I'll jump at a sudden noise, but it takes a lot to really scare me. However, I vividly remember a day when I had a rush of fear I've never forgotten.
One Tuesday morning I decided to hike to the falls by myself. My dog, Lady, followed me and off we went. I typically enjoyed the park more during the week than the weekends because there were no hikers or rock climbers and I could have the place to myself.
Halfway down the steep, rugged descent to the base of the falls, I suddenly looked up and found five grown men standing there. They didn't look like rock climbers - that was for sure. And they didn't look like typical hikers, either. They were all filthy and quite a rough looking bunch of men.
"Well, look fellas, there's a lady in the house."
My heart stopped. Oh man, this was such a stupid thing for me to do - taking this hike without telling anyone where I was going. By the way the hair on the back of my neck stood up, I knew this didn't feel right. It occurred to me that if I ran, their instincts might be to chase me, even if they hadn't planned to. So I decided I needed to make them believe I had absolutely no reason to be afraid. I continued walking straight toward them on the trail, even though it was the exact opposite of what I really wanted to do. I hoped they would assume I had a whole brigade of burly men following me who might appear at any moment. (This was way before we had cell service in the area.)
Much to my surprise, when I got face to face with the five men, every one of them suddenly sat down on the ground at the same time. I didn't know what to make of it or what to expect next.
"WILL IT BITE?" they asked. I couldn't understand what they were talking about because my dog, Lady, had unfortunately run on without me and was no help.
"Will what bite?" I asked.
"THAT!" They pointed at the top of the ridge and looked like they were absolutely terrified. Much to my surprise, my dog, Missy, was standing there - but even though she was a chow mix with one eye, she had never looked the least bit threatening so I couldn't understand their extreme reaction to her. She had never bitten anyone and was a sweet dog.
Nevertheless, I said, "Well, that's the thing. You just never know."
Missy had never made this hike with me before, and never did again after this day, but she quickly ran down the mountain and stood next to me until all five men got up and scrambled up the trail out of sight.
I've always believed that God made them see something much scarier than my dog, Missy. There's really no explanation for their bizarre behavior.
But I'll admit. I was terrified of what could have happened that day. And I've remembered this event many times since then. However, I was an adult and I also understood that I had gotten myself into this terrible predicament.
On the other hand, we often have children at Blue Monarch who have experienced some pretty terrifying and traumatic events, much scarier than my example, at the hands of others through no fault of their own. Many of them have hidden for safety in places you and I would think were pretty creepy - like the dark crawlspace of a house. We had a young boy who had a history of hiding there until he heard his mother sing their special song, letting him know it was safe for him to come out.
We have a precious little boy living with us right now who had good reason to be terrified of dogs. At the tender age of only two, someone he should have been able to trust with his life allowed a pit bull to lunge at him, only to yank the dog back when it was within inches of his face. This adult did this for his own amusement, but it caused this little boy to develop a terrifying and severe fear of dogs. Even puppies made him hysterical.
This is a great example of the individual nature of our ministry. It's not in our curriculum to help a child overcome the fear of dogs. But once we learned of the history in this child's life, and why he was so frightened of our farm animals and dogs in particular, we wanted to help him overcome this terrible fear and in the process, learn to trust others.
Well, I'm happy to report that yesterday Braelin absolutely fell in love with Kim's dog, Moxie! His mother, Erin, was moved to tears because he was finally able to overcome this tremendous fear and actually love on a dog and enjoy playing with her. What a triumph!
Erin's explanation is that this peaceful place, and her son's new sense of security here, have allowed him to not only overcome fear of dogs, but his fear of all animals, and even the dark! He no longer insists on keeping a light on at bedtime. As Erin says, "His fear has been removed because we are at Blue Monarch."
When someone asks, "How do you measure success?" I won't think of spreadsheets and statistics. I will think of this frightened, angry child who stomped through our doors months ago - and the loving, happy child who lives here today, no longer tortured and fearful. And I will also think of the mother who regained custody of her child and loved him so much, she desperately wanted to see him healed of his debilitating fear and was moved to tears when it happened. I will also think of the amazing way God led them both to Blue Monarch where they could be reunited and this sweet little boy could be healed.
So how do we measure success? By observing stories like this one every single day.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. Isaiah 41:10