C: Fear Itself
We’ve lived a long time in the woods—or at least near to the woods. The forest comes up close to my house on two sides and from there stretches miles back over hills interrupted only with dottings of civilization. Hearing the night forest sounds when the weather allows open windows is one of my favorite things about living out here.
One of the sounds I love is that of the whippoorwill bird, who sings only at night. For those of you who live out of his range, you can hear one at this site. Scroll down to the section on “call” where you will find a recording.
Normally I hear the whippoorwill from the darkness of the forest. Lately, however, I have had one calling on my back utility porch. His song is loud and from so close fills my den. That porch is the point of my home which is nearest to the woods, the steps being but maybe 50 feet to the thick trees. Hearing him so close made me think about the whippoorwill’s impact on my son.
When my son was born we lived even more-surrounded by woods than now. The whippoorwills were common out there and sang to us. Oddly enough, my son developed a fear of the whippoorwill. My husband was largely at fault.
One night as he was tucking our nearly-four-year-old into the bed, Son asked about the sound coming from the woods. “That’s the whippoorwill,” his father said. “He only comes out at night.”
“Don’t worry, Son,” Dad soothed. “I bet Molly (our cat) goes to visit the whippoorwill when she’s outside. You know how she likes to be out at night, too.” Son relaxed. And then Dad, unable to leave well enough alone, messed up…bad.
“So long as you hear the whippoorwill you don’t have a thing to worry about…” (could he have stopped here? Nope, he was too wound up). “In fact, it’s when you don’t hear him that you should be worried.”
Well, as you know, the whippoorwill calls a lot at night but not all the time! The minute it stopped that night, Son was running to our bed. “Dad! I can’t hear the Whippoorwill!!”
It took us weeks to calm him out of this fear.
And that reminds me of another time, after we had moved to the city. Dad struck again. He was tucking Son into bed and praying for him as was his custom. This time he added a little: “And, Lord, please protect us through the night.”
Son sat up straight in the bed. “From what?”
He wanted to know exactly what disaster was coming down the pike from which Dad was seeking divine protection. This necessitated a two-parent discussion of the generality (not always the specificity) of God’s protection. It took a while to calm Son down and convince him that Dad did not know of some impending danger.
Many, I think...perhaps when I feel fear of “unknown,” of moving from my comfort zone, I should recall the whippoorwill, his reassuring call and the generality of God’s protection. My little utility-porch buddy has been a good reminder and a great encouragement.