How long has it been? I think close to five years. We had recently moved into our home and one of the first couples we asked for over dinner were Michael and Carol - it was really really great to see them.
Carol, Vickie, and I were in the family room; as Michael was walking down the hall to join us he inadvertently brushed up against a child gate Vickie and I had leaning up against an open passage to the downstairs and it fell onto the hardwood floor with a bang. The bang startled Lina, who was in the family room with us lying close to the hall, and she jumped up and ran to the far side of the room by the bookcases. After assuring Lina that the “mean gate wouldn’t hurt her” I stood the gate back up - thinking no more about it. The gate was there so that Lina and Lily wouldn’t venture downstairs, but rather than tighten the gate against the door jambs we learned it on the jambs to make it easier for us to go up and down the stairs.
I didn’t think anymore about the gate falling until it was time for Michael and Carol to go and we left the family room to see them out of our home and say goodnight. Lina remained behind in the family room. A short while later when it was time to take the dogs outside for their constitutional before going to bed Lina was still in the family room and didn’t come when we called her. When I went to see what was going on she was at the threshold of the family room and the hallway looking at the gate which had made the big scary noise - it was with difficulty that I coaxed her out of the family room, down the hall, to the front door.
Ever since then, for the past five years, Lina has been careful and tentative when passing by the gate that makes the big scary noise. Sometimes she will take a detour through another room to avoid the gate. Sadly, if she is lying in the hallway and we move the gate when we are going downstairs or coming from downstairs she will quickly jump up and leave the hallway lest the gate thunder threatening noises. No matter how often I say, “Lina stay, the gate is not going to hurt you,” she does not believe me. She has heard the big scary noise once and she is convinced it can only mean that the gate intends harm to her, perhaps it devours dogs who are unaware.
I write “sadly” because about a year ago Lina injured one of her hind legs, which will never be quite the same, and jumping up quickly does nothing to help it; furthermore, an injured leg is all the more reason we cannot allow her to go up and down steep stairs (we had a ramp built off our deck for Lina).
Lina is afraid of a noise from her past that affects her well-being; the gate has never been a real threat, but she thinks it is.
What about us? Are there great-big-scary noises from our past that remain with us today? Maybe the noises were associated with a true threat, maybe only with a perceived threat, but they remain with us today and they influence our lives.
Do we find ourselves taking detours in life to avoid the possibility of big scary noises? Do we replay the tapes of scary noises from long ago? Are threatening thunders part of the soundtrack of our lives? Do we live tentatively awaiting the return of crashing gates?
Jesus Christ came to deliver us from fear. The announcements surrounding the birth of Jesus were accompanied by the words “fear not” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10). Paul writes to Timothy that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7); he tells the Romans that we haven’t received the spirit of bondage again to fear but the Spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15). John writes that there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). Those who know Jesus don’t even need to fear death (Hebrews 2:15) for Jesus has freed them from that fear.
Lina will probably live the rest of her life in fear of the gate that made the big scary noise.
What about us?