Aggravation / by Michael Nichols

I'm not claustrophobic. I don't mind closed spaces. I really don't mind most things. Except when they're terrible. Then, yes. I mind. Spiders. Suck. Okay, maybe they don't really suck, but they do when you're in a closed space. Not too long ago, I was helping a friend connect a drainpipe under his house. Granted, spiders beneath a house are sort of an expected thing. That being said, the crawlspace I was in was narrow. And full of dead spiders hanging from the floor joists.

I apologize if I've managed to upset some of your stomachs.

Please, know I'm going somewhere with this.

I don't like the idea that potentially harmful venomous spiders are in the same hard-to-move place that I am in. I don't like that I don't have much room to swat said spiders before they bite me. I don't like the idea of being in the dark where I can't see what's coming, only feel what I'm touching. I don't like the idea that I might spend a night in the ER due to necrosis from a spider bite.

But I really am not afraid of spiders. I hate them, but I'm not afraid of them.

To be afraid of something is a big deal. Fear usually leads us to a fight or flight response. Either we avoid the problem at all costs or we destroy the problem at all costs. Both of these tasks are huge, though!

So, there's option one. Fight. Run toward your fears, and use any means necessary to take them down.

Then, there's option two. Flight. Run as far away from your fears as possible to protect yourself from them.

Let's move on for a moment from the whole spider thing. Let's talk about heights.

Boy... let's talk about heights...

My county is home to several wooden bridges. I've been on two of them, both over the same river. The first bridge is a walking bridge. You walk on it. People walk on it. All the time. The first time I walked on it, I was a little nervous. I mean, come on! A wooden bridge! You can see through the planks beneath your feet into the depths of the river below! I'd estimate a roughly 30-foot drop!

But that's not the worst bit. No, that comes with the second bridge.

[embed]https://instagram.com/p/uoNpl2jboq/[/embed]

The second bridge has the same general construction, but something about it is different. It's longer, for one thing. Oh. Also, people drive over it. Daily. Often. Like it's nothing.

The first time I ever set foot tire on this bridge was around age five. Okay, fine. My dad did it. But I was there! The next time was for a high-school photography project. Both of those times were in 12- or 15-passenger vans. I never really enjoyed it. It's just that each time I've crossed it, I've liked it less. The last time I tried it was Sunday, 26 October 2014. By this time, I was fully aware of a few things:

  1. The size of the bridge (400-something feet total, 130-something per span)
  2. The construction of the bridge (wood-and-cable; three-span, bowstring, through truss)
  3. The definition of a "weight limit" (three tons as the sign says)
  4. The condition of the bridge (originally constructed in 1889, maintained often enough to be driveable by large SUVs and apparently service and school vans)
  5. The condition of the planks (not the best I've ever seen)
  6. The size of the planks (12-ish feet wide)
  7. The sounds (it creaks... it freaking creaks when you cross it and you're between its pylons... cable bridges tend to do that as the cables are designed to shift to accommodate the weight...)

Okay, I could have just given you this link: http://bridgehunter.com/ky/warren/114C00011N/

I imagine that as I crossed this bridge, Peter the water-walking Biblical apostle would look over at Jesus and **be all like, "This guy knows the struggle." I already knew that the bridge would probably hold me up given the amount of traffic it sees. I wish it would be removed. It's terrible, and the street it belongs to is a loop, so it wouldn't be missed. But alas! it's "historic." Forget history! I want a safe bridge!

All joking aside, The bridge is beautiful. The view, the construction--everything but the horrendous creaking. That's kind of what I want you to hear. The idea that the ground beneath your feet tires might not be sure is unsettling. But what if that were the only way to cross? What if the street dead-ended after the river? What if the current was too strong to swim against it if the bridge gave way? What if the only way out was through everything you feared most? (And yes, I'm referencing a Superchick song.)

You see, there is a subtle yet distinct difference between fighting your fears and simply aggravating them; not to mention the difference in the maturity of such a person. Some people are the people who would avoid a beehive altogether, whereas others insist on poking it incessantly until they are covered in tiny pin-sized defensive stab wounds. That being said, I have this paranoia that most dichotomies are false: I don't think it's ever really as fight-or-flight scenario. I think it's always a matter of being prepared. You don't have to attack the beehive to get inside to the honey, but you should probably be wearing a beekeeper's suit. And to keep the honey coming, you should probably take very good care of the hive and its occupants.

I don't think crossing the bridge was a matter of whether or not it would support me--okay, it kind of was--but more a matter of whether or not I was going to handle it right. Sure, bridges have given out before, so hopefully, a person crossing would know how to swim in a pinch, and I'd be able to exit the car safely. Heck, even if the bridge were to hold up--and it did--I'm not going to be able to turn around halfway across a one-lane bridge, and I'm certainly not going to try to back up, and hopefully I won't be so paralyzed that I stop halfway across...

But fears aren't always tangible in such ways.

Maybe the fear in your life is of the collapse of a relationship or the failure to move up in your job. Maybe it's a fear of the sin you hold--and we all hold some sin, though we need to always be letting it go--or that your life will have been without meaning or purpose.

I'm not here to tell you how to address your fears. I'm just here to tell you that you don't have to enter a situation unprepared. Even if you have no clue where your life is going, or what God's plan is for your life, letting Jesus take point and following Him into the fray is the best possible option because we know He's going to lead us in the right paths, even if those paths lead us through scary times or creaky bridges before the end. He will give you the resources to succeed, or the grace to endure, and sometimes both.

I just want you to know that you don't have to poke the beehive and aggravate your fears. You can face them and fight them because you're not alone. A friend of mine told me that. This is what she said:

"Facing your fears involves God. Aggravating your fear is just you, pushing yourself to a place you probably can't handle alone. Yes, you can do all things, but only through Christ, who strengthens you. You are not, and I am not, the Little Engine that Could. No amount of self motivation will make our fears become manageable, only with God's help can we do that."

--Rebecca Skirvin

** I don't actually say things like "be all like" in real life. I just don't gots dat street cred, tho.