Do you remember the first time you felt afraid? I mean really afraid? I do. Even though I was barely over a year old, I can recall my entire house shaking—photos on the wall rattling and my crib moving across the floor—and the sheer panic I experienced. When I heard the ear-piercing, loud whistle from the nearby railroad tracks, I just knew a big old scary monster was coming to get me. But instead of cowering in my crib and screaming to get out, I took action. What did I do? Well, I somehow managed to propel myself over the high bars of my crib onto the hardwood floor and then ran into my parents’ room with my favorite blankie clutched in my hand. My dad once told me this went on for months. At first he worried I’d seriously damage my noggin (that’s still up for debate), but he hated to “cage me in.” He told me I never cried but just climbed in and curled up beside him. You see, it was there I found my safe place, my comfort and protection.
As I’ve gotten older, like many people, I’ve become more afraid of heights. Not that I was ever fond of them. When I visit a very tall building and step out on the observation deck, I usually hesitate to go to the outside railing or wall. The thought of that glass walkway above the Grand Canyon scares the daylights of me. Although fascinated by the beautiful view from atop something so high up in the air (and the Grand Canyon is one of the most amazing natural formations I’ve ever seen), it makes me realize how small I am when I look down from such a dizzying height. Question to ponder: is my true fear one of heights or the actual fear of falling?
Flying in an airplane and is one of my favorite things in life—that feeling of power and speed as the magnificent, manmade bird lifts off the ground and soars into the air. In the case of an airplane, I have something surrounding me in a cocoon of steel protection. On the flip side, roller coasters absolutely scare me to death. I’ve always avoided them until I decided to try Space Mountain at Disney World many years ago. To this day, I have no idea what possessed me. Disney represents safety and security, right? Mickey and Minnie wouldn’t steer me wrong. I actually loved it (but still won’t ever go on another roller coaster), but I think it’s because Space Mountain is completely dark. You experience the speed and the ups and downs yet you can’t see what lies beyond the rails. Again, a question to ponder: is it (again) the fear of falling or perhaps the fear of what’s out there beyond my comfort zone?
Writing my latest novel, Catching Serenity, took me through a gamut of emotions—a veritable roller coaster of ups, downs and all-arounds. As an author, don’t you love it when writing characters and their stories stretch you, test and challenge you? As much as any character I’ve ever written, Serenity McClaren has faced a number of issues in her life, including profound loss and rejection. So many times in penning her story, I paused and wondered how I would react given identical circumstances. Honestly? A few times, I couldn’t presume to know how I’d personally react. But it made me think, and as much as anything else, I want my readers to think while still being entertained and gleaning spiritual truths when they read one of my books.
As much as the issues we face, it’s our response to events and people that matters and shapes our life. Serenity has been through so much yet she’s much stronger than she realizes. She’s been deeply hurt by circumstances in her life that might cause many people to turn away from God. Before these things happened, she didn’t know the Lord. What’s interesting is that she finds Him in the midst of working through her pain. Like me curling up beside my dad, Serenity finds her security and comfort in a new relationship with Jesus. She ran away from home because she couldn’t stand the sadness, the loneliness and the pain. But as the story opens, she’s come back home to stare her fears in the face. Bolstered by her new faith, she recognizes the only way she’ll be able to truly live again with purpose and meaning is to conquer those fears.
Have you ever had a secret you were dying to tell someone but couldn’t for whatever reason? Psychologist Jackson Ross is falling in love with Serenity. He also recognizes that until she finds answers to what happened that sent her running away from home, she won’t be free to fully love him. Then he unlocks the key to her past and discovers the shocking truth. Within Jackson’s grasp is the ability to set her free from her past. However, sworn and bound by ethics and professional standards, he can’t tell her and it’s tearing him up inside. Jackson’s greatest fear? He’ll lose Serenity’s friendship and love no matter what he does. A believer in Christ for a number of years, Jackson turns to the One he knows can shoulder his burden and give him the desires of his heart.
Ultimately, I believe it’s all about trust. The theme verse in Catching Serenity is Psalm 18:2 which says: The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Have you ever had a time in your life when you’ve had to stare down fears or forces you felt were working against you? How did you react and what was the outcome? I’d encourage you to ponder that today with the knowledge there’s no greater comfort or protection than that which comes from the One who laid down His very life for you and for me.
Blessings, friends (and thanks for allowing me a little shameless plug for my next book).