“If you can’t chase your monster away, then maybe you could invite it into the room.”
This is what I tell her when she’s crying in my arms. Her whole body shudders as we curve together into a crescent, under her Tinkerbell blanket. The glow of lamplight slants across her body.
“I don’t understand, Mommy. Why would you want to invite the monster here?” The fear quivers in her voice. She’s afraid of a monster in the closet. Or under the bed.
She is a product of her genes. I am a woman who has been habitually afraid of what she cannot see.
I have trembled at the feet of unnamed fears, manufactured by the mind. And that’s the thing: Make-believe monsters can sometimes inflict the same fear as real ones.
We know that freedom lies on the other side of cracked-open closet doors, or a simple peek under the bed. If we dared look, we would find nothing but dust bunnies and stray socks. But the single first step through the cracked door is always the scariest. And the only way through is bold, crazy Love.
I pull Anna in closer. “Let me tell you a story.”
She turns to face me, and I begin, making things up as I go along:
“Once upon a time, there was a scary green monster who lived in a closet. He had sharp teeth and claws and wrinkly green skin. One night, a brave little girl named Anna called the monster out of the closet. ‘Hello, little monster. I have a present for you.'”
“Huddled inside the dark closet, the monster opened his eyes wide. A present? For him? No one had ever given him a present before. The monster jabbed one bony finger through the crack of the closet door, and Anna hung a polka-dotted dress on that crooked finger, just like a coat rack.”
“‘Here. Try this on.’ That’s what Anna told the monster. She pressed her ear to the closet door, where she could hear all sorts of noises. The monster grunted and tugged. He rattled the hangers. And then the monster spoke real words, in a growly voice. And he even used the word ‘please’: ‘Little girl, could you please help me with this zipper?'”
Curved against me in the bed, Anna giggles, and I continue the story:
“The brave girl reached in to the closet to find the stuck zipper. She tugged and tugged, zipping the dress all the way up the monster’s wart-covered back. Then, through the crack in the closet door, Anna handed the monster a shiny crown and a set of Mickey Mouse ears. With a timid ‘thank you,’ the monster in the dark closet placed the gifts on his head. Then slowly, the closet door creeeeeaked open. The little girl watched, with her hands clasped over her mouth. And — all of a sudden –out popped a goofy green monster all dressed up! And he was smiling. In that moment, the girl’s biggest Fear looked perfectly, wondrously ridiculous.”
“Just then, the monster sniffled. He said no one had ever been nice to him before, and he wondered if he could have a new name to go with his new dress. He didn’t want to be called Monster anymore. He asked simply to be called Giant.”
Anna and I giggled, and we finished the story together. We listened to that monster with his pleases and thank yous. A single tear slid down his cheek as he expressed his gratitude. We handed him a tissue. We laughed when the monster blew his nose with a loud honk, then asked Anna for a hug, which of course, she refused. And then we told the Giant — politely but firmly — that he was not allowed to live in her closet anymore. He would need to leave at once for a land far, far away, where other giants live. When he walked out the door, we saw a spiky green tail peeking out from underneath his polka-dotted dress.
And together, we laughed long and loud at a Fear that had lost its battle to Love.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out all fear.” ~ 1 John 4:18
monster Giant drawing …)
Three Steps to Evicting Your Fear Monsters
Redraw: Our minds can draw dreadfully scary monsters. We manufacture fear in the form of rejection, loss of approval, being “found out,” or failure. Redrawing is scary, because it requires actively touching our fear. How does a person dare put her hand to something that she doesn’t want to even look at? With God’s help, we can redraw our fears — or erase them altogether. But first we need to muster up the courage to touch the thing we fear. We need God’s Spirit to empower us.
Rename: What is your fear? Can you name it? Can you call it out from underneath the bed? Then, can you rename it? If your fear is a product of your insecurity or self-condemnation, take pity on your fear and rename it so it no longer has control over you. Turn the camera angle, or reframe the picture. Renaming our fears, and reclaiming our courage, takes away the power of unseen monsters.
Relocate: We have the authority, by God’s power in us, to serve eviction notices to our fears. But how? Through Christ’s love, of course. Let love drive it out, … this perfect love that casts out fear. Ask God to fling your fear to a land far, far away.
We’ve sung it a thousand times or more in the old hymn, Amazing Grace. Repeat the words again … “… and grace, my fears relieved.” Let God’s grace relieve your fear, then step over to the other side.
(posting from the archive)