“What are you afraid of?”

One of our sons experienced night terrors when he was young. We had become used to the fact he would sometimes walk in his sleep, appearing suddenly in the family room after he’d been asleep for a few hours. We quickly learned that he was actually still partially asleep and didn’t know what he was doing, so we’d gently guide him back to bed.

Night terrors were another matter. He’d wake up screaming or crying, or show up at my bedside shaking in fear. We’d try to ask him what was wrong, what was causing the fear.

“What are you afraid of?”

He couldn’t answer clearly. He was still partially asleep and had no idea what he was doing. We’d offer comfort and again, gently lead him back to bed. The night terrors eventually faded, as did the sleep walking. But I wonder — did the fear?

Unnamed fears can haunt us, both day and night. They can cause us to withdraw or to lash out. They can sit and fester until their size is out of proportion.

Unnamed fears can even cause us to be afraid of being afraid.

One approach to eradicating fear is to name it. Rather than running, withdrawing or even lashing out, the healthiest thing we can do is to walk into it and own it. Then, lay it down–physically, if possible. Hold something representing the fear, give it a name and lay it down. Again and again if necessary.

When our son was experiencing night terrors, he didn’t always know they’d happened, but on the day after I could see his exhaustion. It was tempting to continue the prompting from the night before, trying to put a name to his fear.

“What are you afraid of?”

I didn’t want to alarm him or cause his fear to grow, so I set aside my own fears and turned him over to God. During this season of our lives, I chose to help my young sons try to commit to memory this passage of Scripture from Isaiah 41:10. It became and remains my prayer for them.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I wrote for five quick minutes today on the one-word prompt “afraid.” I’ll do my best to write each day this month on other one-word prompts. For more essays on the word “afraid” drop by Five Minute Friday or visit Write 31 Days to jump in on the challenge to blog every day in October.

To read all the posts in order, drop by my Write 31 Days Page here.