- Wednesday, June 29, 2005
On a college missions trip to Santiago, Chile, I encountered fear. Our team of three girls stayed with Sandy and Kathy, two short-term missionary teachers who spoke only scraps of Spanish. Sandy chauffeured our fivesome around Santiago in her unreliable car, Puff the Tragic Wagon. On a day off from school, we decided to expand our touristic horizons, so we piled into Puff and headed to the coastal city of Vina del Mar. Halfway to our destination, Puff started limping. We pulled off to the side of the desolate road, changed the tire, and continued on our way. Puff apparently felt the need to defend her reputation that day, so not far down the road, she started limping again. We pulled over only to discover that the spare tire didn’t like its new assignment. We were stuck. Five English-speaking girls, a disabled vehicle, a Chilean countryside, and no cell phone created lots of problems and few solutions.
I was afraid. We were desperate. When a Spanish-speaking stranger pulled over, we cheered with a fair amount of fear. Since we were helpless without him, we took deep breaths, prayed hard, and climbed into his car. I tried not to think about where he was taking us or what my parents would say if they knew where I was. Catching the fearful eyes of my friends, I hoped with them that he was a Good Samaritan and not an ax murderer. We exhaled in silent relief when we reached a phone several miles down the road.
Sandy and Kathy vaguely remembered that there was a missionary man in Vina del Mar. After some mental gymnastics, they came up with a name, tracked down a phone number, and dialed in desperation. I’m sure Arnie Smith was a busy man with a full schedule, but he was also the father of daughters. It took him only an instant to hear the fear in our voices. He dropped everything and became our dad for the day. When the phone rested back in the receiver, it took my fear with it. Arnie Smith was bigger than our problem. He would take care of it.
The world is a scary place. Every age and stage of life has its unique sources of fear. When I was a child, after I saw the TV Waltons’ house burn down, I was sure ours was next. Creaks in the hall came from burglars sneaking toward my bedroom. Pain in my leg meant cancer and inevitable amputation. Headaches could only be from a brain tumor. A late night or early morning phone call carried bad news. A stomachache signaled pregnancy (these fears disappeared after I learned the truth about the pregnancy process!). A delayed parent picking me up was certainly a fatal car crash.
Some of these fears evaporated with experience and knowledge, but others have persisted into adulthood. Phone calls during off hours still start the adrenaline rush. Recurring aches and pains still make me vacillate between calling the doctor or not. Expected arrival times gone awry still make me fear the worst. To these childhood fears, I’ve added a whole new set of adult fears. The health of my parents, the salvation of my relatives, the condition of the economy, the global threat of terrorism, and the rise of local violence all regularly attack my peace of mind.
Then in their own little category are the fears I credit to singleness. They are not knee-knocking, palm-sweating fears like some. Instead they usually persist as a dull dread in the pit of my stomach. I’m afraid of always being alone in a crowd of couples. I’m afraid of continued rejection by someone I want to meet at the end of the aisle. I’m afraid of turning down a really wonderful guy who thinks I paint the sunset. I’m afraid of doing my taxes, tending my car, and planning my retirement by myself. I’m afraid of close friends moving on or moving away, leaving me to replace them--again. In a sentence, I’m afraid I’ll never get married.
Since the break-up between God and man in the Garden, fear has lived in the human heart and has ravaged the human mind. One of Satan’s key weapons, fear distorts perspective and threatens contentment. The message of the Bible, however, is that fear doesn’t have to take over my thoughts and control my actions. By faith, obstacles can become opportunities to do the right thing and invitations to see God.
By Wendy Widder, featured on "FamilyLife Today" and author of "Living Whole without a Better Half" (Kregel Publications, 2003).
The wearer of six bridesmaid dresses, Wendy Widder knows the single life. She also knows the church after spending a lifetime there in both volunteer and paid positions. She believes more than ever that the two go together. Wendy is a graduate of Cedarville University and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and she is currently working on a doctorate in Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is the author of "Living Whole Without a Better Half" and "A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After."
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