This is CJ, our new dog. He’s 62 pounds of solid muscle with a scary sounding bark to those who don’t know he’s really a softy who loves people. He seriously enjoys taking me for a walk and will approach with confidence any other living thing we encounter. But he has a secret. He’s scared of thunder. He’s had a difficult time lately as we have experienced week after week after week of severe thunderstorms where we live. He paces the floor in an effort to find a safe place, his whole body shaking in fear. This is what he chose one day last week – to stand in the corner and face the door. I imagined he was saying to himself “Just don’t look and it will all go away…” He stayed there for over an hour.
I’m new to this whole dog ownership thing in that this is the first time in a long time I’ve had a dog I actually wanted to interact with. Before adopting CJ, I had never walked a dog on a leash, taken one to a veterinarian, considered whether or not the dog food was acceptable, or been willing to tolerate the hair that now seems to be everywhere. I find myself strangely concerned about how he feels and if he is happy in his new home. And I hate it when he’s scared.
I am there with him through the storms and I do everything I can to let him know it’s ok. But short of learning how to speak dog, I am at a loss as to how to convince him that he is safe. The scary sounds are louder than the truth.
I spent a great deal of my life trying to hide the fact that I was scared. From my earliest memories, fear has been a predominant emotion, many times undefined and most certainly unspoken. How can you tell someone you are afraid when often you don’t even know what you’re afraid of? A vague sense of impending doom always seemed to hover near. Through the years and some pretty major life errors, this fear grew and I became afraid of life’s storms. Past failures were the thunder that boomed of my incompetence in life and deepened my dread of the failures that were surely ahead of me. I’ve paced when the inevitable storm was approaching, I’ve trembled during its onslaught, and I’ve crumbled in the aftermath. And for the most part, I’ve kept it to myself.
It was easy to hide my secret because I’ve always been an optimistic and generally happy person. But this only accentuated the inward conflict. I was a strong and confident person in so many ways. But when I found myself alone, particularly at night, the clouds would roll in and the thunder would sound, and I would succumb to the fears once again.
I even attempted to let down my guard and ask for help a couple of times. The ones I entrusted with my secret found it impossible to either understand or believe as my personality and attitude were more convincing and they didn’t take my fears very seriously. They offered simple advice and familiar scriptures and I politely walked away believing that this kind of vulnerability just wasn’t worth it. So I stayed silent. And afraid.
CJ reminded me of these times as I watched him shake in the corner. He was safe but he didn’t know it. I shared a bit of these experiences with a bible study group last night and this very familiar scripture:
…and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free… John 8:32
Many who do not believe in God or Jesus or the bible often quote this scripture, but they only quote the second half – that the truth will set you free. If that were so, then everyone would be living free lives because the Truth has come. The existence of truth is not what sets us free. It’s the truth that we know that sets us free, and this knowing is more than the intellectual acceptance. It is truly believing the truth because it is the truth and not based on how we feel.
I’d quoted the scriptures and spoken the prayers, seemingly to no avail. I did all that I knew to do and nothing worked because I didn’t know the truth upon which all others are based: God loved me. I intellectually accepted that He loved me because the bible said so and let’s face it, He is God and God is love, so He had to love me at some level. But in the dark hours when the fear swelled, I didn’t really believe the truth of His love.
Too tired to run and hide from the storm that was upon me, and in my most desperate hours, Truth came to me:
And we know – understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and experience – and believe the love God cherishes for us. God is love and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God and God dwells and continues in him. In this union and communion with Him, love is brought to completion and attains perfection with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment – with assurance and boldness to face Him – because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love – dread does not exist – but full-grown (complete and perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! 1 John 4:16-18b
The scary sounds were no longer louder than the truth – God loves me and His love abides within me. I have the power to drive fear away and to live an abundant, free life, because now I know: God loves me.
“Afraid of the storms” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com