When the damage from the past is incomprehensible, the byproduct is that our own behavior becomes such. We can’t control our self-destructive behavior because the fuel for that fire, the catalyst for it, is shrouded. I do a lot of weird shit because of what happened to me. I find myself saying things, or assuming things, or doing things that make no sense. I assess my choices and see that my assumptions, beliefs and instincts are utterly deformed, perverted by my history. I think in the moment that I am acting reasonably, but if the outcome of my behavior is destructive to myself, others, or to the planet, then I am mistaken. So how can I actually control myself?
I self-manage by facing the evil master of my life, which is my case is fear. The more intimate I am with my fear, the more actual authority I have over my behavior.
I experienced nightly abject terror. My childhood response to that terror was to shelve it for later. The terror remained, Zip-locked, for me to take care of later. I would not have survived my childhood had I not made that choice nor was I in a position for most of my adult life to elect to know what I now know.
I am prey, not predator; every single choice I make is based on that assumption. Living in Africa has shown me the behavior of prey animals. They are hyper-vigilant. Prey animals start at the slightest movement from their environment; they are always, unless dead asleep, prepared to run. Somewhere near a grazing herd, prey animals assume there is a hungry carnivore that they cannot out-fight.
Replying to terror, I ran. I lived in the past and in the future because I believed that the predator who did indeed wait for me every night in childhood still lurked hungrily. Instead, I ran to the predator by running to the past and the future. Historic predators cannot exist in the present, but God does, and so do I. When I flee from fear, not from an actual person, I abandon myself. The enemy is not here anymore. Yet I’m still saying that I’m incapable of standing up to her. That was true. I could not protect myself when I was 3, or 8, or even 12. It’s different now.
I thought I was alone. But I am not alone. No one is alone. People offer comfort to those who suffer, but comfort is not all that’s needed. God sheds power (and comfort). No matter the magnitude of the assault, God and I can stand unwavering, God and I can remain utterly unmoved because the two of us stand in eternity.
If your life feels scary, let the horror flood your heart. Let it come. The momentum of fear – I know it. I clench my fists, legs, stomach, and arms, even my toes are rigid. But I do not run. In the grip of terror, I choose me, here where God is, where the one who hurt me is not. It’s a blind event each time. I don’t know where I am going when the terror starts, nor do I know how it will manifest emotionally and physically, but I let it hit me full on until it ends on its own. Your experience will be different, but God will not be different. God will be with you, and your enemy will not be there, only the shadow, the fear that your enemy left behind.
Safety for herd animals is not safety for human beings. We are nearly omnipotent because we tailgate on God’s skills. Show up for fear or rage or grief. The byproduct of those moments is strength, authority, power, and dignity. To control seemingly impossible self-destructive behavior, choose to stand firm and face your evil master: be it fear, rage, evil thoughts, deep shame, or self-hatred. Whatever its name, turn, and face that demon, face it every single time it attacks you and you’ll see that it is actually not your master, because you are a royal child in God’s household. Every knee must bow to you and to God who stands with you.