Fear of people had seemed to be a lifelong problem for me. (See link below). Fear of heights, not so much.
As a grammar school kid spending summers with my grandparents, trees were just one of those big toys God put in their yard for me to play with, in, on, atop, you get the picture.
Chinaberry trees were wonderful habitats for imaginative boys and girls. Hide and seek? Cops and robbers? Cowboys and Indians? Spies and secret agents?
Leafy branches, hard green Chinaberries for slingshot ammunition, tobacco twine and empty tin cans for telephones — what more did you need? Clamber up the nearest branch, climb like monkeys to higher branches, crouch behind the trunk, await your “enemy” and let ’em have it! Play, play, play, having lots of fun all summer long.
There were sawdust piles to climb, the ladder to the hay loft in the barn, the roof top over the horse (really granddaddy’s mule) stable, oodles of climbing opportunities. None of them brought on even the slightest hint of fear to me, for quite a few fun-filled summers.
There was a church camp in the North Carolina Mountains that my whole family attended one summer. A late morning activity for the older kids (probably age 10 or so) was climbing one of the smaller hills to the very top, a well-marked trail, lots of handholds, twists and turns along the way with a helpful adult guide to lead us up.
No sweat! No problem! The view from the top was spectacular, the hills and mountains really were blue! Who knew! It was so beautiful, I would have done it again and again.
But the next summer, disaster struck. My grandparents took me with them on a vacation road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Remembering those lovely blue-shaded hills and mountains, the adventure seemed so inviting, I was thrilled they had asked me.
Then came our first stop, at a North Carolina overlook. Granddaddy pulled off the road onto a grassy area, pointing out the beautiful cliffs and valleys and peaks and trees and — no guard rails. “Look, see how pretty?” But I didn’t see pretty. What I saw was disaster. My head began spinning, my balance went off, and I felt compelled to run to the edge of the cliff and jump off.
Fear struck me like a shotgun blast. First I clung to the car door, then sunk onto the floorboards of the back seat, crouching with my knees to my chin, where I rode the rest of that trip. I shook, cried, and kept my eyes squeezed tightly shut. Mercifully my dumbfounded grandparents made the rest of the trip much shorter than planned.
Was that the beginning? No doubt. There was no more summer time tree-climbing fun for me. Even a step stool in the kitchen was too much, I was terrified to attempt getting something off a cabinet shelf. A full fledged panic attack would ensue, although no-one called it that in those days. I knew, I just knew, I would fall, break my neck and die.
As a teenager and young adult the fear was manageable, simply because I never climbed a kitchen step stool or anything else, for any reason. Making use of lower kitchen and bathroom shelves was reasonable; they were reachable. Upper shelves were either empty or used by others in my family. Never me. Front door and back door house steps or school staircases weren’t fun, but they had sturdy hand rails!
I got married in 1961, had two children, and one day in the 1970’s a huge WWII cargo plane flew into our local airport and the public was invited to come take a look inside. Of course, we had to go see it!
And of course, I discovered that to see inside the cockpit and cargo compartment, you had to ascend a very tall, tall ladder. I stared a long time at that plane, my excited kids raring to go. I got in line with them (and half of Florence, it seemed) and when it came our turn, I stepped up one rung — and froze.
Cold sweat. Pounding pulse. Shortness of breath. I just couldn’t do it.
I let my husband and the kids go ahead and I backed up. Way, way back, behind the crowd where I turned my back to the people, embarrassed for anyone to look at my face. Eventually my family found me, we went home and that was that.
Standing in my living room, my husband said mockingly, “How do you plan to get to heaven?” I couldn’t answer him. Tears running down my cheeks, I knew something had to give.
I had been a Christian for years. I’d re-dedicated my life to the Lord in 1972. I’d been delivered from one horrible fear that same year. How could this be happening? I knew the scriptures (2 Timothy 1:7); I knew that believers just weren’t supposed to be afraid like this. And so that night I prayed. And prayed. I fell asleep praying.
When I awoke I really didn’t feel any different, but I took the Lord at his word and chose to believe that this tormenting, humiliating fear of heights was gone — just like the fear of their faces had gone, a year earlier.
A few days after that, a friend’s husband called — “Bette, I just got qualified on a larger plane, you want to come take a ride around Florence?” Bob, a member of the local CAP, was inviting several friends to take a short plane ride around town and wanted to include me. He knew nothing of my fear, didn’t know my spiritual teeth were gritted as I said, Sure, I’d love to. I was saying to God, we’re going to find out if prayer works or not!
I had no problem climbing into the plane, it was only ground level. Two friends climbed into rear seats, a dad and his little boy. Bob checked to be sure we were all buckled in tight, took the pilot’s seat and began the plane’s slow trek to the outer runway. The engine revved up, zoom down the runway we went and up, up into the air!
We weren’t far off the ground when my door popped open. I could see beautiful blue sky, but fear didn’t grip me! This is interesting, I thought – no fear! Bob just pushed the door further out, then slammed it shut good. We enjoyed ten or fifteen minutes touring around our town and the outskirts, Bob pointing out what we were looking at. Things look a lot different from overhead, we discovered. Nobody knew what I was thinking, thanking and praising the Lord — no nervous twinges, no nothing.
We were a bit sorry when it was time to come back to earth. Bob chatted with the control tower, got a few instructions and down to the runway we came. And bounced. The plane bounced up off the tarmac quite a few feet, and Bob headed the plane further up; we would have to circle the airport and try again.
My friend and his son in the back seat had become pretty quiet. Bob was talking with the control tower again and I was thinking, Wow, that was something. Wow! But no fear, no nervous twinges, I had only a bit of excitement at my own mental state — I had indeed been delivered of fear, once again!
The second try at landing was smooth and uneventful, we all thanked Bob profusely for the ride, the landing adventure, and especially we thanked the Lord for keeping us all safe!
Not long afterward my church asked me to chaperone a group of teenagers on a Carowinds trip. The excited, laughing teens wanted me to join them on all the tall rides and roller coasters — something I’d never, ever been able to do before. But I did it, over, and over that day. It was wonderful.
Since then, I’ve traveled in small private planes (locally), commuter planes (between Florence, Atlanta, Charlotte, etc.), larger passenger jets (to New York, Minneapolis, Boston), and international jets (to Iceland and Germany). There were quite a few adventures along the way on those trips, but fear wasn’t included.
Several years ago my brother Harold invited me to accompany him on a photography trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway, continuing onto the Shenandoah Parkway in Virginia.
For several days we traveled, stopped and took photographs, some from close to the edge of a drop-off. Here’s one I took.
There was no fear. No nervousness. No twinges! Just gratitude, praise and thanksgiving to my good, good God for his mercy and deliverance.
Are you fearful? Of speaking to people, of heights, anything else? Did you think you were just “born that way?” I truly doubt anyone is ever just born that way. But evil spirits are like fleas, or ticks. They find opportunities to attach themselves to people, even Christians, for purposes of harassment and prevention. Stealing your joy.
They prevent you from doing what Father God wants you to do, from participating in events He wants you to enjoy, stopping you from witnessing to his great power to deliver, helping get other people free. Don’t let the enemy get away with it!
If you would like me to pray with you, please just ask.
What a wonderful witness, Bette!