A few months into our marriage, I decided to surprise Dan with a homemade candlelit dinner. He’d been working hard juggling a full time job and graduate school and we hadn’t had much free time to spend with one another over the last few months. I, a California transplant who was raised as a vegetarian for most of my life, even endeavored to cook pot roast for my Southern born and bred husband
After working all afternoon to put my surprise together, I put a mix CD of our favorite love songs on the stereo, placed his favorite pie (pecan) in the middle of our small dining table, and sat down to wait for him.
I looked at the clock. 6:15 PM. I’d been expecting Dan by six at the latest. Where was he?
Still no Dan.
I confirmed that he’d left work but since this was before either of us owned cell phones I had no way to contact him while en route back to the house. I started to get angry, imagining him deciding to go out for a drink with his brother or stopping by the bookstore on the way home without telling me.
Now I was panicking. It wasn’t like him to be late without letting me know. My imagination ran wild as I alternated between expecting the police to knock on my door and deliver tragic news and believing that Dan had been unspeakably inconsiderate.
By the time he walked through the door just after 8:00 PM, I was livid. As soon as I confirmed that he was alive and well, I left the food on the table, marched into our bedroom, slammed the door, and refused to speak to him for the rest of the night.
I found out the next day that Dan hadn’t forgotten about me. He hadn’t been hanging out with friends or putting off coming home in favor of some other preferred activity. No, he’d been helping a homeless man he saw on the side of the road. It was an especially cold winter night and he couldn’t stand to pass the man by without helping him.
I felt awful. Awful for not giving him the benefit of the doubt, for not letting him explain as soon as he got home, and for forgetting who my husband is: a thoughtful, selfless, generous man. For a long time I wondered, why I had so easily forgotten these things about him? Why had I instead chosen believe the worst?
Fear, of course.
I was new to this marriage thing and still very young and unsure about a great many things in my life. I was terrified that my new husband might fall out of love with me or, at the very least, grow apathetic toward our marriage and that fear made me an easy target for spiritual attack.
It was all nonsense, of course. Dan had and I have faced a great many struggles both in our life, as a team, and in our relationship, as individuals, but a lack of love has never been one of them. Why, then, would I become so consumed with this fear that I’d doubt everything I knew about him? About us?
Because when the Father of Lies whispers scary things into your ears, he makes a strong case. It’s all fiction, of course, but he weaves a startlingly compelling tale.
During this time in my life when I had so many marriage-related fears, I was a new wife, a new resident of the Deep South, and a new convert and I had very few friends. Dan and I shared almost everything, but I didn’t dare reveal my fear that he was ever on the cusp of leaving me. Surely I needed only to plant the idea, and he would be gone, I told myself. No, better to keep this fear tucked down deep inside of me, in the dark, where no one could see it…and where it could fester, eat away at me, and grow grossly out of proportion.
What I needed, but didn’t yet have, was a friend to confide in. Someone who could help me lift my fears out the darkness and into the light. A trusted confidant who could help me to assess the validity of my fears and either help me solve the problem or give me a reality check and laugh at the silliness of the whole thing with me.
It would be years later, and only after much pleading, that God would give me that friend and when I look back upon the almost fifteen years of my marriage, I can see a very clear demarcation that separates those two seasons. The before is filled with lots of anxiety about my marriage, and the after is full of peace.
We are one body, sweet friends. We need each other to be healthy and whole. Share your fears and be healed by God’s light.
- The next time you feel scared, pay attention to the lies that are being whispered in your ear. Make a mental note of the details.
- Remember that one of the lies you will probably be told is that you should feel embarrassed about feeling scared. Reject it.
- Find a trusted family member, friend, or spiritual director and share this fear with them. Ask them whether they think your fear is rational or irrational.
- If it they feel it is rational, ask them for advice on how you can solve your problem. Allow them to help you carry your cross.
- If they say it’s irrational, believe them and savor the peace that surpasses all understanding.
P.S. If you need to see that you’re not alone, take a peek at this list of over 300 “pebble fears” that we are battling as a community. I found it very comforting to see how many of the anxieties that I’ve struggled with in the past are shared by others. And don’t forget to pray for the person who came before you on the list!