About once each day my dog Lucy runs into the back bedroom and cowers behind the pillows on my bed. It happens when I cook dinner, right about the time I make some noise grabbing a pot from the pile of cook-wear under the counter. You see, when I cook, Lucy thinks something bad is going to happen.
The reason ticks me off, actually. It’s because I had a dog sitter a couple years ago who, well, taught her to be scared. Actually, I doubt it was the dog sitter, it was most likely one of the dog sitter’s friends. I can’t prove anything and have never bothered to confront anybody about it because, well, that would stir up a hornets nest and I don’t want to get into any of it.
The facts are simple. Lucy used to be normal and fine when I cooked. She’d hang out waiting for a scrap of food but would never beg. She was polite but let her wishes be known and certainly didn’t mind if food hit the floor. Then, after a few-day trip, I came home to a dog who, when I stepped into the kitchen, ran into the bedroom, visibly shaking. It was obvious somebody had done something to “teach Lucy to stay out of the kitchen.” I felt disrespected, to be sure. And that person never dog sat Lucy again. Now, years later, Lucy still does it. Somebody got to my dog and taught her something they had no right to teach her.
The sad reality is Lucy has nothing to fear. She has no reason to run away, shivering. Her owner likes it when she’s around. Her owner isn’t bothered by her hanging out near the kitchen at all. The lesson here is that somebody else got to my dog to teach her something I didn’t want her to know. That somebody stole some of Lucy’s joy and assumed ownership of a creature that wasn’t theirs. But that’s hardly the point. The point is, one day while comforting Lucy I wondered if there were things in my life I was afraid of, all the while my Creator grieved that “somebody had gotten to me.”
When I translate Lucy’s fear to my own life, the association is cryptic. I fear intimacy, for example, and I fear connection, I fear people will not like me, I fear failure, I fear isolation and rejection, I fear exposure.
Because somebody got to me, somebody who didn’t have the right, somebody my creator is frustrated with. And to be sure, I’ve wrongfully taught the same fear to others. I am guilty, too. As much as I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to untrain Lucy. What I do, instead, is go into the bedroom, sit on the bed next to her and rub her ears. She still has a frightened look on her face, but no longer shakes. She knows her master loves her.
I bring all this up because it’s a perfect picture of how some of us interact with God. And it’s a perfect picture of how God must feel because somebody has gotten to us. He does not force us to face our fears, nor does he ridicule us because our fears are unfounded. Instead, He is simply with us. He sits by us, He comforts us, He provides for us, He loves us. All the while we fear, for no reason. Even death does not merit fear. Not from His perspective.
So what does God do in all this? Does He take away the fear? Likely not, otherwise He wouldn’t keep telling us in the Bible not to fear, He’d just take the fear away. What God does is not unlike what I do with Lucy. I just go into the bedroom, sit on the side of the bed and rub her ears. I speak gently with her for a few minutes, letting her know everything is going to be okay. While Lucy’s fear will likely never go away, she shakes less than she used to and she knows now that, at least in the bedroom, she is safe.
I love that God tells us He will never leave us or forsake us, that He is always with us. I love that He sends us friends, truth, encouragement, provision and protection, as though He is sitting on the edge of our bed, reminding us we don’t need to fear.
What is it that strikes fear in you that shouldn’t?
What sends you running into the bedroom, cowering behind the pillows?
And can you sense God there with you, comforting you, telling you you’ve nothing to fear?