God’s provision often arrives in the most unexpected of ways. The turning point in my journey through fear arrived one summer morning a couple of years after the Great Arachnid Debacle in the church amphitheater. My husband and I were enjoying an early cup of coffee together when outside under the eaves we spied an enormous web. The web was impressive indeed, but the occupant was downright awe-inspiring. It was rust colored and grotesquely plump. We dubbed her ‘Ginormica’ and for several weeks we watched her in repulsed fascination from the safety of our coffee nook.
Then one day Ginormica decided to cut loose. She floated down on a light breeze two stories to the yard below. In a flash of brilliant insanity my husband decided to take advantage of this turn of events. He scooped the disgusting creature into an empty family-sized peanut butter jar and placed her on a shelf in the living room. Once I got past the intense creep-out factor of keeping a living specimen of my greatest fear in the house, I became captivated by her. She was truly an impressive, albeit disturbing, beast. After a few days, it no longer bothered me to have her as a houseguest. I certainly didn’t want her loose, but the panic inducing fear was lessened. This exposure therapy was so effective that we have since hosted an interesting array of arachnid guests including Bob the wolf spider, Shelob the grass spider and her five hatchlings, and Goliath the giant house spider.
I didn’t realize the benefits of facing this fear until I was recently tested. I was driving home from our homeschool co-op when I felt a hair on my arm. I absently brushed it away and glanced down only to see that it was not a hair at all, but a spider. I had already brushed it off and now I didn’t know where it was. My son and fellow phobic calmly told me to pull over. I pondered it briefly. I was less than five minutes from home. I decided to make my stand . . . and on I drove. There was a tense silence between us as I focused all of my attention on not freaking out. As soon as the car was stopped, my formerly fearful son raced to my side of the car, flung open the door and bravely offered his assistance. We had made it home with dignity and poise. And I didn’t wreck the car.
Within days of this occurrence, I was tested yet again. I was settling into a nice hot shower, just wetting my hair, when I spied movement out of the corner of my eye. A respectable sized wolf spider had decided to join me. With equanimity I did not know I possessed, I stepped out of the coffin-sized stall and washed the offender down the drain. I finished my shower without looking behind the shampoo bottles and without checking the drain 50 times to make sure the little devil wasn’t climbing back out with super strength and revenge in its heart.
As I pondered these events, I realized something astounding. Those of you with these types of fears will relate. In both cases my pulse did not skyrocket, nor did I end the trauma with the usual involuntary shakiness. I didn’t even feel the need to do the skin-crawly jig afterward. In fact, I was feeling pretty proud of myself.
The more I thought about it, the more jazzed I became. I was one arachnid butt-kicking mama, alright! I felt like a superhero. I strutted around like Xena, Warrior Princess for days. It was downright exhilarating!
I have since mused on this particular showdown in my life. I have reflected on the many fears that I have allowed to shrink my world. Fear of speaking in groups, fear of various aspects of homeschooling, fear of writing, fear of letting anyone read my writing. I could go on and on but what I have learned is this:
When I ignore my fears they grow, while concurrently my world shrinks. But when I face my fears they become less significant and I become emboldened to expand my world.
Can I honestly say that I have conquered my fears? If my reaction to finding that giant house spider is any indication then the answer is no. (I almost went catatonic with that one!) However, I do know that I can act in spite of it. And when I see the fruits of homeschooling, when someone tells me that they were touched by something I wrote, when I can pray with a stranger and when I see my kids show off our newest arachnid tenant to their friends…well, then I know that finding courage is worth the effort.