Saturday, October 6, 2007

Opening the Window

October 6, 2007

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

I've been over at JenIg's blog reading about ankle monitors and such. On the surface, the discussion over there has been about dating vs. courtship, and somehow a comment slipped in about ankle monitors. ("Pam" wrote: "We have also put ankle monitors on our daughters, not that they would ever sneak out. But just in case something were to happen, we could locate them within the hour. You can never be to [sic] cautious!") Other commenters on Jen's blog assumed (hoped) "Pam" was being satirical; however, as it turns out, the poster is dead serious ("I am no fake. And I kind of resent being labeled as such. With the sexual predators EVERYWHERE these days, with abductions, robberies, etc. my husband and I must be sure to protect our children. I may have confused you all: my children only slightly protest at the arranged marriages, however, they are ALL FOR the safety ensured by the ankle monitors.")

Kind of makes me feel all squeamish. But really, the post isn't about ankle monitors or courtship vs. dating. It's about dealing with the stronghold of fear. We all experience fear and anxiety. At its most basic level, fear is a God-given emotion that alerts us to danger. But it can also be a a device that paralyzes and controls us.

I know fear. I know common fears like crossing over a river gorge on the thin plank of wood. That kind of fear doesn't control me; I can just say, "No. I do not wish to cross over a rapidly moving river on a thin bit of railroad bridge." Enough said. But that fear does not keep me from hiking or being in the outdoors.

I know that flicker of fear when my husband is 22 minutes late coming home from work, and my mind flashes to Car Accident. When he comes through the door then, I am so grateful that he is home that I forget to be peeved with him. That is a fear that quickly vanishes, and it does not control my life. The next morning he heads off to work again and I trust that he will return safely. That fear does not keep my husband from driving to work each day.

I know the fear of one of my children being hurt. I have held my breath as they swing high, legs pumping, heads leaning back. I wait for that moment when one loses his grip and flies out of the swing. It hasn't happened yet and still might. But that fear doesn't keep me from pushing my kids in the swing and standing back to watch them fly.

And I know the fear that Jen's commenter has: the fear of predators--the possibility of abductions. I know that moment when you can't find your child at Walmart, and the tremendous relief that comes when you find him hiding in the middle of the clothes rack. I dislike watching crime shows in which a child is abducted because that fear takes root like a black knot in my gut, and I have two choices: I can let it go, or I can feed it. That is a fear I do not feed.

But I am not immune to the stronghold of fear. For much too long I have held tightly to a fear that is rooted in a real event, not a hypothetical "it could happen." I know the meaning of the cliché, "the icy grip of fear." It is something I don't talk about, ever. Really ever. But here it is: 17 years ago a drug addict crawled through my living room window while I slept alone. My husband was gone for the weekend. I was just a random open window; he'd already walked into the apartment next door and stolen a few items. It could have been an unthinkable scenario, but by the grace of God I awoke to his threats, and I screamed and ran. As did he.

This is what makes sense, what is rational: that I should have been so grateful that I escaped that I would just move on. But on that morning in August 17 years ago, I lost much that I never understood that I had. I lost the innocent conviction that nothing bad could ever happen to me. I lost the most basic feeling of safety and security in one's home. I lost the joys of solitude and independence. The joy of being in one's house by oneself. For years, I had to go spend the night with a friend when Randy had to go away to conferences. It has only been in the past 5 years that I've been able to sleep through the night when he's gone without going to sleep in a panic and waking with a feeling of dread. I lost the freedom of sleeping with the windows open, even when he is here. I still have moments of absolute panic sometimes when I am showering, imagining someone breaking in and getting to the children. But with the years comes a daily leaning on the Comforter, and a zillion fervent prayers. And, eventually, the anxiety lessens as the stronghold is knocked down.

A few nights ago my daughter asked me if I would leave the window open in her room at night, and why, she wanted to know, do I always shut the windows at night? This is an answer I cannot give her: "because you just never know when someone might randomly decide to come through the window." That is the only reason that I have, and when asked, I cannot explain this to my child. I cannot pass my fear, however grounded in reality, on to my children. That is the moment when you realize it is time.

Rosa Parks once said that "when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear." And this is something that I had to do because it is not right that my children do not know what it is like to fall asleep with an autumn breeze blowing through the window. It is not right that the morning birdsong is always muffled by the closed windows. And so I opened her window, very wide. I left it open all night, in spite of my niggling anxiety. (I was cheating, probably, because I know that our dog will bark loudly at anything.) An ordinary night for most. For me, a victory.

I hope that lady takes the ankle monitors off her children. There is no freedom in fear, and it is no gift she is passing on to her girls. Have you ever listened to the Dave Ramsey show when people call in and yell, "I'm DEBT FREE!"? That's exciting enough, but it's what follows that always gets to me and gives me goosebumps: "FREEEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!"

That's what I want to be shouting.


Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Anonymous (

Wow Sarah, great post and such a tremendous victory! I do hope Pam has the opportunity to read your your thoughts.

Some Assembly Required.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by JenIG (

thanks for freaking me out royal. i will never sleep with my window open for as long as i live. just kidding. that was actually a tremendously inspiring post. what an incredible thing to go thru. thanks for sharing your story. i hope pam makes it over here -- this was all really well said.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by chickadee (

that was a great post!
i'm glad you were able to open a window.
and something you said about passing on your fear to your children, i'm afraid i've done that too often.


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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - I love it

Posted by cricket313 (

Well said! I have issues with fear...I have not had an experience.. I have always had a nighttime fear! I am going to have to pray on this! I do ask for protection over us at night--it eases my fear but doesn't completely subside it!

We have had a slight detour on our way to finacial freedom..but it is getting closer! Just slower than we first thought. Oh, how I long for the day to yell, "FREEEEEEEDOM" You'll have to let me know when you guys get there and I'll do the same. I need some encouragement on the debt-free journey.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by Anonymous (

As always, a fabulously written post. And GOOD FOR YOU! So happy for your victory.

And no, I didn't know about Milligan Mellancamp! :)

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by anotherblogonthefire (

Well, I feel especially honoured now that you allowed us to come and crash at your place - and I am very happy to hear of your victory!

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Sunday, October 7, 2007 - thanks for the reminder

Posted by onfire (

there really can be victory over our fear.
just two summers ago I had the break through I needed to be able to enjoy the dark of night.
it is amazing the stronghold we can allow from events decades old ...
I won't go into mine, but I certainly know fear, and fear entrapped me for a time.
your post was a balm of gilead.

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Monday, October 8, 2007 - Thanks

Posted by srostollan (

This was an awesome post!


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Monday, October 8, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by foxvalleyfamily (

Wow - what a horribly frightening experience, but how wonderful that the Lord has given you freedom from your anxieties!


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Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - Untitled Comment

Posted by GAMama (

Yes! Thank you.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - FEAR NOT

Posted by debbiecorley (

What a great post! I, too, have wrestled with fear over the years. I now wear a silver ring on my right hand that says FEAR is a reminder to me that He is my shield and my protector. I do not need to be afraid!

I also agree with the importance of not passing fear on to our children. An abundant life is a life lived by one who moves in faith and steps into whatever God is calling them to. We cannot do that if we are bound up by the "what if's"!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - Good post, but a thought to share about open windows

Posted by CaliCarolina (


My parents used to live next door to a North Hollywood PD Detective (at least I think that's the dep't.). Anyways, he told them that after the sun goes down, they should lock up all ground floor openings. Now, my parents did not live near N. Hollywood. In fact, I grew up in a pretty safe place, but he still gave them that advice. Sorry to be a dissenter on such a great topic, but I wanted to pass that along. Other than that, I totally agree with you. :)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007 - A whole new side of you I didn't know!

Posted by QueenoftheHill (

I'm so proud for you, Madam Smallworld! That IS freedom. I'm going to keep mulling this over, because I'm guessing I have about a hundred metaphorical windows that I need to fling open in full view of my children.

I don't think it is cheating that you know your dog will bark. But I might be biased, since I already confessed I couldn't sleep without the King until I got Sally (who can look pretty vicious when she wants to impress).

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