Fear Factor

[BY CARA BAKER]

[Wednesday, Jan. 30]

I just heard from my best friend back home in Nashville. Two nights ago she was walking from her car in the parking lot toward her apartment door when a man confronted her and jammed a sawed-off shotgun in her stomach. He demanded her purse. In shock, she spoke calmly with him trying to talk him out of it. He shoved her, grabbed it and ran. A day and a half later, shock and fear has turned into anger over lost cash, cell phone and credit cards and the kicker for her: expensive make-up.

I hang up the phone on the end table and a framed picture of my grandmother holding my baby cousin catches my eye. It’s a black and white shot I developed and printed. It’s my favorite of my grandmother. It was taken late afternoon in her living room as she sat in front of the window. The light softly illuminates and contrasts the baby’s plump curves and my grandmother’s soft, wrinkly skin.

Each one of those wrinkles tells a different story of her 70-years-plus life. At age 16, she married her sweetheart. A year later as she became pregnant, her husband kissed her goodbye to join World War II in the South Pacific. Three long years later, he returned and met my mother for the first time. No doubt during those three years, my grandmother spent more than a little time on her knees.

She has stayed on her knees through five children and 50 years of pastoring with my grandfather in East Tennessee. Needless to say, this woman knows a thing or two about prayer.

I called her last Friday night and she told me about how she prays for me every night, commanding angels to protect me as I come and go in my apartment. No doubt, her mind goes back to those years she spent alone near my age, full of anxiety with no guarantees of a happy tomorrow.

As we talked, I realized that the entire time I’ve lived alone, I’ve never once been afraid or nervous. I thanked her for her prayers. Now I think of my friend Sandy and how easy it would be for me to allow fear to paralyze my daily schedule, worried about the possibility of becoming a victim myself.

[Thursday, Jan. 31]

Mom called tonight. She said my grandmother told her the other week: "God has a purpose for Cara in Florida." If anybody knows, she does. I think of Sandy again. If God has a plan for me, then surely He wouldn’t allow anything to hurt me.

But then again, Divine protection doesn’t mean I’m above being touched by this world. Case in point: This is the fourth day I’ve been sick with a virus I’ve never had before. I’m writing with a flushed face of 101 degrees and sore neck with swollen glands. I haven’t had a full night’s rest in a week.

I live in a fallen world, full of sin, which leads to sickness, disease, violence and death. For the universe to exist as we know it, these must exist. For this reason, I must have a powerful prayer life. Our only hope in this world is our communication and connection with the Divine. We’re powerless in the physical and spiritual realm without it.

[Friday, Feb. 1]

I paced the floor for a while last night, talking to God. Giving Him thanks for my friend Sandy being okay, for His protection over me, and for the example my grandmother has set for me. I thought about Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was a powerful prophet in the Old Testament and Elisha traveled with him as his apprentice, of sorts. When Elijah was about to pass into the next world – literally, the guy was taken up in a whirlwind – he asked Elisha what he could do for him before he was gone. Wisely, Elisha asked for a "double portion" of the spirit Elijah had (2 Kings 2:9).

As I prayed, that’s what I asked the Lord for: A double portion of His spirit that I see in my grandmother. She’s one of the most powerful spiritual women I know. I want to be in touch with God like that. I also asked the Lord to touch my body and at least allow me some rest for work the next day.

Eight hours later, I woke up thinking it was probably 2 or 3 a.m. as usual. Time for more aspirin. But it was 8 a.m. I had slept the night through and felt rested. I smiled and said "thank you." Prayer does work. Small victories will lead to big victories.

[Saturday, Feb. 2]

Tonight as I came home from the grocery store, I saw two twentysomething guys hanging out near my apartment who I’ve never seen before. I parked my car as they walked off and started taking my groceries out. I looked up to see they had turned around and were now walking toward me.

"Crap. What do they want," I thought. The darker-skinned guy started talking about this great trip to Europe he wants to go on and how many magazines he has to sell in order to do it. The light-skinned guy just stood there with a smirk on his face looking bored and disinterested. With the weight of the groceries in my plastic bags cutting into my forearms, I told them I wouldn’t be able to help them for about the fourth time.

"I paid for my own trip to Europe," I told them and walked off toward my apartment stairs. (I actually didn’t pay for my trip to Europe in high school, but did use the money allocated for a car down payment from my parents for it.) I didn’t want them to see where I lived, so I walked slowly up the stairs enough and watched to see when they were out of site, and then went into the apartment. I set the groceries down and wrote a physical description of the guys on a notepad by the dish drainer.

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I felt half paranoid, half smart for doing it. (I remembered Sandy said the guy who robbed her was hanging out in her parking lot earlier that day.) I didn’t call the complex managers because I was in a hurry to meet some friends for dinner. I also realized the chances of ever seeing those guys again was slim. I just don’t want to be careless. But I also don’t want to allow fear to affect my life.

[Sunday, Feb. 3]

I love God so much at times. I love the fact that He cares so much for us that He can speak the exact word we need to hear right when we need it. This morning during Bible study, the Scripture text the teacher used jumped right in my face.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul’s talking to the church in Corinth, which directly applies to us as believers, reminds us that we are in Christ, and everything that He owns and has power over, we do too. He lists the world, life, death, things present and things to come. "All are yours," he says, because we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.

If I can ever truly grasp what that means, I would never entertain anything rooted in fear. Earlier in that chapter, verse 16 says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"

So I actually don’t live alone. I have the Spirit of God in me–a double portion of it in fact. The power that’s in me is greater than any evil in the world. So from those calculations, the only thing I fear are those giant cockroaches lurking in the dark, hidden places in my apartment.

Then again, I’ve seen my grandmother pop a beetle’s head off with her thumbnail as she breaks green beans, and hack a poisonous snake in four pieces with a hoe.

I think I’ll stick with Raid.

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