We parked the car along side the railroad tracks and started walking towards them. I glanced at my phone to double check the directions my friend graciously took time to give us. The directions said we were to follow the tracks for a half mile until we get to a path on the right. I was looking forward to going on this hike since I first heard of this hidden piece of paradise. The approximately 3 mile hike leads right to ponds with water as blue as the Caribbean right here in our backyard in NJ.
As soon as my feet hit the wooden railroad tracks I was met with anxiety. My old friend “What If” stopped by to tag along on our adventure. What if a train comes? What if my son trips and falls? What if wild dogs attack our sweet Sadie pup?What if I have a heart attack in the middle of nowhere? (Disclaimer: I have a diagnosed cardiac issue so this is an ongoing thought I unfortunately have.)
Fear is a joy thief and something I have dealt with for almost my entire life. Riddled with fear I ran down the stairs in my New Kids on The Block pajamas and called 911 when I was in third grade to announce that I was dying. Irritability goes hand in hand with anxiety and soon I found myself snapping at my husband and son. I immediately turned my attention towards Jesus and one particular song lyric started playing on repeat in my head. “I’m no longer a slave to fear-I am a child of God.” As quickly as the blinding cloud came over me it was lifted. That is where I was met with a hard pill to swallow.
I commented on how the twisted vines and trees that laid among the brick ruins of the old mill town looked to me like a fairytale. “More like a nightmare,” my son replied. That was followed by a thousand of his own “What If’s.” What if Sadie gets a tick? What if I get a tick? What if we get lost? Are you sure this is the way? Will I get a disease? Will Sadie get a disease because there is poop on the ground? I was so wrapped up in my own mind I was oblivious to the fact that my child was wrestling his own demons right in front of my face. I could almost see him wrestling on the ground like Jacob did with God. One part of him wanted to trust God and continue on our adventure and the other part of him was paralyzed in fear. We knew he struggled with anxiety for a little while but now it was crystal clear in my face.
I’m not going to lie, my unfortunate and immediate reaction was to tell him to knock it off and he was being dramatic. That is when I felt God whisper in my ear that He is patient with me in my time of fear and doubt and I should extend that same grace to my son. Punch to the gut this reality was. I held my boy in my arms as he sobbed and said he didn’t want to live in fear anymore. We looked down and we were met right there at the cross. Well more like two pieces of wood arranged like a cross but to us it was a sign. In our most vulnerable time in those woods we were not alone. We were reminded to leave our fear at the cross.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
The rest of the hike we talked about fear, anxiety, and God. My husband and I prayed for him and he prayed too. We explained that this is something he may need to wrestle with his entire life, or maybe just this season, but it would be a fight he never had to fight alone.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NLT
We made it to our destination and it was even more beautiful than I could have imagined. Crystal blue and green waters surrounded by soft sandy beaches, a paradise. Being slaves to fear would mean missing all of the wonders God has given us. What helps you when you are afraid? What is your favorite scripture verse to help you through those times?