Five Children Screaming in a Lake, and the Nature of Fear

The five children screamed, then, as they plunged beneath the surface of the lake, they closed their mouths just in time to keep the water from rushing in. Suddenly it was as if they had never been there, and the tiny waves lapped up against the stone wall that held the bank at bay, and the surrounding tree-covered hills peeked over my shoulder, and I felt the sound of weightless bugs making tiny v-shapes across the water’s skin.

Then an eruption: five children boiling to the surface, laughter splitting their sides, and all creation breathed again, a sigh of relief. Silence carries a particular heaviness, immeasurable.

The recently emerged children sputtered and wiped the water from their eyes. They shivered and laughed, giddy with wondering where the next monster would appear. My son, nine years old and looking adventurous, pointed to the far bank and screamed. The other four children imitated his pretend terror, and the five of them sank again. Again silence rushed into the space they left behind. The sound of wind through the trees. The distant rumble of thunder.

* * * * *

We are so often propelled by fear. Of not having the right stuff. Of not being able to replace our stuff if we lost it. Of falling behind on the timeline of a “normal” life. Of straying from the responsible path. Of death.

Don’t misunderstand me – sometimes fear is a gift. Sometimes it alerts us to things that must be addressed, patterns that must be reversed, things that should be avoided.

But often the things that scare us are imaginary monsters, roaring from across the lake.

* * * * *

There is wisdom in the play of children. These five children knew, so far as pretend monsters are concerned, that escape does not require running – it’s much simpler than that.

Sometimes all you have to do is close your eyes and ears to it.

* * * * *

What imaginary monsters do you pay too much attention to?

9 Replies to “Five Children Screaming in a Lake, and the Nature of Fear”

  1. I learn so much from my children’s approach to life. The way they seek and find adventure is inspiring. Me? I am often more fearful than I want to be. I fake it well, though. My fear doesn’t lead to inaction, just to swirling thoughts of self-doubt in my brain. The main imaginary monster for me is made up of the “what if” thoughts of how I am perceived and whether I am liked.

    I have been finding rest for my questioning soul in Psalm 27. The Lord is my light, whom shall I fear? Even when I am not confident in other things, I can be confident that I will see the goodness of God.

    1. “The main imaginary monster for me is made up of the “what if” thoughts of how I am perceived and whether I am liked.” That can be a tough one to close our eyes to.

  2. There is definitely a time and place to close your eyes to fear! Some days I count my son’s seizures with the Count’s voice from Sesame Street. I think humor is part of choosing to look away from fear and gosh darn it, it’s healthy (even if people do think I’m bonkers.) It’s certainly not an imaginary monster but one that doesn’t deserve to be fed our fear all of the time.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. That fear imagination is something I’m not yet at a point of knowing: as it relates to kids. But I understand what it means as we concern ourselves with those we love: being still quite a newlywed.

    My wife has shown me something powerful: intuition. She had a terrifying notion of losing her mom before she died. And then it happened. This changed how I look at things a little bit. I’ve been known to have proclivity towards the prophetic (simply hearing the Lord’s heart for people and sometimes sharing it). I’ve also next to never had much of a premonition on what would be happening next. It’s scary. But it has happened. I’m more curious if others have witnessed such things – especially from their wives.

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