I never even heard the knock.
“Hey, Dad! Fear is at the door and wants to know if he can come in and ruin your life.”
I wasn’t without some fear before–I just didn’t think about it much. Before I was married I was relatively fearless. I played hard, drove fast, and never really considered there could be a bad outcome. I was big and strong and smart and inexperienced. Then I got married. This wasn’t the day fear came.
The day I got married I lost a little of my edge. This is not a slight to marriage or my wife. Both have been way better to me than I have earned. I had a responsibility now, a wife. She needed me to be around for the long haul. She needed security. She needed someone to borrow a couple a bucks from for a sandwich (or in her case a king-size Snickers and a pint of milk).
I lost a portion of my edge when I had to make room for concern. Concern is the second cousin once removed, of fear. I realized I couldn’t keep acting like a poor-man’s Steve O from Jackass. I had to be a little more careful, prudent, wise. Someone was counting on me.
A few years and a couple of kids later, this became concern 2.0–something akin to worry. Worry is the mother of Fear and she’s a little promiscuous. This nasty little parasite gets in ya’ and if you’re not careful, she gets pregnant and spawns full blown Fear. There were now two little chunky heads AND their mom depending on Dad. They were expecting me to point this crapshoot in the right direction. Pressure. However, this wasn’t the day fear came.
We met some really cool volunteer doctors who offered to give us the once-over. Basically the ten cent tour of health. Christie and the girls flew through their check-ups like the Blue Angels. Mine screeched to a halt like ticket sales to a Ben Afflec film. That’s when my worry got frisky with my stress and conceived a black-hearted little tyrant.
Fear didn’t kick the front door down like on COPS when Bobby Jo is cooking meth in the back bedroom. It slipped in the side door like the cable guy, here to give you twenty more channels for free. I found out I had a jacked up aortic valve and that 205 over 40 was bad blood pressure.
A series of tests confirmed I could die. What?! I never considered it possible that I would ever die. Now it is not only possible, but without treatment, probable.
BOO! Down with mortality.
My active life was reduced to “no activity and only one trip on the stairs per day.” After my initial fall from immortality, my anxiety subsided. Having few symptoms lulled me into believing I was still Superman. Little did I know my Kryptonite lay in waiting.
The day fear came was a beautiful sunshiny day two days prior to my surgery. We went to an eco-reserve to rappel and hike on hanging bridges and ride zip lines. It was adrenaline heaven for a former Invincible. I needed it. I was sitting around getting fat on air.
I felt alive again. I completed all of the challenges, even the rappelling. At the bottom I reflected on how wrong the Doctors were seeing that my only symptom was muscle weakness due to inactivity. At the same time fear had just 007-ed his way into my control center intent on paralyzing my reason.
All I had to do was hike back to the park office and leave. About a mile. Uphill. In the blazing heat of Paraguay. The inefficient pumping of my damaged heart couldn’t keep up with the oxygen demands of my spent muscles.
“Let’s start back early in case I need to rest on the way out,” I told my wife. I did need to rest, a lot. Our group passed us about 10 minutes into the trek. 30 minutes later the group behind ours passed me. I got to the point where I could only walk about 20 yards then rest for 10 -15 minutes. I thought I may die before reaching the top. I did make it out of the woods, albeit more than an hour behind.
Fear seized this key opportunity during the onslaught to galvanize a place in my head. With its spot carved out, it set about doing an extreme brain makeover. It staged several coups while I was in the hospital. Each time forging a new room in his fortress. But the worst was some time later, after the surgery.
I would be punished for eating a bowl of chili too late at night. The roiling gas pains later would wake me with thoughts of a defective replacement valve or heart attack. Or worse yet a thrown blood clot. My standard Rolaids moment turned into a life or death assessment. I would lie in bed, eyelids stretched across wide eyes, trying to determine if I should wake Christie. Wake her to tell her goodbye, I love you and risk not dying and looking like an idiot pansy. Or, don’t wake her and possibly horrify her with my cold stiff corpse in the morning.
Eventually the pressure would ease and with it my lunacy. It’s been a process for me to reassert the peace of God in my life. There’s more to it than just knowing peace is mine. Than just reading it in the Bible. I had to put a blade in the gut of fear and commit homicide. Then reunite my soul with the Truth, Jesus. Now, if fear tries to tickle my terror in the night Jesus sings my soul a lullaby and I drift back into His restful arms. It’s not foolproof yet, but I’m working on it.
Some say fear is a survival instinct. If you bow to it you may survive, but the question is will you truly live?
You ever been afraid?