Fear with Faith

fear power lines

Tonight after I tucked all the kids in bed Bostyn came running out into the hall. She grabbed on to my hand and pulled me back into the twins’ room. She was a little bit shaky and said, “Mom . . . today at school we watched a video about electricity and how if the power lines are down and you get too close to them it can kill you. Bailey and I are sort of freaking out about it and we can’t go to sleep.”

I sat down on their bed and tucked them back into their covers. I wasn’t sure what to say but within seconds these words came to my mind. I said, “Girls . . . I don’t think Heavenly Father gives us knowledge so we can fear. I believe that knowledge is given to us to keep us safe. Heavenly Father wants you to know about the dangers of power lines . . . not so you can be in fear all night—and not so you can be paralyzed in fear when an emergency happens and a power line is down—He wants you to have this knowledge so you can have faith—faith in yourself that if that tragedy were to come up in your life . . . you would know just what to do. I believe that Satan wants us to obtain knowledge so we can fear. He wants you to stay awake all night fearing your new knowledge. He wants you to be so worried that you don’t sleep all night long; then tomorrow you are so tired you don’t enjoy any part of your day . . . and Halloween is no fun at all. He wants you to panic for the rest of your life so much that when one day you come to a fallen power line you are so scared you don’t know how to use your knowledge to keep yourself safe.  I know that this knowledge about the dangers of power lines feels new and unknown—but I think that Heavenly Father sent it to you as a tool to store in the back of your mind for safe keeping. Your new knowledge isn’t to be used right now, because the only use for it right now does not come from God, it is fear. God wants us to use our faith to store that message of safety so one day if we need to bring it out . . . it will be our faith—not our fear—that will help us remember how to keep ourselves safe.” 

I have no idea where those words came from inside of me—because I don’t believe they did. The power in my testimony to my daughters tonight about power lines spoke a million words to my own heart. There are so many moments in the past few years that I have taken knowledge and turned it into fear. Even in the little every day information given to me by another person—I have developed a skill to put my fear into motion from the tiniest of “facts”. 

Since Emmett’s death especially, I have spent days—sometimes months—thinking that knowledge would bring me faith enough to find the peace I was seeking. Knowledge in itself is a worthy cause, but when that knowledge is coupled with fear . . . the aftermath can be devastating—sometimes just as powerful as the event in which you wanted to obtain more knowledge about in the first place. 

The trial for me was that knowledge. I craved the facts; I needed them to live. I never stopped searching for them—and any day that I would take a break from my search . . . the facts would find me. It was as if we were on a hunt for each other—the facts and me—each of us just a step behind one another. Sometimes it was as simple as a nurse in the ER, after getting stitches in Tytus’ finger, pulling me to the side of the building to tell me of some facts she overheard on the night of the murder. Other times it was a random phone call from an unknown caller giving me a tip. Information poured in constantly—but when it didn’t, I searched for it. 

Every eye staring my way in the grocery store, was a potential bearer of the truth that I craved; every pretty girl a threat to the marriage I no longer had . . . and worse a trigger of fear in the marriage I was trying to build. I was like a sponge that was drying up, but nothing seemed to make things right inside. No amount of evidence called in by detectives brought me one ounce of the peace I still longed for. That way I could piece together in my mind all that I did wrong—so I could change whatever parts of me had not been good enough for him. I hoped that the trial would give me all the parts of my life I did not know—and that knowledge would save me from ever living any of it again. 

Each time the trial date was changed, it was like another million pound load was placed upon my shoulders. One day I got a call much different than any I had received. Mediation. Rob had agreed to try to mediate the case. Mediate—like a no fault divorce? You take your truck, I will take ours . . . and we will call it fair . . .? I wanted to throw up, but I agreed. My desire to have the trial over out weighed my need for every nasty detail. 

The days leading up to mediation were heavy.  I could not wait to put a face to his mug shot. I wondered if he even had a heart—maybe he would look like the tin man, who could feel nothing inside. 

The day of the mediation came. I awoke to an excitement I had never felt before. I was nervous, but even more I was ready to have my voice heard. I had asked my step dad to accompany me to the courthouse. By the time we reached the parking lot I was shaking. The excitement to explode my emotions was like a bomb waiting to go off. My nerves had set in full force. I wasn’t ready to face Rob, but I could not wait. 

We were shown our room. Emmett’s parents were both waiting inside with our attorneys. Rob was in a room down the hall. We waited for what seemed like four years before the mediator came to our room. He began to speak. He said something along the lines of, “Well, I appreciate all of you being here today . . . we hope to come to some sort of resolve by the end of the day. I will be going back and forth between the two rooms in hope that we can come to some sort of bargain that we can mediate this case out on. Once I meet with Rob and his attorneys, I will come back in here and discuss with the victims what they are willing to settle with . . . and we will just go back and forth until we reach an agreement.”

My heart dropped. Isn’t this the day when I am no longer just a victim? Isn’t this my time to let it all out . . . and piece together all that was broken by this man?

I couldn’t stop it. I said, “Sir . . . I appreciate you being here and trying to work with all of us. This case . . . is probably just another day on the job for you, but . . . it is a hard one for us. I need you to know something—we . . . we aren’t just victims. I know that your job is to just listen to facts of the case and settle on words . . . but what about us? We are not just victims. I have a picture with me of five of the little “victims” of this case. Is there a time today when you get to see that, or hear about them? They each have names and stories of how this murder affected their lives. So though I am so grateful that you are here to listen to the facts . . . I just . . . I need you to know that this case is not just about facts and victims. It is about people with names, and testimonies of truths that came after the gun. So please, today as you speak with Rob about the hours that lead up to that gun fire . . . please don’t forget us and everything that has happened to us after it—please don’t forget that we are more than just victims in a crime movie . . . we are people and this has been our real life.” 

All eyes were on me. Though I didn’t get to tell my stories, it felt good to have a voice. Rob didn’t end up settling on anything that day. I didn’t even get to see his face . . . but for once since he had pulled that trigger I felt like my voice was heard. Maybe not in the way I had anticipated it would be—but that day I showed myself that I did not have to live in fear. I was not a victim. I was a person. Though I still waited silently to find the answers I craved at the trial, I was not afraid of the person who was inside of me. 

Fear. It is like an epidemic. Once it settles in us—it is nearly impossible to set it free. 

I feared more in those eighteen months—that I waited to break free from the victimhood Rob’s gun had imprisoned me in—than I have in the rest of my entire life combined. Fear robbed me of life —fear stole my soul from my body every single day.

In one way or another we have all been imprisoned by fear. It drives us to say and do things out of anger. It passively waits silently for us to allow its power to overwhelm our minds… sometimes in the dark of the night about a truth we have learned—or sometimes in the light of the day about a truth we long to hear. 

He is there. He does not want fear to destroy us. We cannot be exempt from the power of fear, but we can turn it over to God. We can testify to our broken souls that it is through Him we can find faith. Just like I testified to my little girls tonight about the power of God, I have whispered to my own heart many times as I was trapped in the plaguing power of fear—He is there. He does not want fear to destroy us. We cannot be exempt from the power of fear, but we can turn it over to God. We can testify to our broken souls that it is through Him we can find faith. 

So on those dark nights when fear is caving in—PRAY. Ask Christ to send his grace. Pray for reassurance that the knowledge of this world can strengthen your faith. We will not fear when we are blessed with faith—faith in God; faith in this world; faith in our future . . . and even more—faith in ourselves. 

That moment when I told a room full of people that I wanted to be seen as more than a victim—that was the second I finally did. I saw my strength, for the first time the way God had seen me all along. Faith that even when the scores cannot be settled in a day of words; faith that we cannot control the power lines in our lives—but that we can stand tall where ever we are. Faith did not carry me through the mediation day until I realized that I had no need to fear. That moment when I told a room full of people that I wanted to be seen as more than a victim—that was the second I finally did. I saw my strength, for the first time the way God had seen me all along. And I was standing. 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How do faith and fear work in opposition?
  2. How can prayer and trust in God help you overcome fear?

Check out this post in the Overcoming Fear Badge

Ashlee Birk is the Author of the blog and book series entitled The Moments We Stand.  In them she tells of her personal journey of healing and seeking peace after the murder of her husband Emmett.  Through her trials she has learned the importance of a personal relationship with her Father in Heaven. She has found light in the darkest of moments—and she has found hope when she thought it was lost.  She has come to find that the grace of Christ is powerful—not only in sin—but also in forgiveness and carrying you through some of your darkest moments.

Ashlee is remarried and resides in Idaho with her husband Shawn and their blended family of six children. They work hard every day to continue their journey of peace and finding the joy in life. Ashlee believes that every day is a gift—and in each one, she has learned to stand.

The Moments We Stand

spouse murdered 11/2011

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