What are you afraid of?
I drove my husband’s Nissan truck to work that morning. I was out of my comfort zone and hurrying to get into work so I wouldn’t be late. I am always running late. I pulled into my normal parking spot, packed up my arms with my stuff, you know the kind - purse, drink, lunch, and a new picture of my kids for my desk. I then swung the car door open. But before I got out of the truck I locked the door so that when I shut it I wouldn’t have to get out the key to manually lock it. I was trying to save time. Key fobs may have been invented at this point in history. I don’t remember. But this cheap, no-thrills truck didn’t merit one. In my hurry, I fumbled my lunch and it fell into the floorboard of the passenger side of the truck. As I jumped to attempt to retrieve it I dropped my husband’s truck key on the ground outside the car. As I stretched and reached to retrieve my lunch, the door closed shut behind me, locking as it closed. I was trapped. Help! Now is a good time to tell you, dear reader, that I am a wee bit claustrophobic. My fear involves being trapped, smothered or confined in close spaces. I have been this way my entire life. Fear is a powerful evil force. When fear grips us, we don’t think clearly, we panic! And that is precisely what I did that morning. I panicked!
I quickly calculated the size of the truck cab and how much oxygen I would have before I suffocated. Six minutes was my crazy calculation. I guess when I am afraid my math skills dramatically improve, for I was certain of that number. I could hear each second of the clock tick off in my head. The windows were power, so I couldn’t roll them down without turning the truck on. And, I had no key. I knew I didn’t have the strength to break the window, but I kept that idea on the back burner, as my final act of desperation. I peered sadly out the window, down at the keys laying on the ground, and panicked even more. I visually scanned the parking lot hoping to see someone, anyone, and motion for them to fetch my keys and save me! But no, they were all inside, nice and on time for work. Uugh! Now, there was a small window behind the bench in the cab, but I didn’t think my …uh …shall we say mass, could squeeze through that tiny opening. My panic was reaching a fevered pitch. I was moments away from screaming and praying someone inside the building would hear me. But then I thought about how much oxygen screaming would use up and decided I needed to calm down. Calm down I told myself over and over again. I needed my calm husband. He always knew what to do. Cell phones were new and I didn’t use mine very often, but at that moment I remembered I had one. I would call Jody! Maybe he could rescue me, or at the very least, my last conversation would be with him. He could tell our children I loved them and that my last thoughts were of them all. I have a flair for the dramatic, huh? I flipped that phone open and dialed Jody’s work number. As soon as Jody answered the phone I started to cry and relay my predicament to him, then, it dawned on me – I could unlock the door. Door locks aren’t based on the engine purring. DUH! In an instant, panic fled and was replaced with embarrassment. I felt foolish. Jody asked again why I had called him. I made up some excuse – I don’t remember what I said. I hated to break the news to him that he was married to a ding-dong, although I am quite confident he already knew that. I quickly unlocked the door, retrieved my keys, wiped away my tears, and went inside to work … with my heart still racing.
Fear - how do you turn a relatively smart gal into a CRAZY LADY?
This is a silly story, I know. But fear is real. And fear can affect every part of your life. It can be a powerful force that negatively impacts you, and for the purpose of today’s post, your marriage. The way we react to, or from personal experience, over react to our spouse, may be because of deep rooted fear. Keep reading as I explore this possibility further. I think there may be a truth here that will speak to you, as it has to me.
Fear, the distressing emotion that is triggered during an imagined or actualized moment of evil, danger or pain, has been well studied in humans. Researchers have found that the amygdala is the part of the brain that is most active during moments of fear. Your amygdala is made up of two small bean shaped parts housed in your midbrain, specifically in the limbic center in your temporal lobe and right by your hippocampus, the virtual “save” button in your brain. It is also in close proximity to the endocrine/autonomic response centers as well. The amygdala is responsible for many cognitive processes, like making decisions and processing information. It is also a key player in our emotional responsiveness. When the emotional center is engaged it trumps the cognitive processing, thus making it harder to draw reasonable conclusions when you are frightened. So, you could say that our conditioned responses to stimuli that produce fear lives here in the inner most part of our brain. When the amygdala is activated, it can send signals to the adrenal gland to produce large amounts of energy directed toward fight, or in my case, flight! The adrenal gland is convinced it is saving your life from impending danger. An overactive amygdala can produce debilitating conditions like post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders. Much research has been done by mental health professionals about how to control our reaction to fear through behavioral conditioning and medications. For the record, if I had to work in a coal mine or make my living spelunking in caves, I would need to partake in both 😊. But since my claustrophobia is avoidable without too much disruption to my life, I rock on.
I believe fear plays a role in the dysfunction in many marriages. Deep inside each one of us there is a need for attachment. We need this attachment to thrive and basically survive. There is a study that was conducted in 1944 on two groups of orphan infants. One group had all their needs met by loving caregivers, and the other group had all their needs met, but with no physical touching, eye contact or human attachment. Much to the surprise of the people conducting the research, the unconnected children began dying. There was no apparent medical reason. They quickly gave up on the study and tried to rescue the babies, but too much time had passed and a few more passed away as well. The need for human connection is innate. And because of this, we are all afraid of being deserted or abandoned. The need to be attached to another human is powerful, and when we feel rejected, it turns us into crazy people fighting to hang on. This need for connection is a part of God’s design. God created us for community and fellowship. He put this need for attachment inside each one of us, starting with Adam. This is obvious in Genesis when God looks at Adam and says, “It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).” All us women believe that God knew Adam couldn’t pick up his own socks or put his own coffee cup in the dishwasher after use, so he created Eve. Funny, but not true. What God did was to make a woman “as a helper fit for him.” When God created man, he stated that He created him in OUR OWN IMAGE (Genesis 1:26). The “our” being God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He looked inside man’s soul and knew he would be lonely and would have need of a helper. So, God created Eve. Adam was created with the need for attachment, and God provided the perfect solution. He created Eve – Adam’s better half! This is why the connection when we marry is so powerful. With the presence of God in our marriage, we are three in one. In the image of God, our marriage relationship is complete. Our lives snap into focus! That is why a satisfying relationship can complete us and empower us to climb mountains or swim across deep seas. It is also why when we feel that this attachment is threatened, we can go a “little nuts” on our spouse. In the midst of an argument, we sometimes fear that the relationship may be ending and leaving us all alone. We panic! The amygdala, if it has been trained to equate arguments with separation, will immediately pull out that card and play it. If the adrenal gland gets involved, you will want to FIGHT or FLEE! And a simple disagreement over a minor issue grows into a mountain that divides you and your spouse. When I hear couples talk about a “silly” fight that turned into a contemplation of divorce, I immediately know the amygdala has been hard at work. So how do we combat both the fear of losing our primary attachment, our spouse, and the fear of being alone?
We must remind ourselves of God’s truth and plant our feet firmly on the foundation He laid out for us in His word!
1) YOU ARE NOT ALONE: If you believe in God and have made him the King of your heart, the Lord of your life and the Savior of your soul, you will never be alone (Isaiah 43:1; John 15:9-10). As a believer, you always have God’s spirit living inside you. You also have Jesus sitting on the right side of the Father petitioning for you. So, you are also never far from the throne room of God – your ultimate parent. So when Satan whispers in your ear, “you are soon to be all alone,” remind yourself of these truths. If your past was filled with loneliness, and this is your greatest fear, write these verses on cards and place them strategically in your house, car, purse, etc. Commit them to memory. To ease that panic, say them out loud if the fight between you and your husband heats up. Do not fight back out of fear. Consider your status as an eternal Child of God and let the skirmish pass by beneath you. Nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31-39).
2) THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE: When fear is in your relationship, it is clear this relationship does not embody the love of Christ. This relationship needs redeeming (1 John 4:18). If you feel fear creeping in, call it out. Tell the devil that he is not welcome in your marriage! Perfect love, Jesus style, casts out all fear. To have Gospel-like love in your marriage, you must be willing to faithfully repent and forgive. For many of us, this is a daily occurrence. You are not given the right to hold a grudge. A grudge is bad for you and your marriage (Matthew 6:15). If you have a real concern with fear, and it is not imagined like my near death experience in my husband’s truck, seek professional help today! If there are angry outburst patterns or threats of violence in your relationship, you need to talk to someone. If you have ever been struck or harmed physically in anyway, it is time to leave. Pray for your spouse from a safe distance … miles away or in the next state. God made you to be a perfect helper, not a punching bag.
3) LIVE IN PEACE: When Jesus said He was leaving so that a Comforter (helper, advocator) could come, He knew that is what we would need (John 16:7). We all need the peace that the Holy Spirit living inside a believer brings. His presence is what quiets our insecurity and feelings of rejection. If you are a believer, do not try to walk through life like the world does. Live each day through the power of the Holy Spirit and know true peace (John 14:27). In this peaceful state, a disagreement can happen in your marriage, at work or with family/friends without rocking your world. The precious Holy Spirit will either gently nudge you to repent or give you the peace to endure and forgive.
4) RENEW YOUR WEDDING VOWS DAILY: Do not let fear or anxiety take up root in your heart or home. Daily pledge your love and devotion to your spouse. There is power for life and death in the tongue. Chose life and allay your spouse’s fear of abandonment (Proverbs 18:21). Read last week’s post, “SAY YES TO THE VOWS,” for an example! (https://wordwashedwife.com/blog/2018/4/11/say-yes-to-the-vows)
This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a starting place for further examination and prayerful reflection. Allow the truth of God’s Word to flood your heart and remove the fear of loss of attachment so that your marriage is not founded on shifting sand, but instead on the firm foundation promised to each believer. Grab your spouse’s hand and march forward confident that God who has begun a good work in you will continue until you are completely sanctified with Him in glory (Philippians 1:6)! Keep reading, friend!
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do no give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.