I’ll never forget the day my oldest came home from kindergarten with her ABC Bible Memory Verse assignment. With her three little fingers held up in front of my face, she declared, “W. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee” (Psalm 56:3 KJV).
I shook my head at the Lord and said, “Really? This is for me, right?”
Fear has been my middle name since I was little girl, although you’d never know it by looking at the way I’ve lived.
I’ve managed to mask my fear with the appearance of strength, embodying all the mantras from “suck-it-up, Sally” to “put on your big girl panties.”
Of course, as a mama, those expressions have been an equal part of my parenting approach used to spur on my children, hoping they’ll be braver and bolder than I. Do you think it worked? Well, maybe a time or two, but from this perspective almost 21 years into my motherhood journey, I can count more times in which it resulted in tears and tension.
Living with all my fears hidden behind hoorah chants didn’t bring about the results I hoped for in my children any more than they worked for me.
Maybe they haven’t worked for you either?
Well, now I know why. It is not a matter of our faith not being strong enough or intentions not clear enough. The problem is that we’ve lost sight of the fact that God didn’t make our minds to function independently from our bodies.
As I’ve come to see through my training in trauma-informed equine-assisted coaching, the brain requires more than just “right” thinking to move into brave action. The brain needs the body fully engaged and not compartmentalized. Doesn’t Scripture already tell us this truth? In Deuteronomy 6:5, we’re commanded to love the Lord your God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. Jesus reiterated these words in Matthew 22:37, saying “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”
God created our heart, soul, body, and mind to function as one whole, but how often do we ignore what is going on in our body instead of allowing those cues to help us move forward?
Our heart starts racing. Our breathing changes. Our body feels jittery or clammy. Our anxiety kicks in. Long before we run for the hills (flight) or lash out in anger (freeze) or go totally inward (freeze), our body tells us that we’re not feeling safe. Yet we’ve become so good at ignoring the warning signs, seeing fear as weakness instead of helpful information, that we muscle our way through it and develop unhealthy coping and relational habits as a result.
There is another way to respond to fear, mamas.
Instead of faking-it-until-you-make-it, we need to be honest about how we feel as we pay attention to where we’re holding fear, anxiety, worry, and tension in our body. It’s okay to be a scaredy-cat who discovers how to find courage through a healthy connection with God and others. It’s okay to be present in the pain while carving out space for God to speak courage into your soul and heal you from the inside out.
And when it comes to parenting, we don’t need to be afraid of our kids fear. We can hold space for them to feel fear and, as we love on them, learn how to move through it — discovering healthy responses through connection and not simply masking their emotions.
The Scriptures promise that perfect love casts out fear, right (1 John 4:!8)? Well, we get to be His love to each other, even our children, standing with them as they discover how to live courageously from the inside out.
This post also appears at The Better Mom.