The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
~ Nelson Mandela
I am – quite understandably – afraid of my abuser. I have reason to be. After he hit me and threatened to kill me I suppose I’d be crazy not to fear. I’ve been told by multiple people that fear is a healthy reaction to the danger I’ve experienced. I understand this. I also understand that the extent of my numbness during his assaults was an indication of how terrible the emotional and psychological abuse he’d put me through actually was. Though I was afraid while he was screaming and throwing things, and though I felt fear while he was battering me and threatening me, and though I felt total revulsion during his sexual assaults, it was mild in comparison to the strength of the horror I feel when remembering those episodes. Escaping the situation and having distance from it has allowed for some healing, which has made me more able to understand my feelings and to truly experience the fear – fear for my physical and emotional safety, fear for my children, and fear for my life. Like anger, fear can be a powerful motivator. It can enable you to protect yourself. It certainly had that effect for me! But if we give fear free-reign over our lives, it becomes debilitating.
Let me describe the situation I’m currently in. Next Tuesday, I will have to sit in a courtroom and face my abuser. He and his lawyer will no doubt do everything they can to discredit me, to make me look like a liar, and to cause me pain. I dread this upcoming emotional abuse more than I can express. I am – admittedly – afraid of what’s going to happen. Yesterday, the dread was so strong that it was almost like a living creature inside my body. I felt as if there was something inside me, tearing at me, trying to break free. I was in a state of near-panic. I tried to pray but I couldn’t concentrate. I tried burying myself in other tasks but the fear kept bleeding through. Finally, last night at around 10, I received an email from my new love, in response to some comments expressing my anxiety that I had sent him earlier in the day. His first words were, “Breathe, Honey, it’ll be okay.” So I took a deep breath, and then another, and in slowing down to feel the air move into and out of my body, I was able to reconnect with my inmost calm. I was able to pray, and I was reminded of Revelation 1:17, which says in part, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”
There is such power in those words. Think of it. “The First and the Last.” He was there in the beginning. He will be there in the end. Everything that happens in between can be endured so much more easily when remembering those two points. God was with me when I was formed – he has been with me all my life. Even during the abuse, he was there, offering his comfort, bringing into my life people who helped me to understand my danger and conquer my apathy so that I could escape. He will be with me the day I die, no matter what the circumstances, and he will welcome me home when it is time for that journey. And most importantly right now, he will be with me in the courtroom on Tuesday when I face my abuser.
Why should I continue to fear? I don’t have to fight this battle alone. God is with me – and he has sent me supporters, a lover, and friends to shore me up. Yes, I have reason to be afraid of the man who hurt me and threatened my life. A certain amount of alarm is healthy and normal. But I will not allow it to debilitate me, to paralyze me, to keep me from telling the truth. I will not allow fear to rule me, to tyrannize over me the way my abuser did. I will not be defeated; I will conquer my fear. No matter what the outcome on Tuesday, I will be the victor, for my battle is against fear, and I will have overcome it.