Every morning, my kids know their cue to be quiet is when I take my cup of coffee to the dining room table and flip open my computer to catch up on headline news. I set my cell phone on a five minute timer as they quietly eat their eggs and cereal so we can all enjoy a few minutes of silence. They are not to interrupt mommy ’till the timer goes off. Well, today I was so sickened by the first three headlines that scrolled through my news feed, I just slammed my computer shut and went on with my morning. Here are a few headlines making today’s news:
“6-YEAR OLD BOY BUYING BUBBLEGUM KILLED IN DRIVE-BY”
“TOYS R US ‘BREAKS BAD’ WITH NEW CRYSTAL METH TOYS”
“HOW TO LOSE 11 POUNDS in 4 DAYS…AND KEEP IT OFF FOR THE HOLIDAYS”
Now, I’m a news junkie. I used to be a television news reporter. I even worked for a newspaper at one point. My husband makes a living working in the local news business. I understand the media machine and the unique pressures reporters face every day to collect stories people will want to consume. I respect that. But lately I’m alarmed that headlines screaming on the news today teach us what we’re supposed to be afraid of. And it’s all communicated under the guise of “we’re just trying to keep you safe.” Are you really? Or are you just trying to feed my fears to drive up your ratings? I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of being afraid.
I can’t even take my kid to the park without thinking, “I better check for dirty needles under the park benches.” I’m suspicious of everything. Is my child’s newfangled, insanely overpriced, impossible-to-install car seat gonna be recalled? What about toy choking hazards? Clothing hazards? A dear friend bought my daughter a pair of darling sandals just like the one pictured here. Three weeks ago, I discovered these Koala sandals sold by Toys R Us were recalled because the butterflies can rip and detach and pose a choking hazard to children. Really? What’s safe anymore? Apparently Toys R Us received a report from a consumer who found a piece of the shoe’s butterfly wings in their child’s mouth. No injuries were reported but the company recommended that “consumers should immediately take the recalled sandals away from young children and return them for a full refund.”
It’s exhausting to live in fear. That’s not what I want for my life. It’s not what I want for my kids. I don’t want to live as though I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ll be straight up with you: seven months ago, I had such high anxiety, I felt myself go numb during the day and unable to sleep at night. I tried to pray my anxiety away and read God’s word voraciously into the wee hours of the morning…but the undercurrent of fear colored my thoughts so much, I couldn’t stop this running ticker-tape of panic-inducing, nervous energy. So I called my doctor and he put me on anti-anxiety meds. It helped steady my thoughts, get a grip on my inability to sleep (until I adopted a baby girl who also has issues with sleep!) and allowed me to see things as they really are.
Through it all, the Bible’s been a welcome companion. I must have underlined the phrase “fear not” at least eighty times. Why would God have to remind humankind all throughout history to not be afraid? Because He knows we’re susceptible to giving into worry when we’re weak. And because we’re people, we are weak. But we can also be strong. And sometimes we can be weak and strong at the same time. We can also be afraid and exercise courage at the same time, too. And not just accept that we’re stuck in this culture of fear that’s been created.