Facing Fear

His voice reached out from underneath the quilted airplanes, down the night-lit hall to find my ears. "Where are you Mommy? I need you! Maaaahmeeee!"
I found his clammy palms just as the third "Mommy" escaped his lips.

"I had a bad dream."

"It's okay. I'm here. You're okay Bud."

But he needed to tell me more.
"I was at C's house, and the cat got me. It got my eye with its claws. And I didn't have an eye, and I couldn't see."

"It's okay, Hon. It wasn't real."

"But I'm still scared. I can't stop my mind from thinking about the cat."

"Well, let's dream something happy. Like, maybe you are skiing super fast and you win an Olympic medal!"

"No, Mom. I am going to do the cat dream over again. Don't leave me until I'm asleep?"

The radiator kept time in hisses and clanks, and a minute creaked by.

"I did it Mom! I re-dreamed it, and this time, the cat didn't get me. I made him be nice in my dream and we watched cartoons and I petted him."

I could feel the curl of his smile on his cheek as I kissed him, called him brave, encircled him in my arms. Once his breathing grew deeper, patterned, I stole quietly back to bed.

But I couldn't sleep.

In all my years, I barely had the courage to dream, let alone to re-dream. When a dream turned to a nightmare, I abandoned it in search of an entirely new scene. I seldom returned to the fork in the road to try the other way, to live like a choose-your-own-adventure book, to write a new ending to the same story. Instead, I ran with all my might away. I started a new story and titled the old one sour grapes.

And yet my five year old, unprompted, looked his nightmare in the eyes and demanded a do over. He tamed the cat, restored his vision, and overcame fear, his bravery fueled perhaps by the safety of his mother's arms.

I thought of the only instance when I re-dreamed, when I dared to try again after my hopes were crushed and my heart broken. And I owe my marriage, this precious family, to that second (third, really) attempt at a dream.

Was the lesson this simple? That good things often come to those who are brave enough to try again? To those who are willing to go back to the beginning, to head straight toward the point of fear, to face it? And I wondered too, whether it wasn't just about being brave, but about being mindful of Who stays awake beside us as we try again, as we face the old fear.

I turned and closed my eyes, knowing it was simple, knowing it almost always is. And I drifted to sleep, knowing it's still difficult, knowing it almost always is.

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." - Rom. 8:15


Is there something you need to try again, a dream you need to do-over? Do you consider yourself a re-dreamer, or is your natural instinct to run away and start a new story?

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