It was a hot and humid Texas summer evening when my cousin Kylee, my sister Christine and I were playing our usual late night game of ding-dong-ditching. If you don’t know what ding dong ditching is, it’s where someone rings the doorbell of a home then takes off running and hides somewhere nearby to see what the person who opens the door says or does. It is a thrill that most preteens do before they upgrade to egging homes and running from the cops.
This particular evening was our third night in a row of ding-dong ditching and we were getting some great reactions all night long. We even ticked off a grown man so much that he came out looking for us with a flashlight in one hand and a baseball bat in the other. I guess his plan was to blind us with his shiny light before knocking three kids out cold with one swing. We were hiding from a safe distance as we could see him looking underneath his car and grunting angrily to himself. I thought to myself sarcastically, “He must be such a wonderful father – he probably has his kids locked in a broom closet.”
It was a fun evening and at around eleven o’clock we began making our journey back home as the full moon rose higher in the starry night. As we walked up the dimly lit road we laughed about our favorite parts of the night and chatted about the times when we were most excited and scared. Suddenly Kylee stopped walking, causing my sister and me to stop in our tracks as well.
“Why did you stop?” I asked.
She didn’t answer me but instead pointed to the left of us and that’s when I saw what she was seeing. I felt like I had entered into a horror movie.
Earlier in the week I had heard rumors of coyotes attacking small children and even killing pet dogs and cats in the area that we lived in but what we were looking at were two wolves; double the size of coyotes. You could simultaneously hear all of our hearts beating faster as we held our breath in the dark of the night. The wolves were prowling around in the woods next to a house sniffing violently, it wouldn’t be too long before they caught a whiff of three delicious preteens.
“Run!!!” Kylee whispered as loud as possible.
We all bolted off knowing that our house was still about a mile away but we didn’t care- our first instinct was to run. We saw the wolves look up and begin to rustle around and take off after us. We didn’t look back we just kept running as fast as we could with adrenaline pumping violently through our veins. Unfortunately, my sister was wearing her favorite pink flip-flops which clicked louder than gunshots and to top it all off she couldn’t run very fast. I heard her beginning to cry as her hand grabbed mine. I could hear and sense the wolves closing in on us so in my immediate yet prudent self-preservation mode I shrugged her off because she was slowing me down. Rather than both of us being eaten one of us had to go. I felt that I had more potential in this life so it was only logical that I should survive the mauling. She still kept running a few yards behind me whimpering and slapping her flip-flops knowing the end was near for her. But for some sick reason I was okay with it realizing that survival of the fittest applied in this situation.
Kylee, a soccer star, lead the pact with her speed and I trailed behind her by about ten feet. We could hear the growls of angry hungry wolves catching up to us. Thoughts in my head raced: Where are we going to go? They’re right behind us!
As our adrenaline flowed and our breath got short we began heading in the direction of a nearby home hoping we could seek protection. At this moment I wish the guy with a baseball bat would have caught us because we would have been better off beaten than eaten.
The three of us charged across the lawn of a home and we all stampeded into the doorway and rang the doorbell violently. Now we were playing ding-dong let us in before we get eaten – we were shaking and panicking in fear. This was life and death and after thirty seconds we just tried opening the door…locked. So there we were absolutely terrified while cornered in the doorway of a stranger’s home. Desperation was in each of our eyes and all we could do was hide and get out of any possible view from the wolves. We squished ourselves as tight together as we could and did everything in our power to hold our breath. I just stared angrily at Christine’s stupid pink flip-flops that most likely would be the reason for us becoming wolf dinner. As if she hadn’t drawn enough attention to us, Christine was evidently out of shape at the time too and could not stop breathing without sounding like a wheezing duck. Kylee and I tried to quiet her as best we could but her wheezing was about to give us away. Immediately I knew that if the wolves turned the corner – Christine would have to be the sacrifice. It was just as nature would have it – the younger weaker one must satisfy the raging beasts while the older ones get away to fight another day.
Minutes went by like hours as we lived our lives one slow breath at a time. I did the only think that I could think of. I prayed, “God…since Christine will be the sacrifice, please let her get into heaven but send her stupid pink flip-flops to hell”.
We could all hear them ruffling over leaves and in bushes nearby and it was only a matter of time until we were discovered. In my mind I was praying to get out of this dire situation and also repenting for shaking my sister loose a few moments earlier only to be eaten alive when she had clung to me for safety. Suddenly, an ingenious thought hit my mind.
I grabbed my cell phone out and started to dial the number to my house but my thumbs nervously kept pushing the wrong buttons. Ring after ring went by without an answer it felt like the wolves were taking a step closer. On the fifth ring my dad picked up, “Hey Juju, are you guys still ding dong ditching? You know I don’t like you doing that.”
I whispered as loud as possible and as close as I could into the microphone, “Dad, Dad, Dad…listen we are being chased by wolves, please come and get us, please!”
“What? You want me to order a pizza? No, it’s too late for that.”
I tried again.
“Dad! Please get in your car and find us we are inside the doorway of a redbrick house not too far from our house! Please just get us we are stuck!”
“I’m sorry I can’t hear you, get home soon, goodnight!”
When he hung up the phone, I can’t explain the desperation and hopelessness I felt at that moment. So then I texted him everything that I had said and still didn’t get word back.
A few more minutes went by slowly and Christine had finally got her breathing down to a normal level when we saw car headlights illuminating the road. We all debated whether or not to risk exposing ourselves to a wolf onslaught or stay huddled in the doorway. But before we had time to think much further about it, Kylee bolted out of the doorway causing Christine and me to do the same as if we were connected to her by a string. Our hope was to cut off the car in the middle of the road and have them take us home. As we were sprinting up the driveway, my head was on a swivel looking for any sign of wolf activity. At that moment Christine’s stupid pink flip-flops began to click again and it took everything in me to not rip them off her feet and smack her a couple of times with them.
We made it to the road just in time and began frantically waving our arms in the air. The car halted to a stop. I just opened the back door and we all dove in and locked the door. Then I heard my dad’s voice.
“Are you guys okay?” He questioned
We were all so relieved that it took us a few moments to explain to him what had just happened. My dad listened with interest but thought that we were joking.
“We’ll drive around tomorrow and see if we can find any evidence of the potential attack,” my dad said with a question mark hidden in his words.
I could tell that he didn’t fully believe us but who would? However, for us we knew that we had just been saved from a horrible death and we went to bed that night more thankful to be inside our suburban home and safer than ever before.
The next morning Kylee, Christine and I piled back into my dad’s car as he drove to the very spot where he had picked us up from. As I looked out the window, fear was gripping me and my heart began racing again. My mind played back memories of the night before as my eyes scanned the forest trees and even the doorway of the red brick home that had shielded us from being found. Then my dad pulled up to the area where we first saw the two wolves. What we saw next created an emotion that I can barely explain. It was as if confusion, relief, and joy were all combined in one feeling and everyone in the car felt it. Sitting in the driveway, were two Labrador retrievers chained to a house. “They” were the wolves that had apparently chased us the night before limited by their long chain leashes. They hadn’t even left their driveway. They may have taken off after us but they obviously couldn’t run further than their property line. We had made up all of the deadly attack story in our minds. The wolves were actually mild-tempered dogs with occasional severe anger issues. The night before we thought that we were going to lose our lives when truly nothing but fear was trying to take us. False, fake but all-too-real fear.
Fear always exaggerates the situation. It halts us from our greatness and comes to attack each and every one of us. The big three fears include the fear of failure, the fear of success, and the fear of the unknown and they have the ability to stop us in our tracks. Fear is just faith pointed in the wrong direction.
Looking back the only reason why we were so fearful when we saw those “wolves” was because of the stories we had been hearing about coyote attacks in our neighborhood. Without that news we most likely wouldn’t have run in terror but instead had taken the time to recognize that they were just Labradors chained to a house. Almost every time, fear has the ability to take something small and blow it up way bigger than reality. Fear takes a curious dog and turns it into a vicious blood-thirsty wolf.
All too often fear is just our imagination creating a negative vision of what could happen. Our imagination should be used to create a positive vision of what could happen. Faith helps us create a positive vision of what could be. A positive view of a preferred future. When we believe in ourselves and our vision fear cannot paralyze us.
In order to overcome the next big fear that is standing in the way of our destiny there are three ways that we can do that the most effectively. The first is we need to acknowledge that the fear is there. We can’t kick it under the refrigerator like an ice cube that has fallen on the floor. Once we acknowledge that it’s there and we feel the fear then we should prepare to face it. Until we face fear it still has dominion over us. I have seen when people immediately go out and face their fears yet they don’t prepare themselves to face it and get slammed to the ground. I admire that courage but it needs to be blended with strategic wisdom so we are equipped for the battle at hand. We need to prepare ourselves by building ourselves up with the truth about our own identity. Part of the preparation is understanding that what’s behind our fear is most likely the next upgrade in our lives. The more fears we face and overcome the more growth we experience. We also need to keep in mind that wrong voices produces wrong choices. Surrounding ourselves with the right voices could be the make or break us when it comes to preparing to face a particular fear that we no longer want to allow to rule over us. We may have to distance ourselves from particular friends and even family members who don’t speak life. I remember hearing a story about one of the biggest thinkers and world changers of our day – Oral Roberts. When he would be having a conversation with someone and that person would begin speaking doubt, fear and unbelief, Oral would turn his head around and stop paying attention. Some may be disturbed and think, “Oh, well that is so rude!” The truth is that this man was making such a great impact in the world that he needed to guard and protect his own faith. And that is what we must do. We may not be so audacious to turn our heads away from negative people but we can at least guard our ears and eyes against negativity that has the potential to ignite fear in us.
Not only must we acknowledge our fear. We also have to prepare ourselves to face it. Lastly when it comes to facing and overcoming fear we need to do it afraid. Most likely we will still feel the fear but that’s where we become courageous. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is when we feel the fear but move forward anyway. No matter what the fear is that you are encountering use these life shifters to conquer them so you can get one step closer to your destiny.
In order to face and overcome our fears we must first acknowledge that the fear is there. Secondly, we should prepare to encounter them by reinforcing the truth about our own identity and being discerning of which voices to listen to. And lastly even if we still feel the fear its necessary to be courageous.
Since the day Kylee, Christine and I discovered that we had imagined that the “wolves” were chasing us, I have been learning to guard my mind from fear trying to dominate and overwhelm my thoughts. I am learning to be intentional with my faith and I encourage you to take faith seriously and your fears lightly. Flip your fears into faith and believe the truth rather than the growling lies of fear.