When I was a kid, I lived in fear of three things:
- The end of the world. When we went to my grandfather’s house on Sunday afternoons, he would hold court in the living room about the end of days and the antichrist. To be honest, I didn’t understand half of what he said, but I knew that this was something terrible, and I was sure each day that the newspaper would announce he had come and the world would end. If my grandfather’s words weren’t bad enough, there were the church revivals that the other kids attended, and their garbled accounts made the last days seem even more horrible.
- Quicksand. My parents loved Westerns, both television shows and movies. I saw many people get stuck in quicksand, and it struck me as a terrible way to die. I had nightmares about taking a walk one day in my yard and suddenly being sucked down by quicksand and being suffocated in mud.
- Flying Saucers. Who knows why anything becomes popular in elementary school? But in fourth grade, flying saucers were the talk of my class. For a month, I slept with the covers over my head in the hopes that if space aliens came into my bedroom, they wouldn’t notice me.
Now, obviously, I was a fearful kid. But there was one thing that didn’t haunt my dreams: Tornadoes. Which might be considered odd for a kid in Alabama where there were tornado warnings throughout the spring. One year, a tornado actually came down our road, but didn’t touch down until three houses up the street, destroying most things in its path.
It’s not that I was brave around storms. I wasn’t. I hated them. In fact, when the sky got dark, I often ran home and hid under the bed. (I’ve already said I was a fearful kid.)
But there was a difference between tornadoes and my other fears: Tornadoes were a reality in my life. They showed up like clockwork several times a year. So like it or not, I had to deal with them. So my fear stayed away until there were actual signs a storm was coming.
Fear can teach us many things. But first we have to recognize if our fears are rational and based on reality. And if they are, then we must find a strategy to listen to them and deal with them without their overtaking our lives. But if they are not, we need to find a way to overcome them.
I did overcome my unrealistic fears. I read ‘Revelation’ for myself and learned that maybe my grandfather did not have the last word on the end of days. After a thorough search of my yard, I decided that, as long as I didn’t go out west or into the jungle, I was probably safe from quick sand. As for flying saucers, we all passed fourth grade, and, during the summer, it became too hot to sleep with the covers over my head.