I was out of the house for a while one day not too long ago, and when I came back, the kids were very excited to tell me how our 10-pound Shih Tzus, Samson and Delilah, scared off wild turkeys in our yard. Apparently, they howled and howled, diligently assuming their roles as our protectors, and when the turkeys returned a second time, the kids took Samson and Delilah out again so they could give those birds another talking-to.
I thought a lot about how my pups are really not any different in size than these feathered impostors in our yard. And how in that moment of angst, Samson and Delilah took their job seriously, no matter the cost. Yes, they bark at butterflies. They also bark at the black bear that visits our neighborhood each spring and fall. It really doesn’t matter the perceived foe—big or small—they’re at the ready to scare intruders off, tiny Shih Tzu teeth and all.
And isn’t that really what hypervigilance is? Don’t we all get that way sometimes? With some of the anxiety struggles in one of my children this past year, I have remained in a constant state of “watch,” not being able (or willing) to let down my guard. I think at the root of it is a trust issue. I wrongly believe that the minute I take a deep breath and sigh, all of the balls I think I am holding up in the air will crash down on our heads and shatter, never to be repaired. But, isn’t that really arrogant in a way? Do I really even hold them up? When I look in a mirror reflecting back, I see them up there, but it’s not my hand keeping them spinning in the air. It’s an invisible, mighty one attached to my Father in heaven.
— Bonnie Lyn Smith (@BonnieLynSmith) November 8, 2015
And, the truth is: I have had to scare turkeys this year. There have been wild flocks coming into my life pecking at what doesn’t belong to them. There have been bullies (in adult form), anxiety, depression, toxic people, gossip, malice, slander, you name it! Things have been taken, or attacked, that were mine. And then beyond our own home were dear ones struggling through job loss, affliction, mental illness, death, disease, injury, personal loss of other kinds.
Sound familiar? It’s the world outside of the Garden of Eden—
—And we all live in it.
So, it’s easy to see why we get catastrophic in our thinking after a while. After a year (or even a few weeks) of one thing after another slamming up against us, we don’t live just “at the ready.” We live at Disaster Preparedness Level 10.
And that’s where I was sitting when I went in to see my son’s therapist to check in, only to have her tell me I was readying for a war that isn’t really even on the horizon. And while I wasn’t suited up sitting in a tank, I was definitely eyeing the property line for more turkeys. She more or less told me I could relax my shoulders now. It’s not all up to me. The turkeys aren’t there right now. At ease, Bonnie. At ease.
Say what now? It’s not all up to me?
That was such a huge relief.
I cried for days after that.
Because she was right.
If the Time of Great Sadness comes back into our house again, God will be with me just as much as He was then. Like Samson and Delilah, I will naturally kick into protective mode, but I don’t have to live there all of the time. I can enjoy the in-between moments and live. My Shih Tzus bound around fighting over a rubber alligator and see how many different ways they can jump on my couch when I’m not looking—and practice quick jump-aways for when I am.
The turkeys aren’t actively hanging out in our yard right now. They’re probably a few streets over taking their good ole time crossing a road in rush hour traffic—just because they can. Samson and Delilah aren’t staring out the window in expectation of them. They only scare them off when the need arises.
When anxiety strikes and we can’t let go, we need to know we don’t have to walk around scaring off turkeys. They will find us; they always do, eventually, and if we’re prayerful and consulting with our Father in heaven, we’ll know how to scare them into retreat when they do. But not everything is a wild turkey.
And there’s so much living to do in-between the times the turkeys visit. Catastrophic thinking steals our joy, drains us of the energy we need when it is time to protect, and cheats us of the peace of looking up into the very capable eyes and arms of the loving Peace Giver.
Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah the Prophet speaking
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
John 14:27, Jesus speaking
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— Bonnie Lyn Smith (@BonnieLynSmith) November 8, 2015
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More anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).