I sat paralyzed in my car at the bottom of a steep driveway - on Signal Mountain. I had an important lunch meeting there because I was about to be introduced to Dalton Roberts, a writer from Chattanooga. I had enjoyed reading his columns, and as I was a new writer, not only was I looking forward to gaining some insight into publishing opportunities in Chattanooga but I was also anticipating a lively discussion on my topic of spirituality’s effect on our health. But, was my fear of heights about to sabotage this meeting?
Through the years, I experienced a fear of heights that I attributed to a childhood memory of riding in the car with my parents and aunt to investigate the site of my uncle’s fatal car crash. This memory turned into recurring nightmares.
This particular day, I sat in my car wondering if I would ever be freed from this quicksand of fear I’d had since I was about 4-years-old.
It seems I am not alone. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by The American Psychiatric Association, 15-20 percent of people experience an extreme phobia at least once in their lifetime.
But if you are living with a phobia that seems extreme or has existed for a long time, I don’t believe you have to live with it forever. I’ve been there, but I found a remedy when I started looking at the situation from a spiritual viewpoint.
On this particular day on Signal Mountain, I remembered a favorite Bible verse from I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” While I sat at the bottom of the driveway, I thought about that perfect love – the love of God for His children. Instead of feeling myself sinking deeper in fear, I immediately felt wrapped in that love. And, soon I found I could drive, and I arrived at the top of the driveway, safe and sound and fearless.
So, what actually happened here? And it is repeatable?
PsychCentral reported on a Texas Baylor University Religion Study that examined the effects of prayer on our mental health. One important finding documented that “your beliefs about the ‘character’ of God determine the effects of prayer on your mental health.” Those Baylor researchers found that people who pray to a loving and protective God are less likely to experience fear.
My spiritual practice includes being well acquainted with Biblical promises of safety and freedom - and scriptures that declare God’s care and love for us. For example, the Psalmist writes, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” [Psalms 34:4]
I also get inspiration from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, which include more than 200 references to overcoming fear through a spiritual approach. Speaking of the life we find in God, she wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious as Life eternally is—can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not.” Another favorite of mine is from Eddy’s Miscellaneous Writings, “We have nothing to fear when Love is at the helm of thought, but everything to enjoy on earth and in heaven.”
No matter how many hold that scary events from one’s childhood produce lasting fears, Eddy’s theology assured people that fear yields to spirituality - that God’s love is powerful to heal fear of any kind no matter how long it has been hanging on.
My climb up that driveway was a pivotal point in gaining my freedom from fear of heights. “Climbing higher” in my idea of God was what lifted me out of the quicksand of fear, and I believe that’s a promising remedy for anyone.
Today I am free to enjoy activities - such as driving through the mountains or riding the ferris wheel - that I used to avoid. I no longer have the nightmares. While I still have more to learn about overcoming fear, thanks to divine Love at the helm of my thinking that day on Signal Mountain, the quicksand that had held me in its grip for years lost its hold on me.
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Debra Chew writes about the connection between thought, spirituality and wellness from a Christian Science perspective. She has been published in chattanoogan.com, UK Health Triangle Magazine, Jackson Sun Health Magazine, and in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. She is the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Tennessee.