"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
October 24, 2012
Sammie is one of the biggest scaredy-cats we've ever seen in a dog. He can run up stairs just fine. But he just couldn't go down the steps till recently. Even after doing it a few times, we had to coax him each and every step. To get down each one, he paws at the edge, runs up to it, stops, backs away, and eventually works his back legs up to the edge close enough that he can lower his front legs down to the next step, then he works his way forward to get his back legs down, too. Once, he got almost done, but saw the next step, and got too panicky to move more. He just stayed in one spot stamping his feet till he finally got sideways enough to see he had a safe place to move.
We worked with him for a few days, making him do it by himself, while coaxing him step by step, and praising him when he succeeded. Finally, he began to have more courage and confidence and began going down the stairs by himself; although he is still a little cautious.
Not only was Sammie scared of going downstairs, but when we're outside in the backyard with him and he hears a neighboring dog bark, he will take off running as fast as he can to the back door. We have a privacy fence up, so he can't see the other dogs and has no idea how big or little they are, but their bark causes him to panic and run.
At times we will hold onto Sammie and make him stay with us in the yard, and assure him that he is okay and nothing is going to hurt him. We pet him and talk to him until he calms down. Sometimes he will still take off running to the porch as soon as we let him go, but other times he will stay right beside us. This isn't so bad, unless it's our bed time or early morning and we want to sleep, then our need for patience has to kick in.
We can't force or demand that he be brave, but this is something Sammie has to overcome himself, as we work with him.
The same can be said of people. When someone is dealing with a fear or insecurity, we can't demand that they "get over it" or force them to overcome it. That can make them feel self-conscious, or add anxiety to what they're already feeling, or make them feel hesitant about sharing any other vulnerable areas they may have, for fear of being condemned or made fun of.
We all have different things that we battle, but if we're not careful, we can sometimes make others feel embarrassed or uncomfortable because they have a weakness in an area that we don't. And sometimes it's hard to understand how someone can be so fearful or insecure in a particular area; but making them feel stupid or awkward is not the way to help them overcome it. We can't demand change, but if we truly want to help someone overcome something, we have to exercise patience and have an attitude of love.
I have a fear of snakes. It doesn't matter how little or big, poisonous or non-poisonous, or if they're close or far away; I don't want to see them or have anything to do with them. I don't even like seeing snakes on TV! On the other hand, Jon thinks snakes are kind of cool to look at; but he also has a respect for knowing which ones to be cautious of. He has very little understanding of my phobia about snakes, although he's tried to make sense of it. He thinks I'm a bit silly because of the great fear I have of them. But knowing that Jon thinks that way does nothing to change my feelings. Him telling me to be brave and not fear them doesn't make me less scared. My theory is, if he wants to look at them then go ahead, but don't expect me to enjoy it. I think snakes are evil and ugly and repulsive. And honestly, I really have no desire to change my opinion because I have no desire to have anything to do with them.
On the other hand, I used to have a real fear of heights. Someone telling me to "get over it" wasn't going to help me overcome my anxiety. Telling myself that I was stupid or silly didn't erase my fear and make it go away. I couldn't help the butterflies in my stomach and nausea that I felt when dealing with heights. Jon's patience and love, and forcing myself to do things has helped me somewhat.
When we were in Singapore I really wanted to ride the Singapore Flyer and knew I'd regret it if I didn't. When we actually got to it and Jon saw how tall it was, he asked if I was sure that I wanted to ride it. Thankfully, we bought our tickets and didn't have to wait in line but were immediately ushered on board, so I didn't have time to reconsider. I couldn't stand at the edge of the glass-enclosed cage and look down, but I was able to sit on the bench and enjoy the views of Singapore as it made the slow circle round. Afterwards, I was glad that I did it, and Jon was proud of me, too.
Since that time I've done other things that I would have thought impossible before. It wasn't always easy, and I mentally had to talk myself through it at times. Climbing to the top of the church tower in Germany comes to mind. There was a point when I didn't know for sure if I could make it or not. The thing is, had I been unable to go on to the top, Jon would have turned around with me and gone back. When I got to the top, my knees were shaking and I was feeling a bit queasy. I rested for a bit, then forced myself to walk the circumference of the tower to look at the views of Celle. Granted it wasn't something I wanted to do again; but I was glad that I had pushed back fear and done it.
I was single and lived alone for many, many years. I was never afraid to be by myself and never really experienced fear. But after Jon started working for his present employer and had to start traveling, I was a little anxious when I had to stay home alone. Perhaps it's the difference of living in the country where I knew all my neighbors (and were related to the majority of them), and living in the city where there is more crime and I'm not close friends with any of my neighbors. We will speak and wave at each other when we see one another, but none of us are very well acquainted. Initially, anytime Jon was out of town, I would have trouble sleeping for the first night or two, and would wake at any little noise. Changing a couple of locks helped with some of my nerves. But I also found a couple scriptures that I would pray and repeat over and over until I calmed down and was able to sleep. Although I'd rather Jon be home with me every night, now when he travels, I am able to sleep and don't have the anxiety that I had before.
One of the scriptures is 2 Timothy 1:7: "God has not given us (me) a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." The other one that I really liked is Proverbs 3:24: "When you (I) lay down, you (I) will not be afraid; Yes, you (I) will lie down and your (my) sleep will be sweet." (Parentheses were added by me to personalize it for myself when I quoted it.) We can use God's word and His promises to calm our fears so that we can have peace.
There are many different areas in which people have fears: fear of heights, fear of financial loss or not having enough income for retirement, fear of speaking in front of a group, fear of driving in heavy traffic, fear of flying, fear of traveling or going far from home, fear of sickness/disease, fear of snakes, fear of losing a loved one, fear of being alone, etc. Most of us have had to deal with one or more different types of fear, and may still be doing so today.
In Matthew14 we read the account of Peter walking on the water. Jesus had told the disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side of the lake. When they were a considerable distance from land there was a big wind storm and the boat was being tossed about by the waves. I'm sure that was a cause for fear, even though some of those men were seasoned fishermen. Shortly before dawn, the disciples saw someone coming towards their boat, walking on the water. They cried out in fear and their first thought was, "It's a ghost!"
Jesus immediately said to them, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
Yet they were still afraid and not completely convinced that it was Jesus. Peter replied, "Lord, if it's You, tell me to come to you on the water." And Jesus said, "Come." Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus.
There are many who will criticize Peter for his lack of faith, because when he saw the wind, he was afraid and begin to sink. He cried out, "Lord, save me!," and immediately Jesus reached out His hand. Jesus said, "You of little faith; why did you doubt?"
Yet, Peter is the only man who walked on water. There were eleven more men sitting in that boat who could have done the same, yet they stayed inside the boat and watched Peter. They weren't willing to push their fears aside to have the water walking experience. When Peter said, "Lord, if it's You, tell me to come to you on the water," had the others also asked, I believe that Jesus would have invited them all to come. I'm sure when they thought about it later, they wished they had joined Peter and been able to have that miraculous adventure.
Sammie was growing more confident about coming down the stairs alone, when he got too close to the edge of one of the steps, which caused him to lose his balance, and he ended up flying down about 5-6 steps. Ever since then, he has once again been afraid to go down the stairs by himself. We have had to force him to do so.
After his mishap, he will sit at the top of the stairs and no matter how much we try to coax and bribe him, he refuses to come down by himself. One morning, I got him to come down a couple steps, then he'd get scared and run back up to the top. He did that about three times and was making it harder on himself than necessary, because he was having to redo those same steps over and over again. Finally, Jon sat down on the stairs right behind Sammie so he couldn't turn around and run back up, and I got on my knees right below him, and we literally had to slowly force him to go down one step at a time. It was harder that time than it was the first time he went down alone, because he knew that he could fall, and the fear of what could happen was even greater than his initial fear of the unknown.
When we've been hurt or experienced loss or been through financial difficulties or dealt with major health issues, we know how hard it is to get through those times because we've had first-hand experience. When we've never dealt with particular hardships personally, it's easy to judge others and their response to adverse situations, often thinking that we would handle it differently or better than they do; but until we go through it ourselves, then we have no idea how we will react.
One of my pet peeves is people saying, "I know how you feel," when I know that they've never experienced what I'm going through. I remember when my mom passed away, having people say, "I know how you feel,"; and I thought, "No, you don't! You still have both of your parents with you!" Years later, I had a cousin, who has now lost both of his parents, tell me that he used to be guilty of telling people that he knew how they felt, and it was only after he lost his parents that he realized that he didn't have a clue what they were going through or how they felt.
When people are dealing with fears or worries or adverse situations, they don't necessarily need our empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of others), or pretend or forced empathy, but they do need our love and prayers and encouragement.
What did Jesus say to the disciples about their fear of the storm? "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid!" He didn't tell them that they were stupid or faithless for being scared. He didn't tell them to just get over it and deal with it and be brave. Jesus didn't make them feel inferior or embarrassed or self-conscious for being fearful. Instead, He tried to calm their fears by telling them to not be afraid because He was there with them.
Whatever we go through, regardless of how big it may be or how small and insignificant it may seem, Jesus is always with us. We don't have to deal with those things that we find fearful alone, but Jesus will give us the strength and courage to face our anxieties and worries.
We're not going to push Sammie down the stairs and force him run down them alone. Neither are we going to put his leash on him and pull him down the stairs. That would only cause his fears to be greater and he would not have a lot of trust in us to care for him. But we will continue to work with him, encourage and praise him, and help him until he overcomes his fears once again and regains his confidence to be able to go down by himself.
How much more should we be willing to do this for people who are dealing with insecurities and fears? We should be willing to invest our time and effort and patience in helping them gain confidence and be able to overcome their fears. Oh, we may feel like pushing or pulling them to force them to face their fears, but in the long run, that's not the best solution. They will tend to lose their trust in us if we do so. "Love is patient; love is kind." We should also accept help and encouragement from others when we are personally dealing with our own fears and insecurities, so that we can triumph over them.
We also need to recognize the fact that God is always loving and patient with us and is there to help us with our fears, no matter what they are. There are none too big for God to help us handle, nor is there any too small and insignificant to bother God with. He loves us and is always there to help us conquer our fears and insecurities.
One of the more frustrating things about fears is that many are based on real prudence. It's prudent to be cautious near high drop-offs. It's prudent to be cautious near a snake that could be poisonous. It's prudent to save up for retirement.
Our puppy needs a new phobia. He almost never shows any interest in chewing wires or cords. He seems to like shoelaces, but rarely tries to chew wires. Recently, we heard him rustling around a lamp, and assumed he was playing with one of his many toys. Then he yelped like he's never yelped before. He avoided the lamp for awhile. But he went back for revenge later. We saw him and stopped him this time. Fortunately, and amazingly, he's very good at "leave it!" (My sister had a similar story about her first dog.)
There is a big difference between a fear and a phobia. A fear can be healthy. The dictionary describes a phobia as 'irrational'. But probably the more important difference is how a phobia can keep someone apart from the great things and blessings in life. Loretta didn't let her fear of heights stop her from seeing some spectacular views.
Some people do let fears keep them from great experiences. I could probably list many. But the worst, and most important is a phobia of committing to God. Commitments can be a little scary. Someone who goes into a commitment without caution probably doesn't take it seriously. But that fear shouldn't keep us from all the relief and peace that comes with being adopted into God's family.
1 small pkg. white chocolate instant pudding
4-5 apples, peeled and diced
1 largest-size Cool Whip
1 can pineapple chunks or tidbits, with juice
1 banana, sliced
1 cup miniature marshmallows
Add dry pudding and Cool Whip together. Add remaining ingredients and fold together. Refrigerate.
Jon and I went to our property in Missouri this past weekend. Oh my, the trees were absolutely gorgeous!! On our way home, we drove through Mark Twain National Forest and Roaring River State Park. For the past few years we've seen a sign there saying, "Sugar Camp Scenic Drive" and have said many times that we should go down that dirt road someday to see what's down there. We decided to do so this time and were so thrilled that we did. The views were spectacular and the trees brilliant with color. I'd like to share our favorite photo from our drive.
As you go through life try to improve yourself; not prove yourself. - (quote from Leave It to Beaver)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon