I’m not gonna lie- #teampelzel is a fun family. Sure, we’re messy, the girl drama is real, and just today my toddler pulled a handful of her sister’s hair clean off her head while I was doing the dishes. But we have fun together. Are we that perfect facade family you see in well-lit pictures on Instagram? GOOD LORD NO. But we can rock a 2am scream fest like no one’s business.
The hubs and I are also avid TV addicts. We love a good super hero or comedy, and mostly we just like to get into stories together. I am constantly re-binging either New Girl, Parks and Recreation, or The Office. And since we realized that my husband is basically Ron Swanson we frequently quote his line, “Don’t sass me, Berkus.” Except we insert our last name. Of course.
“Don’t sass me, Pelzel!”
We say it all the time, about anything, always with our finger pointing up like a threat. You don’t want to do your chores? “Don’t sass me, Pelzel!” You want to disagree about something? “Don’t sass me, Pelzel!” You have a comeback that is clearly superior to any statement I just made? “DON’T SASS ME, PELZEL!”
So it should be no surprise that our 6 year old has picked up on this habit. And it is the freaking cutest thing I have ever heard. We have one of those super classy minivans that was made in 2001 (you read that right- 2001. And until last week it was our youngest vehicle. So there’s that.) and the opening mechanism on “Ella’s” door has recently kicked the bucket. As it was on its way out we would frequently talk to the door and try to bargain with it. “Please work, Door! Please! Come on, Door! You can do it!!” And then to my utter delight, Ella’s little voice squeaked out, “Don’t sass me, Door!” And my heart died from cuteness overload.
Our Ella girl- what a treasure she is. She talks about Jesus like she knows Him because she does. She loves to cuddle, squeeze her sister until she can’t breathe and man does that girl have the sweetest laugh. She is kind, compassionate and tender.
Ella also struggles with fear. Fear is like THE dumbest thing ever, amiright? What an incredible weapon satan has in fear: an imaginary dagger that can make a real slice into your mind and affect every decision you make. Have you ever had a situation like that? Where you know that your fear is not real and makes exactly zero sense, but you can’t shake it anyway? And really, about 98% of the fears I deal with are “What if?” scenarios- things that will literally never happen. But they paralyze me nonetheless- it’s ridiculous.
I often watch fear settle in on Ella like a dark cloud. Sometimes I see the storm slowly approaching. Others, it sneaks up so fast that I can literally watch as her countenance shifts. She goes from happy, peaceful Ella to fear-filled, hysterical Ella in a matter of seconds. Then I have to talk her off the ledge which can take anywhere from an hour to three months, depending on the situation. A toilet overflowed at Chick Fil A when she was 2 and I’m hoping that by her 7th birthday she’ll be totally over the fear of that happening again. I kid you not- one time she drew a picture of a simple jack-o-lantern and it scared her so much she started crying. HER OWN DRAWING.
The thing is, fear will consume you if you let it. And lately we’ve been talking to Ella about ways to cope when she feels a fear storm coming on. We’ve done everything from deep breathing, to praying, to making a “Brave List”. And those are all good and maybe I’ll write a post about them someday. But my favorite “fear tactic” that we’ve come up with wasn’t even my idea- it was Ella’s.
One day we were in the middle of a fear storm. It settled in over Ella like it always does- stealing my baby girl’s peace and joy. I began trying to talk reason to her, telling her how what she was afraid of wasn’t real and that sometimes Satan is just a jerk. Something clicked in her head- I could see it all over her face. Suddenly she sat up a little straighter. Shoulders back, chest out. Then she screamed out in her toughest voice, “Fear, don’t sass me!”
I almost cried, but a burst of laughter and cheers came out of me instead. My girl- staring fear in the face and telling it to get the heck out. When I think back on this day, I both smile and tear up at the same time. We’ve since evolved this line of thought and included, “Fear, don’t steal my fun!” Because fear is a dang a jerk and we are sick of that guy.
I wish that in my own moments of fear I could apply this same concept: that I could sit up a little straighter, shoulders back, chest out, and scream reason at Fear like she did. But for whatever reason, I justify my fears as being “bigger” or being “about real things”. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. But what I do know is this: fear is fear. It wraps around your mind and your heart and doesn’t let go. While my fears might be about much more realistic scenarios and based on experiences rather than assumptions, I tend to just let the fear cloud take me over. It settles in while I’m doing the dishes or looking at yet another negative pregnancy test. It happens after arguing with Nathan all day or cleaning up my daughters’ umpteenth vomit mess. It happens when I take any step of faith that is big and met with failure or a different outcome than I expected. And for me, fear looks a lot like anger- I get frustrated that I can’t control or fix a situation. When Ella feels this way, she shuts down and is incapacitated. When I feel that way, I start screaming and trying every last way to solve the problem. Both, it turns out, leave us nowhere.
I wish I could look at situations the way Ella did that day. I wish I could make Fear into a person- put Fear’s face onto a bully’s body. One of those bullies who’s small and stocky and knows it. I’d look down to that bully and say, “Fear- don’t you sass me. You are small and you know it- just go away.” Fear would retaliate, of course, because that’s what bullies do. It’d come back with some nonsense that was part truth, but twisted. Again, I’d say, “Fear- you heard me- don’t you dare sass me.” I’d stick to my guns, too. “Not today, Fear, NOT TODAY.” Over and over again if I had to- I’d hold my ground.
So, like… why don’t I?
Why do I waste so much time letting fear run me ragged? Why do I let those little thoughts creep in and take over my whole day? Why do I let Fear have any say in my dreams?
“You’ve sassed me enough, Fear. I’m done with you now. And for that matter- you’re done sassing this whole family. No longer will we cower to your ways! Our God is big and He is strong and you already know that He wins anyway, so take a dang hike, ya filthy animal.”
It’s easy, of course, for me to say these things after I’ve had my coffee and I’m not facing something scary at the moment. It’s easy to pump myself up and pretend like I won’t succumb to Fear’s ways another day. And truthfully, I’m not always on the offense. I’m usually too caught up in something to realize that I’m being bullied by Fear in the first place. But today I’m here to say this: I’m gonna sass fear right back. That’s right- I said it. Fear- I’m coming for ya.
And today, my friend, you can do this too. You can take that scrawny bully by the ear and show him what’s up. Fear has stolen too much of your time, energy and joy. Fear has snuffed out far too many of your dreams. And that dang little punk has maybe even stolen days, months, or YEARS away from your life and he has GOTS TA GO. And guess what? You have the authority to kick him out. Not just your pastor, not your grandma or your life group leader, YOU. And here’s why:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” -2 Timothy 1:7
“He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. However, don’t rejoice that[a]the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” -Luke 10:18-20
My friend- this power, this authority- Jesus has freely offered it to you. Trample all over that enemy- trample him good. Repeat truth to yourself til you’re blue in the face if you have to, but FEAR- YOU WILL NOT SASS US ANYMORE.
Here’s to you, dear one. I see you rising up. I see your face glowing with the reflection of heaven’s light. I see your armor on and shield raised- darting away any fiery arrows that are coming your way. I see you fighting at your kitchen sink, your bathroom stall, your desk at work: not giving up. I see you standing your ground, taking back everything that fear has stolen from you. I see you draw your sword and slice him deep- right between the lies. And then- most beautiful of all- I see you standing tall, shoulders back, chest out. Victory over fear, my friend, it’s yours today.