Learning to Turn Our Fears into Bug­ Splat

By Caleb Julin
Guest Columnist

As final exam week comes into view, I am reminded of my fears. Have you ever heard of a Florida Jumping Spider? If you are really into entomology, perhaps you know it as a Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus), but down in Mickey Mouse Land, we Floridiots just call them Florida Jumping Spiders.

Why is it called a jumping spider, you ask? Because it jumps on your face. If you try to kill it and miss, it will leap off of its perch and launch itself directly at your body. I have seen grown men dance around rooms like little girls in a fire ­ant patch after missing a swing at a jumping spider.

Did I mention their size? On average, they have about a four-inch leg­span, but it is not at all uncommon to see one bigger than that.

Thankfully, it is not very common to see these eight­-legged nightmares because they live in the trees. But every once in awhile, one gets knocked out of a tree and winds up in your house.

When faced with the terrible task of choosing whether to risk having a spider the size of a mason jar lid attack your face or going to sleep and letting it escape to some hiding place where it can do heaven knows what, one must obviously take the risk and try to exterminate the arachnid. 

Fortunately, there is one method I have seen that almost never fails and that method is to commit. When you go in for the kill, don’t slow down! Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. When you swing, don’t think about what could happen if you miss. Just see it through to the bug­ splat on the wall! 

Now, I am particularly bad at this whole commitment thing. I should make a disclaimer to tell you that I am actually not afraid of spiders, but the thought of eight large, hairy legs crawling into my hair and possibly biting me is not pleasant to me. These thoughts cross my mind mid­-swing, and I tend to waver in my commitment and miss. 

My mom, on the other hand, is a beast when it comes to killing Florida Jumping Spiders. Those things don’t stand a chance when she grabs the fly swatter. She never misses because she never hesitates.

As I was thinking about this the other day, it occurred to me what a powerful force fear is, and how it has the capacity to utterly incapacitate someone when they let it.

Just like with killing a jumping spider, so often we allow our fears to paralyze us. They start out as nagging thoughts that won’t go away. Then, as we start giving credence to the thoughts, they start to make us nervous. Before we know it, what was once just a hesitation becomes all consuming.

Before I go on, I should note that the kind of fear I am talking about here is the all­-consuming or irrational kind. I do understand that there is such a thing as a healthy fear. Jumping back when you see a venomous snake is a healthy fear. Healthy fears can, however, turn into irrational fears when we allow them to consume us.

Let’s say that I went out hiking and had a close encounter with a Copperhead. This encounter freaked me out so badly that I went back to my room and searched the entire room for snakes. I proceeded to go out to the store and buy snake traps and other supplies to snake­proof my room. Suppose I then took it a step further and, for the next week, refused to step into a room unless it had first been thoroughly checked for snakes. Granted, this might be an extreme example, but it does demonstrate how a rational fear can become all­ consuming.

As Christians, we are told over and over that we are not supposed to be afraid. Well­-meaning pastors love to quote Joshua 1:9 to us, saying, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV), and while it sounds all nice and comforting, the fact of the matter is that a great deal of Christians suffer from fear and anxiety.

If you know me now this may come as a surprise to you, but when I was younger, I was one of the most fearful children you could ever meet. If a movie so much as had a coffin in it, I would get nightmares. To put it in perspective for you, I once got nightmares for three weeks from the

 Disney film, “Hercules.” Yes, “Hercules.” (Don’t judge. That scene where he swims through The River Styx is some scary stuff!)

Those of you who know me now are probably having a hard time imagining a fearful Caleb. Somewhere along the way, all of that fear disappeared. The little kid who got nightmares from “Hercules” grew into the guy that sits on the edges of cliffs, goes caving, cliff jumps, snorkels with sharks, etc.

 Such a transition did not happen overnight. It is only since high school that I have begun the process of living without fear, and I still remember well its crippling effect.

 As the fall semester draws to a close, the time has come in the school year where our fears start to creep in. Whether you are a freshman fearing your first college finals week or a senior realizing that you only have one semester left and your time here in the Bryan Bubble is almost over, fear is a very real thing to us as college students.

 As I dealt with my own fear, I learned about a man named Thomas Jackson. You may not know him by that name, but I guarantee that you have heard of General Stonewall Jackson, a general of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was called Stonewall because no matter what battle raged around him, he never flinched, ducked, or hid. He sat firm upon his horse like a stone wall. When asked why he showed no fear in battle, he gave an unforgettable response that has guided me ever since in my own battle with fear, “My religious belief teaches me that I’m just as safe on the battlefield as I am in my bed. The Lord has already appointed the day of my death, so I need not worry about that. I live my life and prepare myself so I will always be ready to meet my Lord, when death does overtake me.”

The first time I heard that quote, I was absolutely blown away by the truth of it. Whenever I felt fear creeping in like a jumping spider, I would ask myself, “If I truly believe that God is in control, am I as safe with this as I am in my own bed?” Without fail, the answer was always yes. “Then what do I have to fear?” Nothing.

The spider was still on the wall, but rather than letting my fear of it cripple me, I now had the power to crush it. 

Matthew 10:29­-30 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” What my fear boiled down to was how much I trusted that God was in control. If these verses were indeed true, then God truly is in control of my destiny, and I have nothing to fear.

So, here are the questions: What are the jumping spiders in your life? Are you allowing your fears to control you? If you are, ask yourself next time you are faced with your fears, “If I truly believe that God is in control, am I as safe with this as I am in my own bed?”

Is God not capable of handling your college debt? Is He not capable of providing a job? Is God not capable of providing the perfect person for you to date and one day marry? Is God bigger than the heights you are afraid of? More powerful than your nightmares at night? 

The truth of the matter is that, as Christians, absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love for us! Romans 8:38-­39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

So if you find yourself bound by your fears, ask the Lord to deliver you from them. In Psalm 34:4, David says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” God does not desire for you to be bound by anything and He can free you from them if you give them to Him.

Our fear, just like a Florida Jumping Spider, perches on the wall before us. Each day we are faced with a decision to dwell on it or to do something about it. What will you do?