How to Conquer Your Fear
“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.
More resources on battling fear:
This song …
This quote …
This verse …
This book …
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I love how you walked her through the story…and the monster right out the door…sweet:)…blessings and sweet dreams to all~
It was so fun … and then tonight, she drew the picture of the monster, er, the Giant. She named him Greeny. 🙂
I need to do that to my fears. Mama’s gotta practice what she preaches.
This brought back a few memories, I’m sad to say of my mom doing the same to me.
It’s embarrassing admitting that but it’s the truth.
And it lives on in me.
I can go into a dark basement but I’m pretty sure my blood pressure bumps up a little bit when I do. 🙂
I’m not very fond of dark places either, Duane. It reminds me of a visit to a cave in the Black Hills a couple years ago. It was a masterpiece, I’ll tell you. Just.Gorgeous.
But without light, no one had seen its beauty. For thousands (millions?) of years, pure beauty existed in utter darkness. With lamps and flashlights, our geologist tour-guide, lit up the beauty of a dark cave. I would have been scared in that cave if it had been completely dark, but with just a little bit of light, we were able to witness God’s beautiful creation.
You are such a great mom and storyteller…it made me smile and I am so glad that you could share this story with your girl and with us…you made me chuckle with your Freddy comment on my blog…thanks, Jennifer 🙂
LOL! Dolly. I keep thinking about our Freddy exchange. Maybe we need to invite him to take that horrific striped sweater off, and wear a polka-dot dress instead. Oh, … and he really should consider a manicure. 🙂
Fear has its torment and I have had my share – but no more Praise God !
Praising God with you, Nancy. If you have any resources for others still facing face, feel free to share them here. (From your own blog or elsewhere!) God bless you.
How is it you know exactly how and when to speak to my heart?
I thank God for His perfect timing every time I open your blog posts.
I love the idea of calling my “monster” out from under the bed…but I’m even afraid of doing that! (I know, I’m a mess!)
Thank you for this post. I’m keeping it handy for further reading!
Hi Rebecca … I remember, as a child, being able to leap from the light switch to the bed in a single bound. I was sure some bony hand was going to grab my ankles otherwise. Crazy, how some of those fears can stay with us. We might not be scared of under-the-bed monsters anymore, but we have other fears that have replaced the childhood ones. Thanks be to God, He’s given us His Spirit, rather than a spirit of fear and timidity. We are overcomers.
What a beautiful story to illustrate a wondrous truth!
That moment is one she will carry with her thru many of life’s trials.
BTW, I posted two links this time. Hope you don’t mind. I guess I was feeling indecisive this morning…
Hi Joe, I thoroughly enjoy your posts, and look forward to reading both of your selections this week. Thanks for being here, week after week. You add so much to our community.
Love this. I also tend to use II Timothy 1:7 a lot — God has not given me a spirit of fear. — I loved Angie’s book. Another good great on the subject is Fearless by Max Lucado.
Lyli, Crazy! I just quoted that same verse a couple comments above you. 🙂
I have not read Fearless. I was going to recommend it here in this post, but thought I better not because I hadn’t yet read it. So I’m glad people see here that you recommend the book. Thanks for sharing that.
I like these three “R’s” of dealing with fear. And His love does cast out fear, doesn’t it? Loved this post!
Thank you, Christina. I have used all three strategies to evict fear in my own life. Have a great day. May you feel fearless as you go about your daily life this day.
This is crazy good. I’m jotting down these 3 things — I have a lot to think about and I tell you — fear is rampant about this book I’m trying to write. Not so much about failure, but about the content.
Um, I think you just penned a children’s book right there on your blog. Seriously. You are so creative Jennifer and your parenting inspires me. Your words here are practical, true, funny, and cozy.
Love. Hilarious, marvelous, creative love.
I especially like the renaming because not long ago I wrestled with intense jealousy (tied to fear of relationship loss or decline). I confessed the jealousy to a friend, and while I thought I was talking about jealousy, she started using words like “overattachment” and “unhealthy relationship.” So in the renaming, she helped me get to the core (not just the symptom).
You have no idea what a gift you gave your daughter.
Isn’t it true that we all have fears? You’ve given some powerful and wonderful advice here. I’ve found that when I refocus my mind to simply sing a song of praise when I am afraid (or nervous or stressed) it helps tremendously. It gets me less focused on me and my feelings and more on God and His power.
Just every piece of this was woven so intricately in love. I wish I had dealt with my children’s fears as lovingly, patiently and creatively as you. I am inspired to gently hand hope,courage, and boldness to my children even as they are growing (16,17,22) because it is just NEVER too late. Thanks for inspiring. Thanks for sharing the gift which God has given you, you steward it well.
Oh Jennifer, this is great! Good story and advice/ Redraw, rename, relocate! love it!
Redraw. Rename. Relocate.
I think that could be the title of a new book on fear?
This was so good. So good Jennifer.
And Anna’s drawing was perfect. Please tell her. 🙂
Much love to you friend.
I read this to Grace last night. I hope you don’t mind if I changed Anna’s name. 😉 And this morning, when Grace wouldn’t get up, I invited the monster out of the closet to help her. 🙂
This is powerful, wonderful, helpful, and funny. xoxo
Oh, Jennifer, I love this! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who tells silly stories in the dark of night as I lie next to my kids.And I use the same verse with them as I do with my own “monsters.” Yes, Perfect Love casts out fear.
I love how you calmed your daughter’s fears with a silly story. Brings our more “grown-up” fears into perspective! Visiting from Allume :).
Love this!! Thank you.
What a great idea! I love this.