When We’re Scared

Do you remember that movie scene that scared the pants off you as a kid? Or when you reached in your purse and, for a split second, couldn’t find your wallet as you stood next to a basket of groceries and your tantruming toddler? Or when someone suddenly veered into your lane on the freeway?

Of course you do.

That’s the power of fear. It constantly slithers around us, trying to find a chink in our emotional armor. It’s impervious to logic. And no matter how skilled we are in handling it, we will never fully be free of it’s bite.

Especially when something scary happens that strikes to the heart of who you are.

That happened to me over the weekend. In response to last week’s post about a parenting mistake, and what I’d learned, was the following comment: 

“I am truly sorry that you got to a point where you felt that washing your child’s mouth out with soap was a good choice. In my book, that is child abuse and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Suddenly, as the words blurred behind tears, I was paralyzed. Fear crept up from my laptop, wrapped itself around my heart and squeezed as hard as it could.  

Am I abusive? Should I even be writing or speaking on parenting topics? Should I be coaching other families? Am I a complete failure? …Am I a bad mom?

I had to get up and go for a run, right then. I ran farther than I’ve run in months. Running from the accusation. Running to find the truth again.

Because the only way to poison fear is to tell it the truth.

With inspiring music on my iPod, I ran as hard as I could, letting the words wash over me as I pounded my fear and anger into the ground. When I rounded the last bend, this song was playing:

Click here if the video doesn’t load in your browser or inbox.

Now tears flowed for a different reason. Because of truth.

The truth that God is bigger than any fear I will ever face. That He is bigger than any parenting, teaching or writing mistake I’ve made or will make someday. That no matter what, He will be exalted in the heavens and the earth. And that He loves the woman whose words pierced my heart an hour before.

Which is when I cried …for her. For the pain that she must have felt to say something like that to someone she doesn’t know. I imagined the many times people had criticized her and made her feel crazy for the way she parents her own special needs child. My heart broke for her. And I wished I could see her and tell her so.

In that hour of running, something I’ve read many times came to life for me:

“Love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear.”*

As God changed my own heart, the fears I had just moments before not only fell away, but ceased to matter at all. That’s the power of truth. To remind us of what really is, and to give us a way out when fear grabs hold and tries to choke the life out of us. 

How will you run to truth today?


*1 John 4:18, NLT

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  1. says

    @Jocelyn, wow. That would send me through the roof. I am so sorry that happened to you and your son. I know what it's like to be scrutinized by DYFS… it's how I started my life as a parent since we foster-adopted. It is pretty humiliating. So glad you're through it now. (((hugs)))

  2. says

    Linda, thanks for what you said… it really can be a fine line. Funny how I never even thought to check if it was a reportable offense. I was too blown away at the time! 🙂

  3. says

    Laurie, I really needed to read this. Boy, this has really had a hold on my life lately (I mean, fear has). I have a severly autistic special needs child who recently had a terrible diaper rash due to a stomach bacterial/yeast virus. I took him to the ER since blood was in his diaper – per the dr (who I don't see anymore). After waiting 3 long hours to see a Dr, I saw one, along with 2 interns and a nurse. They basically accused me of abusing my child – because of the severity of the rash. Then DYFS called the next day; I have a meeting with a nice lady; she had to look in my fridge and my children's rooms – how humiliating.
    I questioned who I was. Was I an abuser? A bad mom – like some people @ the hospital tried to convice me of?
    NO. I AM NOT. By God's standards, I am an excellent mother, because I trust in Him to give me the strength, wisdom and grace to get through each day.
    Thank you for this blog on fear. It IS paralizing in some ways. But thank God we have a Savior who is aquainted with our griefs, and fears.
    -Jocelyn in NJ

  4. says

    I'm sorry that you had this person who doesn't know you question your parenting skills.

    It's a fine line when we're in the therapy or parent coaching businesses. Parenting is often so emotionally-laden, and I imagine this person was reacting from a place of fear. But washing out a child's mouth with soap is not a reportable allegation, I don't care what state you live in.

    Glad you enjoyed a good run, and shed some tears.

    You're an awesome example of a parent, and the fact that you adopted special needs kids is all the more admirable.

    Keep rockin' your non-fear-based self, Laurie:).

  5. says

    For all who've stopped by, thank you so much for your supportive and encouraging words. It's been a continuing journey for me over the past few days and I'm amazed at how much this is coming up in lots of places. Praying for each of us to have a lot of wisdom in what we share online. That we'd follow our hearts and not live in fear of what might happen because of it!

  6. says

    Oh Laurie, my heart breaks with yours because I know how many people out there are missing it. And I'm thankful that you were brave enough to not accept the comment at face value and search your heart for the truth. I've been listening to Matt Maher's Alive Again (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziJQJI2uElI) this past week a lot through my challenges. Keep living, keep loving, keep parenting, keep going back to God. I believe in you.

  7. says

    Yep, Andrea (both of you… Owen and multiplemama), it really is easy to get into the shame thing as parents. Forgiving myself is just about the hardest thing ever, though! What kinds of things help you forgive yourself when you make mistakes? I mean practically. I'm working on a book about forgiveness in parenting and I'd love to hear and include your ideas!

  8. says

    I agree with Andrea. I've yet to meet a PERFECT parent. I make mistakes every day with my kiddos but I love them more than anything and I try to be the best mom I can be. I know you love your kiddos and they know it too. I think you do a great job!!

  9. says

    Beautiful post! So glad you see the truth and are moved for this woman.

    Your response is certainly attributable to God's power and grace in your life, which is exactly what we each need for our mothering jobs! Thanks so much for sharing this.

  10. says

    For what it's worth: I have yet to meet an adult who got his/her mouth washed out with soap and grew up scarred over it or felt that their parents were abusive. Hitting, yes. Terrible words, yes. But soap? No.
    It's tough to determine what the person's past is that left that comment, and I would bet my life that she isn't a perfect mother either.
    So, let's not shame each other for doing the best we can, right?
    Love you, Laurie!!

  11. says

    Mothering is so hard. It requires we evolve everyday. And sometimes it just feels impossible to have all the answers let alone just a few of the right ones in the right moment.
    We all make mistakes. And sometimes forgiving ourselves and moving on is the hardest part.
    I'm in awe of your ability to see that her comment most likely came from one of her own insecurities. I always forget that part when I'm in fear!