What To Do When the “Child” Comes Out in Us

He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” (2 Samuel 22:31)

Psychologists have known for years that many of the personality traits we manifest in our everyday lives as adults are often shaped from childhood experiences. I realized recently that one of my most deep-seeded fears has its origins in my childhood.

Within a year of my mother’s death in 1961, my dad lost his job and literally had to work several part-time jobs to make ends meet. Unfortunately, his work schedule forced him to work nights.

Dad had trouble keeping babysitters mainly due to the reputation I had garnered for finding mischief. The truth is he couldn’t find anyone who was willing to put up with a real-life “Dennis the Menace”, so he frequently had to rely on the kindness of a next-door neighbor to keep an eye on my little sister and me while he was away, something that any parent was known to do from time to time in the early 1960’s.

Those were scary times for us. My sister and I often sat out on the front porch at night, scared to death, wondering if something had happened to our daddy. I couldn’t cry because someone had to be strong for her. She was only six years old. I would put my arm around her and assure her that daddy would be home in a little while. But deep down inside, I was crying my eyes out, too.

I realized recently just how much that childhood experience kept me from feeling safe one night last weekend. Robbie went home to spend a few days with her family and left me alone to fend for myself.

I got along just fine. In fact, since the kids were gone, too, I rather enjoyed the solitude. Loneliness didn’t set in until she had been gone for a couple of days. I didn’t know it at the time, but the fear of being left alone wasn’t too far behind.

I expected Robbie to call me before I went to bed the night before she was to get up and return home, but the call didn’t come. I waited for a couple of hours and still no call. Finally, I telephoned her mother to find out what was going on. She told me Robbie was over at an aunt’s house and probably lost track of time. “Tell her to call me when she gets home,” I asked.

Robbie telephoned me several minutes later. However, I was too angry to talk and brought the conversation to an early end in order to avoid saying something I would later regret.

As I lay in bed thinking about what had just happened, I recalled my childhood experience with the fear of being left alone and realized that it had reared its ugly head in my relationship with Robbie. I wasn’t angry. I was afraid. Here I was again, all by myself, crying my eyes out inside, wondering if I was going to be left alone.

The Lord reminded me that night that there’s something different about me now. I have something today that I didn’t have then: A new weapon to fight that fear– Jesus. And he tucked a verse in my heart to help me deal with that fear the next time it comes around: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Maybe you don’t have the fear of being left alone, but I bet you have other fears that can make you act just as childishly as I acted that night night. Those childhood fears stay with us when we grow up, often infect our relationships with the very ones we love, and become a burden, if not a hindrance to living a victorious Christian life.

Don’t let the devil steal your joy. Remember what Jesus said about such burdens: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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