The kids had finally gone to bed for the night and Husband and I were sitting in our living room watching something other than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse when we heard a strange noise coming from our ceiling. Husband muted the TV so we could hear it better. What was that? It was a little scratchy but also a heavy footstep sound. Dread filled me. Something was in our attic. We didn’t know what type of animal, but there was definitely an animal in our attic. My young mom self panicked and quickly spiraled into the Google abyss of fears. Husband didn’t see this as an emergency but what if whatever is up there is passing its germs somehow to my children? Postpartum hormones pumping through my veins, I decided to take charge of the situation and call someone to come out to identify and remove this problem.
I found a company online and arranged for them to come out. Two men came to the house and went up into our Florida attic and back down with a cell phone video of my attic. It was horrendous. We had an enormous fruit rat problem and it was going to require a very expensive removal and cleaning process. We were to pay half down, they were to come out multiple times as outlined and then pay the rest. Ofcourse, I had to do it because this had to be handled immediately. What if my kids were to get sick? And so I paid them with money we only had because of a tax refund, because my fear was in the driver’s seat. It was a decision I would regret for many years to come.
The company never came out to do the removal or treatments. Husband looked online and I’m sure, thought I had lost my mind, because when I took off my fear goggles and looked at the site with him, I could see all the ways it did not look on the up and up. I had been swindled. Money that we were to use to take our little ones to the beach on vacation, was in the pocket of con-men. I was embarrassed and ashamed. How could I make such a big mistake? Why did I think this needed to be handled so quickly and without input from my husband?
What was a bad situation got worse when the company started harassing us for the second payment, despite not ever coming out to service our home. We consulted a lawyer for our new problem, and a reputable pest control company for our old one. Our attic was not infested with rats, but did have one or two. The reputable pest control company caught them for ⅓ of the price of the scammy one. The disinfecting process the scammy company promised would have ruined our insulation and left us with a mold problem, so that was a bullet dodged. We went through the process of hiring someone to serve the company papers (a feat in itself as we basically needed a PI to find their offices) and went to court. They didn’t show up. The Judge awarded us a judgment against them, but we’ve never seen a penny. In fact, they sent us to a collection agency that contacted us a few years later. Thank God our lawyer recommended we go to court originally. A faxed copy of the awarded judgment left the collection agency apologizing. Still no money from the company and it has been many years. I don’t expect we will ever get that money back.
In light of all we face today, this story seems small. 2020 is a doozy! But it wasn’t small to me then. The experience shaped me and taught me some lessons on fear that have encouraged me today.
We make bad choices when we make them in fear. Fear clouds us to things we would normally easily see. Fear disorients us. Fear makes us susceptible to mistakes. Fear speaks so loudly because it wants to drown out the voice of wisdom.
You may have heard that the phrase “fear not” is one of the most often repeated phrases in the Bible. Often when I hear fear not I translate it to be brave. But fear not is not just emotional encouragement. Fear not is a call to keep our senses about us. What if God isn’t just saying don’t fear so we feel better or act bravely but so we can clearly hear his voice?
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” - John 14:1 (NLT)
Jesus said, “Don’t let your heart be troubled.” (emphasis mine) Emotions can trick us into believing that they are in control. Fear, sadness, anger, joy, disgust are real emotions and we can feel them all, but we don’t have to let them in the driver’s seat. Fear is a feeling. We will experience it, but we don’t have to let it stay in our hearts. We can feel fear, acknowledge the fear, but we have the power to tell it to GET OUT.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
Fear can only move in and dwell in my heart and mind if I let it. When we look to Jesus there is no room for fear. A new circumstance, or maybe a recurring old one, may take our eyes away momentarily, but when our eyes are fixed on Christ fear has no place.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. - 1 John 4:18A (NLT)
Fear breeds fear but Jesus is the antidote to fear. “Trust in God, and trust also in me.” If the news, social media, unstable markets, or well meaning but panicked friends and family are so loud that you feel lost in a cloud of fog, spend more time with Him. Listen and look for His words of truth and let them be a salve for your soul. And if, like me, you have already made the mistake of making a decision you regret while fear was driving the bus know that there is grace and mercy. Your problems, even self-inflicted ones, are not too big for God to make beautiful.
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.
- Ephesians 1:18-20 (NLT)