Three weeks ago Saturday, I came home at midnight after having coffee with a friend. I was brushing my teeth when I heard a sound that startled me: my house alarm. Within seconds, I had locked my bathroom door, hidden myself in the closet, and dialed 911.
“Hello, this is 911. What is your emergency?”
“My house alarm is going off.”
I gave her the appropriate information and, after telling me the police were on their way, she continued to ask me questions.
“Did you hear any suspicious noises or voices?”
“No, just my alarm. I ran to hide and then called you.”
“Okay, just stay on the line with me and stay where you are until I tell you to move.”
Within minutes, the police had arrived and the 911 operator told me that they were searching the exterior of the house.
“Okay, ma’am, the police officers are at your front door. Stay on the line with me until you can see them.”
I eased the door open and took one step after another, slowly making my way through the dark house. Just as I reached the front door, I looked to my left and noticed that the door to the garage was cracked open. I didn’t hesitate another second. I unlocked my front door, pushed myself between the two officers, and hid behind them in my pajamas and bare feet.
One of the police officers told me to wait inside by the front door. I squatted behind my dining room table, watching as the police officers, guns drawn, searched every room and closet in my house.
Everything seemed as it should be. They told me my door may not have been completely latched and there was a heavy wind that night which may have pushed it open.
But something did enter my house that night, and it didn’t leave when the police officers walked out my front door.
That night, I slept with my lights on. And by “slept,” I mean I laid in bed, drifting in and out of consciousness for hours.
I had never struggled with fear in this way before, but it had found its foothold. It latched on and did not let go. It settled in and made its home in what was once my home. I no longer felt comfortable in my own house.
The next few nights, I would come home and set my alarm immediately. I would check behind my shower curtain and in my closets. What I would do if I found someone there, I didn’t know. But I didn’t have peace of mind until I had checked. This became part of my new nightly routine. I also started locking my bedroom door every night before I went to sleep. I considered getting a dog or even a roommate—both of which I had previously vowed that I would never do again.
You know, I just always assumed that I would have a husband by now to protect me and keep me safe, or at least to hold me while the police searched the house with guns. Why did I have to be going through this alone?
I talked to a friend who dabbles in self-defense to get his input on acquiring mace, tasers, stun guns, even actual guns. I even went as far as googling, “Is there a safe way to sleep with a gun under your pillow?” I’ll save you the time—it’s not recommended.
Sometimes the fear would paralyze me. I’d hear a sound from the other side of my locked bedroom door and I would freeze, unable to move, straining to hear something that would help me identify the origin of the sound but only hearing my heart pounding in my chest. In those moments, my imagination would begin to create crazy scenarios until I would hear an ice cube drop into the tray in the freezer and I would exhale in relief.
All of this just seemed to me like a natural reaction to what had happened that night. I had experienced something that had shaken me. I figured that in a few weeks time, everything would be back to normal and I would gradually begin to feel safe in my own home again.
Last night, I had just locked my bedroom door and climbed into bed when the fear began to set in. For the first time, however, my anxious thoughts were replaced by a voice that said, “Invite me in. Ask Me to protect you.” It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment, that I had allowed fear to inhabit my thoughts, and I needed to ask for protection against that.
So I prayed. I asked the Holy Spirit to fill up every space in my home so fear had no room to dwell there anymore. I asked that He place His angels all around my house and at my door so the enemy had no way of sneaking in.
My change in behavior should have been my first indication that I was a prisoner of fear, but in its dark shadow, I had been oblivious to the change until He revealed the Truth to me.
It is on this truth that I am now learning to dwell:
The Lord is my light and my salvation-
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble? [Psalm 27:1]
Fear spreads lies to immobilize and imprison us; the Lord speaks truth and longs to set us free.
The question is: Which voice are you listening to?
An ESL teacher for the past 6 years, Sara Anderson feels it is her duty to rid the world of the words “supposably” and “moist.” She once had an unfortunate incident involving a glass of milk and a hairy spider so now she must blow into a glass before pouring a beverage in it. She loves Dave Barnes, Hillsong Live, and Kari Jobe, and when she needs her soul stirred she reads Brennan Manning. In fourth grade, she received an autographed picture of Billy Ray Cyrus, but don’t ask her to show it to you because her friend stole it and Sara never got it back.
*Photo credit: ell brown