I was nearly 4 years old when I learned my first Bible verse by heart: “For God has not given me the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
My father taught it to me to remind me of what was true when shadows in my room, at night, grew too large. We created hand motions to make it easier for me to remember. And when the shadows came in at night, my parents would hear me reciting the verse in my room, louder and stronger with each repetition.
It was as if my father knew how much I’d need this verse. As a child, teen and adult, my anxiety swelled to fear that grew so large it took over. I was afraid …
Of getting in a car accident if someone else was driving.
Of falling off a cliff.
Of being yelled at by strangers.
Of looking stupid.
Of being alone.
Of trying anything new.
I was so afraid that sometimes I would not leave my house for weeks.
But something happened. I can’t even tell you when it happened. Was it after I married, and I knew what it felt like to be loved by someone? Or was it after I had children and knew what it felt like to love someone so completely? I suspect it was both, but mostly it was God, gently behind the scenes, instilling grace and kindness and love until I grew stronger and less afraid.
But I know how easy it is for me to fall back on fear. It’s my default. Wired in me. If I look away from Christ for a second, I am lost, and all I can hear are voices telling me lies. I must remind myself of what is true and not to give in to fear.
Satan loves when I live in fear. It disconnects me from God and from my community. It makes me suspicious of others, closing me off from them. When I live in fear, I make decisions that affect more than just me. Fear feeds fear, and it grows. Becoming part of my character. Becoming part of who I am. I don’t want to be this person.
I don’t want to pass on my old default to my children. I’ve taught them 2 Timothy 1:7, hand motions included. I want them to remember it should they need it, but I’ve taught them another verse too.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
It was love that first brought me out of fear — the love of my husband, the love for and from my children, the love of my community, but mostly God’s love revealing to me what is real and true. When I keep my eyes on the true love of Christ, allowing myself to receive his love, I am no longer afraid. I am brave.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - June 2020
Shemaiah Gonzalez, a member of St. James Cathedral Parish, is a freelance writer with degrees in English literature and intercultural ministry. Find more of her writing at shemaiahgonzalez.com.
Shemaiah Gonzalez, miembro de la parroquia de la Catedral de Saint James, es escritora independiente con diplomas en Literatura inglesa y Ministerio Intercultural. Puedes encontrar más de sus redacciones en: shemaiahgonzalez.com.