I have an irrational fear. I don’t know why. I don’t have some great story to go along with it that makes me the hit of the party. No scarring childhood memory. I’m just afraid. What am I afraid of? As ridiculous as it sounds…..trains.
Again, I don’t know why, I just get the chills and feel like something is going to jump me whenever I hear a train horn, or whenever one comes roaring around the corner. I think it might be a combination of all the noise, displaced air blown around, and awesome spectacle of thousands of pounds of steel and metal being powered down a skinny rail at 80mph with a tendency to stop slowly – if at all.
Something like that. But I’m scared of trains.
By now you’re probably thinking “big deal, everyone’s scared of something”. And that’s true. But the problem with trains for me, is its metastasized into something else. Into another fear altogether. Because, you see, I started noticing when I was hearing train horns – and it was almost always when one of two things was happening.
At first, it was mostly when I was feeling anxious or scared of something else, that I suddenly, almost uncannily would hear the far off lonely sound of a train horn. And it began to unnerve me. I would fall prey to my fear, almost as if the train had suddenly made it okay to start inwardly freaking out and embracing all my anxiety about whatever was troubling me before. As if some train horn had suddenly blasted its permission to stop trusting Jesus with my life and my problems, and to willingly jump ship to go flounder in the waves for a while till I found my sanity again.
But it got worse.
Soon the Enemy got it in his mind to start setting off train horns whenever I was experiencing something I loved, or whenever I was happy. And then, like a good little gullible fear molecule, at the sound of that horn my perspective would change, and I would look at what I loved, and I would fear losing it.
In the middle of my joy, I would all of a sudden be inwardly crippled with anxiety that what I had – who I had – would be taken from me.
And all because of a stupid train horn.
I’m ashamed to say I let this carry on for a while. I let my irrational – almost superstitious – fear grow and control me, till it was really quite pathetic how wrapped around the Enemy’s finger I was.
Until one night I heard it again.
It was a bad night for me. Emotionally, I was a mess – though if you know me, you know I have a problem with internalizing everything, so on the outside I probably looked like a stone cold sphinx, but on the inside I’m silently screaming and just trying to keep it all together till I’m in the safety of a dark corner in my room.
It was only a few days after my diagnosis with Lymphoma, and the night before I was to go in for surgery to install my port so they could begin chemotherapy. I remember we had just had a worship/prayer session with the friends that night, and my boyfriend was driving me home.
To be a little more specific, I remember the entire night I was struggling. I was struggling with feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, and quite honestly a sense of betrayal from God.
I didn’t get it, at the time. I felt like my life was finally getting on track for once, and I was so ready to jump up and just move for Jesus, until all of a sudden He decides to grand slam me with the words “you have cancer”. Everything in me was screaming at God, at myself, at my fractured dreams, at the cancer in my body, and at the very people who promised to be there for me through it all.
If you don’t mind the pun, I was a train wreck. A puddle of emotional insecurity cramped up inside the shell of a blank-faced Lindsey staring out the window.
And then I heard it. A train horn. At that exact moment when my fears were nearly crippling me, here comes my worst enemy with the finishing blow. Or so you would think…..
This time, however, it was different. This time – the sound I had come to so hate – instead of bringing fear and lies, brought a dose of cold hard truth.
I wasn’t trusting God.
I was “trusting” Him, but I wasn’t trusting Him. In other words, I had the staple “good-Christian-girl-read-your-bible-and-pray-God’s-gonna-use-this” routine down, instead of the “holy shit, what do I even have to worry about, freaking JESUS has got my life in His hands” version of trusting Him. And as that horn sounded, I was painfully reminded of all the other times I hadn’t trusted Him before. Of all those times I had so easily slipped into the Devil’s game and just started worrying about the silliest things, instead of embracing life with the foolhardy joy we are supposed to feel because quite literally we have nothing to worry about when Jesus is in the spotlight.
It may seem silly, that something as – dare I say – “childish” like a train horn could bring on such an epiphany for me, but in that moment of extreme vulnerability, Jesus chose to use one of my fears – something hardly anyone knows about – and to turn into a special promise just from Him.
A promise that He’s got this. That He’s got me.
I don’t know about you, but I think something as loud as a train horn might be a good loudspeaker for a promise from a God who can’t lie. I know I heard Him – at least that once.
And what about my irrational fear now? Have I conquered it?
Yes, and no.
I still fear trains, and I still get a wake-up call whenever I hear its horn. But now its different. Now I fear why I’m hearing it – though “fear” might be the wrong word. Now I’m….”aware.”
Now, whenever I hear that old lonely train horn in the distance, its more of a reminder from Jesus. A poke to wake up and ask myself if I’m aimlessly worrying, or faithfully trusting.
And for those times when I hear a horn in my joy? Well…..sometimes I think Jesus just likes to brag.