks on you and the Lizard shows up, tell it to shut-up and turn to Christ in whom we find our identity and life. Place your faith in Jesus and trust Him with all your heart. He is good and will never leave us or forsake us.
Photo Credit: HONY