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Paralyzing Panic

My son cannot cross the street without me.

He is no toddler. The kid is 13 years old. Thirteen. And he cannot cross the street alone.

It sounds ridiculous and yet this is my invented reality. A reality that might make you laugh before realizing you are the only one with a smile.

You see, it's summer and my firstborn is too old for kid camps apparently (though I swear he was just in a crib last week). And so the guy is bored out of his mind, wandering the house in a bathrobe, permanently disappointed he owns no video games or cell phone.

He came to me last week after completing chores that allowed Mom to do her work-from-home gig in silence. "Mom, can I walk to the pool?"

The kid is freaking awesome. He's mostly obedient, mostly kind, offers to help, keeps his room clean, and makes good grades. Perhaps delinquency is on the horizon, but not any time soon.

The nearby pool is a 75-second drive. Yes, I have timed it, because when you are a mom of four, it takes 810 hours to get ready for the pool, so you at least want the ride there to rival time-travel.

75 seconds in the car translates to probably a 5 minute walk from our neighborhood to the one across the street where the pool is. Here's the snag in the whole deal: you have to cross a pretty busy street to get there. It's no highway, but it's no cul-de-sac either.

So Paul asks, "Mom, can I walk to the pool?" I hesitate. In a split-second all of the "what ifs" come flooding. What if he gets lost? What if he's kidnapped? What if he doesn't see a car coming?

I pacify my paralysis with the reminder from above, "For I have not given you a spirit of fear..." (2 Tim 1:7)

And I whisper, "Yes, son, you can walk to the pool. But, you have to walk on the left side of the street. And when you get to that big intersection, stop. Wait. Look left, look right, look left. And listen. Be aware of cars. If you even think you hear or see one, wait. And then sprint across, okay?" I wonder if he senses the sheer panic in my voice as I pretend it's not a big deal.

I knew I'd be leaving the house in 40 minutes to retrieve the other kids from camp. So that left me with 40 minutes to ponder my son's safety. To envision that one racing car realizing too late that there is a kid in the middle of the street. I picture paramedics trying to save a kid with no ID or phone.

I nightmared that in 40 minutes I would see an ambulance at the edge of my neighborhood.

Losing my husband in a tragic accident has most definitely amplified my cautious reserve in so many everyday circumstances.

The only thing that kept me from my car keys for 40 minutes was Jesus. I needed my faith to conquer my illogical fear. I was given 40 minutes to pray that my sweet son was safe. "Lord, even if today is his last day....even if I am the one who ushered in his demise...You are still a good God."

I stayed busy; isn't that how we cope with discomfort? We will numb it, avoid it, and pretend it's not real. The entire time that I pictured my innocent son, I was nauseated and anxious. "Lord, please protect him. Keep him safe. Help him." Pushing the fear aside is like trying to stop a landslide.

How often do we allow panic to paralyze us? Rational or not, do we give it permission to pilot our thought life? Are we accustomed to masking it as "concern" rather than the sin of "worry"? At the intersection of fear and faith, which way do we turn?

My son made it to the pool (and back). And I sighed, "Father, thank You." As I drove (and honked) by the pool, I remembered the verses in Mark 9:23-24 :

"Jesus said to him, 'If you believe, all things are possible to him who believes.' Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'"

My fears spill into many areas of my life, and my guess is yours might as well. With trembling hands, I bring my angst to the feet of Jesus, the only One who can offer power, love, and a sound mind.

May He replace your fear with a mighty "Fear not!" May He help you replace those imprisoning thoughts with courage and boldness so that you can travel to freedom!

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