Birds flying from trees
Franciscan Spirit Blog

Fear Is My Teacher

Sep 2, 2021
Fear Is My Teacher | Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash
To be alive in this century is to understand fear. But God is always with us.

One of my favorite scenes from A Charlie Brown Christmas is the one in which our hero books some face time with Lucy, the resident psychiatrist. For a paltry nickel, she runs down a list of phobias from which Charlie might be suffering.

Cats? Staircases? Crossing bridges? Nope, none of those.

The rest of the conversation went as follows:

“Do you think you have pantophobia?”

“What’s pantophobia?”

“The fear of everything.”

“That’s it!”

True to her proactive nature, Lucy suggests Charlie busy himself to conquer his fears and curb his deepening, adolescent depression. (Oh, if life could be that simple!). While I’ve never suffered from pantophobia, I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t cautious, tremulous, even afraid. My mom continues to tell this story with relish: When my sister, Lauren, first attempted to walk, my mother steadied her on her feet. Then Lauren charged ahead, arms akimbo like a pint-sized stuntwoman. Of course, she fell on her face and wailed, but even as a baby she was fearless.

Same scenario, four years later. My mom steadied me for my first few steps and then sat back. But I wouldn’t let go of the coffee table. With every step, I made sure my hands kept their grip, as though I had a preexisting fear of what might happen. It’s an instinct that has never left me. I don’t learn with abandon like my sister. I cope with challenges by envisioning every possible outcome and planning accordingly.

Some scenarios, however, I cannot control. COVID-19 and how it's changed our world is evidence of that. But my fear predates the pandemic. One of my greatest phobias is flying. My relationship with air travel is multilayered. For starters, I am simply not built for longer flights. I’m taller than average: long on legs, short on tolerance for tight spaces. In November of 2001, I was on a flight to Los Angeles to do a story. The second I sat down in my seat, my mind began to race. My palms were sweaty. My knees started to knock.

I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe deeply. I was certain that we’d have engine troubles. Or that my luggage was on a flight to Belarus. Or that the pilot had one too many scotch and sodas at the airport Chili’s. I envisioned everything.

I was so deep into my Lamaze breathing that I didn’t notice the young woman who sat down two seats over. And she was in even worse shape than I was. Every noise made her jump. She buckled and unbuckled her seatbelt constantly. As the plane was approaching the runway, she pulled out a St. Christopher prayer card (which never dawned on this Chris—go figure). And as we took off, I saw her grip the card so tightly her fingers turned white. This heartened me. Even though I was filled with anxiety, there was somebody on the flight even more terrified.

We struck up a conversation not long after takeoff. It turned out to be the first enjoyable flight I had taken. I even enjoyed the in-flight movie—Miss Congeniality—and I hadn’t thought that would ever be possible. God sends little remedies all the time and we rarely notice. Sometimes it can take the shape of conversation with a new friend or a bad Sandra Bullock movie. Fear is a great teacher, but God is a better one.

There will come a day—possibly even tomorrow—when I’ll be unsteady on my feet, cautious, afraid, just as I was when I learned to walk. But I’ll put one foot in front of the other, armed with a quote that has been credited to Joan of Arc: “I fear nothing for God is with me.”

Keep reading!

Fear Not

God's Peace, Our Reward

Combating Fear with Faith

Fear That Has Said Its Prayers

Peace and Good in Troubled Times Book Collection


Thu, 09/02/2021 - 08:48 AM
Thank you for this insightful and funny reflection. God is always with us until the end of time.
Thu, 09/02/2021 - 01:32 PM
Thank you for this. I’m always afraid and lately it has gotten worse. I pray each night that our word might know peace. Your words were a comfort to me.
Mary Ann
Thu, 09/02/2021 - 09:52 PM
Mary Ann
This is perfect for me. I learned fear early in life and I have been extremely fearful and anxious lately. Thank you. Peace.
Sat, 09/04/2021 - 05:10 PM
Be not afraid! That’s what we’re told but it isn’t always easy to follow. Thank you for these words.
Sat, 09/04/2021 - 11:10 PM
From one Chris to another: I enjoyed this article a lot and I thank you for your honesty and trust in God the father.

Add new comment