Are you expecting that oft used set of verses from Romans 13 here that remind us we are to submit to the authorities over us? Yes, God has asked us to do that and, yes, it is in the Bible. Sadly, there are even ministries in the Church today who use these verses to beat people into submission to what they want them to do or how much they want them to donate to their ministry. This may be a subject for another post, not for this series. Here, we want to look at how this experience influenced 14-year-old Sojourner’s life. Submission to authority was not the issue; rather, fear was the real focus for her.
There is a verse in Scripture that zooms right in on exactly what happened to MJ… which is also exactly what Sojourner was worried about:
“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25 NIV)
Both MJ and Sojourner feared that the exercise on that volleyball court-turned-gymnastics floor would cause them harm. This, definitely, became reality for MJ so you can imagine how that rocketed-up Sojourner’s own fear, right? There was only one way out and Sojourner’s fear pushed her in that direction… get a medical exemption. Sojourner would never have the same thing happen to her; she planned never again to even try a tumbling drill off that mat. It was not hard to get a doctor to write Sojourner a “medical exemption” because the doctor had known of MJ’s broken neck. He was not going to take a chance that Sojourner’s own fear would produce the same result.
Exemption in hand, Sojourner headed for class in regular clothing. The teacher expected her to be in the regulation P.E. attire so frowned when she saw her. The frown deepened into a sneering kind of a growl when she read Sojourner’s exemption. Clearly, the teacher did not agree that “chickening out” was the answer to Sojourner’s fear. Nevertheless, Sojourner never again had to worry about a broken neck, ankle, or any other body part from tumbling drills. Such trauma occurring from Sojourner’s many other activities, such as riding her motorcycle in a late-winter’s unexpected blizzard, were never considered a strong enough possibility to preempt the activity; however, so the fear factor was, truly, the issue here.
Did God understand Sojourner’s fear? You bet He did! In fact, Sojourner’s Heavenly Father walked with her through each experience of her journey, taking note of events that frightened her… until the one fear that had plagued her for a lifetime surrounded Sojourner: fear of the dark. When Sojourner’s field of vision became totally black while living in the jungle of West Africa, the fear of injury from wild animals, deadly snakes, and the usual kinds of accidents normal to life, tormented her. When Sojourner had had enough and cried out to God to get her off the end of that knotted rope, dangling over the cliff, God responded. Sojourner need not cling to it any longer; she just needed to let go. Thus, the material for the book Dealing with Our Fears when Letting Go Seems Impossible was revealed by a very understanding God. (You can go to Amazon to read excerpts of the volume, if you like.)
So is avoidance of anything that causes fear the answer? Not at all, though, when considering the traumatic event recorded in this series, I still believe avoidance was the best solution for Sojourner. However, fear can be crippling, which is why so many treatment/therapy options exist today to help people overcome their fear of a particular thing.
Is it necessary to overcome all fears? No, some fears are given by God to keep you alive for the number of days He has appointed for your life! If your fear hinders you to carry out the usual activities of life or to do the work for which you have been trained/employed, then learning to cope or overcome them is an issue to consider. In the case of the adolescent Sojourner, for example, should the subject of Math cause fear for her, she would need to learn to overcome or cope with that because it is necessary for her to pass Math in order to graduate… not to mention just to function in daily life as an adult.
The subject of Chemistry did not, in itself, frighten Sojourner; but, those lab experiments, on the other hand, could really get the heart racing as fast as those chemicals in the flask were bubbling. Should she get a medical excuse out of the experiment then, because it caused her a lot of stress? No, she just needed to do what she did throughout all of the many chemistry classes Sojourner’s academic career included… double and triple check all measurements of exactly what she put into the flask, especially before setting it over a Bunsen burner. This measure of fear was a good thing to keep her from carelessly blowing up the lab.
In the total scheme of life, Sojourner’s life would not have been hindered, nor her life’s work affected, by using a medical exemption to dissolve her fear of being hurt in tumbling class. It just wasn’t a necessary risk to take. Learning to deal with fears that are interfering with our lives is something we need to do, however. This makes having a loving Heavenly Father, Who understands our fear, so vital to achieving our ultimate victory over those fears.
****Have a great weekend!