Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Freedom from Fear

The water levels in our streams and rivers have decreased significantly in the past few weeks. The river below the hospital recently covered the land shown in the above picture and the two little islands where the trees are growing were surrounded by deep, rushing water. Today at noon I walked on dry land to the far island in the top left of the picture. I met only one other person, the young pregnant woman in the distance walking her little dog.

With the receding spring run-off, the river has given up two bodies in the last fortnight. First, a woman missing since January was found a short distance downstream, badly decomposed and the victim of violence, likely by the hand of an acquaintance. A few days later, the body of a university student was found right here by this rocky shoal, a death by misadventure. I looked at the closely raked ground today that had been searched diligently by the police looking for clues and realized I could have been the one to make the sad discovery.

I spend a lot of time walking trails in and around the city where there are very few people. I don't feel afraid or anxious, even when alone without the dog or a companion. My father recently eyed some of my stomping grounds with caution, deeming them unsafe for solitary exploration. I never walk with earphones and am alert to sights and sounds around me. I make eye contact with people I pass and always greet them in a friendly manner. If I am alone, I carry my cell phone in my pocket. I trust my intuition and if I feel the least bit uneasy, will turn back immediately.

The media feeds our fear with an abundance of stories about crime, whether on the news or in investigative documentaries. Fear is a powerful emotion which can be protective, or leave us paralyzed and paranoid in our surroundings.

Who can predict where we may find violent and unstable people? It could be in a classroom, an office, a home, a busy city street, or any other public place. I am more likely to encounter violence within the hospital than I am along the river's edge. Most murders in our area (and there aren't many) are domestic in nature.

In my travels I have felt fearful in a few situations, usually in urban areas. This past winter a number of Canadians have been victims of violence on the west coast of Mexico. Travelling as a tourist in areas where there is economic disparity and drug trading increases the risk of being a victim of violent crime.

Yesterday, our bank which is one kilometer from our home, was held up with pen and paper. The unarmed thief presented a note to the teller who gave him money as he requested. What power he had using fear generated by the memories of the violent bank robberies we have all heard about. (He was caught a short time later a block away after a fearless 13 year old boy discovered him hiding from police in his family's backyard)

We can be controlled by many fears including crime, terrorism, climate change, health concerns, food contamination, environmental hazards, lack of acceptance by other people, and death to name a few. Politicians, advertisers, employers, and religious leaders can be expert users of these fears. No wonder many people live with a sense of hopelessness and and anxiety.

I had many fears as a child. One of the first Bible verses I memorized was from II Timothy 1:7.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

I have repeated the words to myself many, many times. There will be shadows of uncertainty in my life, but I want to face each day with confidence and faith, not cowardice and fear.


  1. Ruth--such true words--we are fed a steady diet of fear, and then become fearful as a result. Fear builds a prison we live in--or we can break out of.
    Like you, I try to be street smart and not live in fear. The church we attend is a downtown church, and I have had people say--oh, I would never go downtown. That astounds me! Fear has limited their lives.

  2. Good for you, Ruth. I have walked alone, like you, and felt fearful once as I thought there was a stray dog nearby. There have been times when I felt wary strangers, but not enough to make me turn around.

  3. Excellent article. I try to stand firm on 11 Timothy 1:7. It did me well(and still does) during the many years I was alone raising a family while Uncle H. travelled the world. Fear can paralize if we allow it to take over. I'm sure we've all experienced fear at some level, but allowing it to take over is when the 'sound mind' is taken from us.

  4. Those are important words to remember.-We all have fears-mine are more internal than external.

  5. Sound advice, I think, for scary times.

    I usually feel perfectly safe when out alone in the woods, but there are a few places that give me the creeps; not sure why, but they are the kind of places that I can imagine someone dumping a body.

    I'd be bothered to hear of such things in places that I like to visit, but think that it must be uncommon for that type of violence to occur in the woods.

  6. I hate to be so distrustful of strangers at times, but we hear so much these days about people who were not careful enough. I am so glad it was not you who made that gruesome discovery Ruth.

  7. KGMom- My community job required me to do home visits in the downtown area for 5 years. I saw many sad social outcasts and other mentally ill people, but except for 1 or 2 occasions, did not feel threatened. It is great that your church ministers to an inner city.

    Mary- I haven't even considered the threat of wild or stray animals. We had sightings of a black bear around the hospital last year, but he was out of range and kept out of the way of all the people trying to catch him.

    Omalois- I am sure you taught your girls well with your example. Fear is a normal emotion, but you are right when you say it takes our sound mind away if not controlled.

    Larry- I think my biggest inner fears are in regards to the health, safety and futures of my children. Inner fears can really affect us negatively.

    Laura- If a place gives me the creeps, I label that "intuition" and get out. Neither of the people whose bodies were found met their end where they were found. If the woman had been murdered at the river, it would change my perception of the area.

    Jayne- I would say 99.9% of strangers are fine folks. You never know where you might meet the other .01% of them. We always need to be alert, whether in the woods or in the grocery store. I have tried to teach my children to be alert and confident. They never listen to their iPods when they are walking or driving and try to be observant.

  8. Anonymous9:23 am GMT-4

    So many bad things happening, I agree that we can't live in fear! But it is scary when you do think about it!

  9. Wow, that's a great post! We get so caught up in fear sometimes and it's hard to remember that God really is in charge. I'll have to remember that verse.

  10. Monarch- I prefer reading blogs like yours to watching the news. I get a much more positive view of life!

    Maureene- Thanks for commenting! I also love the words of Joshua 1:9 that say,"Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

  11. Anonymous6:02 am GMT-4

    It makes me sad to hear children talk and realize they have been taught to fear. I was with my after school group and I mentioned that I walk in the woods every day. One little girl said, "The woods can be very dangerous." She's 10 and she fears the woods. How very sad.


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