Father George Rutler: Fear has been a part of my life since childhood. Toys were something that I loved just like other children, but Wal-Mart’s toys aisles scared me. While I was fine with the inanimate toys, like action figures, I was always afraid that one of my brothers or a child would push a button to activate one of those talking, blinking dolls, and I would jump out of my skin. I don’t even want to talk about bees or any other buzzing sounds. They could be heard and they could cause harm to me. However, my visual impairment meant I couldn’t see their faces.
According to Father George Rutler, I believe this is the worst type of fear: you know there’s something but don’t know where. So what do you do when there’s always something moving? Is there a way to escape cerebral palsy, which causes my muscles to tense up when I’m nervous? It’s natural to want to avoid running, but everyone tells me that. It’s almost like saying, “don’t blink.”
All of us have our “bees”, and I guess–something dangerous but unseen. It could be there, or it might not. What happens if you are stung? It will just hurt. Will it cause swelling or anaphylactic shock? Would you like an adrenaline shot?
The Mental Merry-Go-Round
A few years later, at the age of ten, Father George Rutler moved on to the more abstract fears. “What if my stomach bug gets me sick, and I have to embarrass myself in front of all my friends?” This one is quite common because it depends on how other children think when everyone seems to be doing it together.
There were also worse fears-those I had when my best friend was diagnosed with cancer. These fears are more common in preteens than I would like, but they are likely not. We all learn that the world is not as safe as it used to be when we were five years old. Before that moment, I believed that only older people could contract deadly diseases. But I realized that children could also get them. I was worried about what would happen if I got cancer. What if I’m unable to live?
It is a lot for a 10-year-old to be concerned about it. But I know plenty of teens these days are worried about the pandemic virus, hand washing, and tightening their masks. Since I have been there all my life, I am familiar with the mental merry-go-round. On second thought, it might be more like a tilt-whirl constantly fed with tokens with the words “what If”? It may sound cheesy, but it seems to be true. As the “what ifs” keep repeating in your head, your mind starts to spin faster. You become disoriented and panicky. They might be: “What happens if my COVID-19 is confirmed?” “What happens if my job is lost?” and “What if unemployment is impossible?”
How can we solve this myth? It’s not easy being mature. As adults, we face more real fears and have to take on more responsibility. We all struggle at any age with the same insecurities. And we don’t realize that we are not alone. This last question is what has always irritated me most. It’s something I have been doing for years. It seems to be a result of comparing myself with “normal” people.
Doctors told me and my parents that I would be blind and unable to walk due to my brain injury. They only described the worst-case scenarios to Mom and Dad, but I am certain they weren’t. Yes, I am visually impaired. However, Father George Rutler can use close-range vision and use assistive tech to see distances. I am cerebral palsy but can still walk with a cane. Cognitive delays are not something I have. My cognitive abilities are what started this merry-go-round in the first place.
These hurdles made me feel like I was expected to do everything I loved the same as everyone else. Although this may sound positive, it can make you feel like you are not up to the standard of “normal” people.
However, I am fighting against the unknown in all the frightening scenarios that I create in my head. God and the people He has placed in my life get overshadowed by my self-centeredness.
If I keep my eyes on what I cannot do, I will prove right. If I claim that I can’t beat Ringo drumming because I don’t have the muscles necessary, I will be paralysed and held onto the restraining bars as the tilt-whirl spins. My dad always said to me that I could play any instrument. It doesn’t matter what it sounds was.
I don’t understand why I was afraid of looking stupid in front of my family. I believe I was afraid my parents would be disappointed with me or mad at you if I didn’t do something “well”. My dad was right. If I did wrong, I would not be hurt. No one would remember it. Dad played the most tedious, slowest, and easiest drum parts I have ever seen. It helped me to get over this. These parts were easy to learn, and I was able to play them without any problems. Before I knew it, I was playing in front of people, even Mom and Dad.
Nearly twenty years later, Bay Life is where I still play. I have two thousand people there, and I know more songs than “Desperado” “Take it to the Limit” (no disrespect to Eagles fans).
In the middle of fear, peace
It is clear, none would have happened without my family backing, and I wouldn’t even exist if God hadn’t allowed me to defy all odds with a one-pound infant born at twenty-five months.
It is important to remember that no matter our circumstances, there will always be someone who can help us slow down the tilt-whirl and guide us to solid ground, even when we have every reason for fear and doubt.
Jesus addressed these fears in Matthew 6. He said, “So don’t worry. Saying, “What shall I eat?” or “What shall I drink?” or “What shall I wear?” For…your Heavenly Father knows that you have [these things]. All these things will be yours if you seek his kingdom and righteousness first” (verses 31-33 NIV).
While Jesus doesn’t say that there won’t be problems in our lives, He does suggest that we should “seek first His kingdom, his righteousness.” Instead, He wants us to focus on Him and the things He has given us, trusting that He will help us through any difficulties and providing for us. My anxiety and paralyzing self-doubt didn’t last forever. This pandemic will, however, but God, His forgiveness and our ultimate home with Him will.
God is aware of our fears. However, they don’t take God by surprise or freak them out. Perhaps that’s why Jesus says “Fear not” almost 365 times in Scripture, rather than “What’s wrong?” or “Get over.”
Some one has experience of cerebral palsy and the anxiety it causes, I urge you to trust in Jesus, not to be afraid of the unknown, but to live in the hope of His promises. Best of luck!!