Nighttime. I’m driving a two-lane highway. I like two-lanes. I like old fence posts. Old barns. I like all sorts of things. I like driving. It puts me at ease.
You have no reason to care about this, but I used to worry a lot. I still do, but I worried more back when I was a kid. After my father passed, I was afraid of everything.
Confession. As a boy, sometimes I’d lie in bed and feel so scared I couldn’t catch my breath. I don’t know what I was afraid of exactly. I suppose nobody tells you grief feels just like fear.
So I was afraid. Plain and simple. Afraid
of almost everything. Afraid my family would die. Car accidents were another particular fear. I was afraid of vacant houses, doctors, hurricanes, tsunamis, realtors, two-percent milk, etc.
Of course, it wasn’t like this before my father pulled his own plug. Once upon a time, I played baseball, ate ice cream, and fished in creeks, carefree.
Fear has a way of taking over. At night, I’d wonder if death was going to swallow me whole. Irrational, I know. But young boys aren’t rational.
But getting back to night driving. When I was fourteen, I’ll never forget when my friend and I snuck out of Saturday night prayer meeting. We were there with his grandmother. She was a sweet, white-haired woman who memorized Bible verses and smoked Winstons like a tugboat.
I remember when my pal leaned against his grandmother’s car and jingled her keys which he’d taken from her purse.
“Wanna go for a drive?” he said.
“Right now?” I said.
“Um, it’s prayer meeting?”
His smile was a wild one.
I didn’t want to. I was—you can probably guess—too afraid. I was afraid we’d wreck. Afraid we’d wake up in county lock-up with orange jumpsuits and a roommate named Bad Bart McThroatslicer.
But my friend wasn’t like me. He wasn’t afraid. Something about this was refreshing. He begged me to get in the car. It was terrifying, but I did.
We rode his grandmother’s vehicle down gravel roads at slow speeds. We saw deer cross the highway. We avoided kamikaze possums. We didn’t pass a single car, only empty farmland. And this experience did something to me. It calmed me somehow. Neither of us said much. We only took in the country miles.
Finally, he parked near a creek. He pitched me the keys.
“Your turn to drive,” he said.
“Me?” I said.
“Suit yourself,” he said. “But I ain’t driving us back. We’ll be in a heap of trouble if you don’t drive us home.” Then he winked. “Quit being afraid.”
“I don’t know how.”
“You’re stronger than you think you are.”
He jumped out of the car and sat on the edge of the creek, legs dangling. And I cussed myself. Why couldn’t I be fearless? Why wasn’t I made that way?
My breathing got fast. Sweat accumulated on my forehead. I took the keys and started the car. He jumped in. And thus, I drove us home with both of my trembling hands on the wheel.
And while I know this wasn’t the world’s greatest story, that night I did actually feel something. I wish I could tell you that I felt less afraid, but that wasn’t it. I felt strong. And I have learned that sometimes, feeling strong can make fear easier to bear.
Right now, I’m passing farmland. The stars are putting on a great show. It all reminds me that the fella writing you right now is stronger than he knows. And the same goes for you.
So I don’t know where you are tonight, or who you are, or what kind of private hell you’re going through. But some fella you’ve never even met is thinking about you.
And you’re stronger than you think you are.
Celia - October 7, 2021 7:11 am
Jeez, I really needed this one Sean, your right we are stronger than we know, faith over fear, and I will make it out to the other side ok soon enough, that light at the end of the tunnel is a little brighter tonight because of you. God bless
James Hooker - October 7, 2021 7:12 am
I did something kinda sorta similar. Tommy Bessinger was driving. We went to jail.
Pat Orrell - October 7, 2021 7:14 am
Thank you Sean. I am a relatively new subscriber and in awe that you can create something magical every day. This post in particular made me smile. Kids need large doses of healthy risk and challenge. Your night-time drive sounds like it grew you in ways that were healing. I’m glad that no adult discovered your escapade and had to intervene. Wise adults will say “Yes” to teens whenever they can, and “No”, only when they have to.
Debbie g - October 7, 2021 7:24 am
You are amazing Sean Thank you
Love to all of us
Linda B. - October 7, 2021 9:32 am
Thank you so much.❤❤
Teresa - October 7, 2021 10:01 am
Sitting in a hospital waiting room while my very unhealthy husband gets prepped for surgery, I needed to read this right now. Thank you.
Tracy - October 7, 2021 11:16 am
Dear Teresa. I just said a prayer for you and for your husband.
Lulu - October 7, 2021 3:20 pm
Hello Teresa, Hang on…prayers are lifting for you and your husband. Hang on!
Roma Walsh - October 7, 2021 4:56 pm
Teresa, I pray that the surgeon has the God-given wisdom & skill to make your husband’s surgery a success and pray that your husband’s prognosis is in God’s hands….
Mary Ann Ludwig - October 7, 2021 10:05 am
Oh, Sean, how I needed just this column on this night. Thank you for reminding me that how we face life is just as important as how we will face death when it comes. And it will come to us all eventually. Is there comfort in knowing that? Not really, but there is comfort in knowing that we can be strong enough to face anything because that’s how we were made. And we are never alone, are we? There is a higher being that is there for us. Thanks again, Sean, for reminding me of that.
Michaele Birch - October 7, 2021 12:29 pm
Thank you Sean. I read everything you write, unfailingly, because everything touches me. But this one, oh this one… I was always the one that knew no fear. Owned and drove hot rod cars that embarrassed many men that never believed a girl could handle a muscle car. Those were the days. Learned that and pretty much everything else from my brother who was five years older. Everyone loved him; he was just one of those kinds of guys. But to me he was so much more! My hero, the bright and shining star in my life! He passed on 9-11, and my life will never be the same. Now I am overwhelmed with pain and grief, anxiety, and all the fears you grew up with as a child. I will find my way out, but maybe not without your writings. Thank you. God looks out for us, even when we are mad at him…or her.
pyrthroes - October 7, 2021 10:47 am
Odd… never had any money, but cared less. Epochs back, we shipped as a merchant seaman (“messman, wiper”) to Bombay at age 17; played bush-pilot in Tanganyika with British missionaries at 22, then served as a USAF Flight Commander [non-flying] in the Aleutian Islands and West Germany, having hitch-hiked overland via SE Asia and Khyber Pass to Mideast and clangorous Stamboul.
Best do this when you’re young… meantime, we anticipate that anyone born post-2050 will upload their human sensibilities to cyber-spatial, hyper-linked Cloud Minds, capable of infusing trans-human sentience to effectively immortal robo-forms accessing the cosmos’ Eternal Present by quantum-entanglement/superposition throughout this Universe of Stars.
Sounds extreme… yet could Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867) have conceived radio/TV, could Darwin have foreseen genomic engineering, or Max Planck in 1900 have surmised nuclear energy? Let’s just say, the ten short decades to AD 2125 will see more existential changes than have the last four centuries combined.
Ann - October 7, 2021 1:03 pm
Let’s just hope they can also download the wisdom and stories of Sean while they’re at it. 😄
Misty - October 7, 2021 10:54 am
Love your stories🥰 thank you
Joey - October 7, 2021 11:06 am
“…grief feels just like fear.”
You are so right.
Jan - October 7, 2021 11:14 am
Thanks! I needed that!
Robin Ungano - October 7, 2021 11:16 am
Perfect words to start my day…Thank you.
Steve McCaleb - October 7, 2021 11:18 am
Fear….gut wrenching grab a handful of your guts and squeeze fear is as debilitating as any disease known to man. And I fear it is far more widespread and destructive than the Covid virus. I’m afraid it is particularly rampant among today’s children. With all the crap flying at them these days they don’t know what to expect, believe or do. You parents might want to consider that in dealing with them. It’s not any easy time to be a kid. The best parenting advice I’ve ever received was in the song “Live Forever” by Billy Joe Shaver. Dial up YouTube and listen. It’ll help you I promise.
Rbonda - October 7, 2021 11:29 am
Ann - October 7, 2021 11:41 am
jill - October 7, 2021 11:56 am
Thanks I needed that.
Deb - October 7, 2021 12:12 pm
Mom recently died, Dad has Alzheimer’s and was very dependent on her. Grief sure does feel like fear, for him and for me. Hope we really are stronger than we know.
Cheryl - October 7, 2021 12:20 pm
I love the line, “the stars are putting on a great show”!
Paul McCutchen - October 7, 2021 12:48 pm
When I was younger I seemed to be afraid but as I got older and age let me try new things. Now as I get older still, fear creeps back in my mind but this time as caution.
Karen John - October 7, 2021 1:21 pm
My father died this week. I have been filled with fear. Last night I was driving home after dark. I kept watching for deer. As I turned into my street from a country road, you guessed it, here flies a deer from drivers side. I hit the breaks. All’s well. I needed that to get me to recognize real things. I still woke at 3:43 am today and “checked my traps”, I am still scared, but after last nights trap checking, I was able to get back to sleep a bit. Grief and fear, as a tag team. I never expected. Thank you for thinking about me.
Donna Xander - October 7, 2021 2:00 pm
Yep, you’ve got it. You crept into my brain, probably through my right ear, and read my thoughts. It’s not pretty in there. The last two paragraphs caused my eyes to seep. I’m seeing you as the shepherd of a herd of mangy sheep. I’m just one, but I love you.
shelaine2015Elaine Price - October 7, 2021 2:04 pm
Thank you-you are describing my life. Can’t always erase the fear, but I believe the definition of courage and faith is “ Do it afraid.”
Carol - October 7, 2021 2:32 pm
I am seeing Phil 4:13 everywhere lately! Thanks for your take on this verse.
Bebe - October 7, 2021 3:09 pm
This is so good! It’s great that your friend probably helped you overcome that relentless fear better than any therapist would.
Carol Mcrae - October 7, 2021 3:30 pm
Lulu - October 7, 2021 3:32 pm
Dear Sean, it is awesome you touch so many with your words. Don’t ever stop writing and changing peoples lives! You’re such a wonderful person and God blesses you as well as your followers. Thank you!
Tom Wallin - October 7, 2021 3:47 pm
Kim Rowell - October 7, 2021 4:42 pm
Your posts are tons better than any self help, self affirmation book/podcast/video out there. Your writing speaks to me. Thank you so much.
Linda Moon - October 7, 2021 5:38 pm
I care. I understand. Within two years two suicides of young men occurred in my circle of family and friends. I have two cats. One is not afraid of anything, and the other is a scaredy-cat about most everything. They’re so different, yet they’re from the same litter of kittens. And sometimes I, one person, vacillate between fear and bravery. So, thank you for thinking about me. The next time I feel afraid, I’ll be thinking about you, fella, and I’m so very happy to have met you.
Karen Holderman - October 7, 2021 6:43 pm
Sean, you speak for many of us. I like what Donna said about you leading a herd of mangy sheep. Your words are truly powerful. Thank you.
AlaRedClayGirl - October 7, 2021 6:48 pm
Reminds me of the quote, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
MARY Black - October 7, 2021 7:48 pm
Sean, you don’t need less fear, you just need a little more courage❣️❣️
Christina - October 7, 2021 8:05 pm
Thanks for the encouragement even in our private hells.
Suellen - October 7, 2021 9:10 pm
I was thinking of you as a boy and wondering what your Dad would have said to you in those moments when you were so afraid. I know he loved you and I know his pain must have been intense for him to choose to leave you. A lot of people start thinking that their loved ones would be better off without them and we all know that isn’t true. I’m praying that anyone who reads this and has any suicidal thoughts would think about the ones around them. I’ve been known to say don’t take a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Relationships can be fixed. If not, life can begin again and be glorious one day if maybe different. Hearts can be mended. It’s true Sean. We’re stronger than we think we are.
Kathy H., Farmington MN - October 7, 2021 9:17 pm
I shared your essay on my social media “face”. You often hit that old familiar sore spot in my heart. Losing my Dad was excruciating. Losing my husband was almost almost but not quite entirely immobilizing. Tackling things that needed doing, and I *believed* no one else could do them, is what made me feel strong again. Here is what I added to your words. Thank you.
“…feeling strong can make fear easier to bear.”
I have a BFF. She escaped FB a couple years ago, so she won’t see this. I try to tell her on a regular basis how much she means to me. How she holds me up. Insists I get on with life, damn it, when I yearn for the opposite. How, when she passes before me (she is a health nut, I am not, private joke), I intend to submit her cause for sainthood IMMEDIATELY. If not sooner.
She introduced me to “Sean of the South”. He and I know each other very well, but will likely never meet. My turn to share him with you.
MAM - October 7, 2021 10:40 pm
I think that fear has become the pandemic and is worse than the virus it has replaced. It’s all because people believe the propaganda that is fed them by mainstream news. Do your own research, but not with Google, use a non-tracking browser, like DuckDuckGo, ask the questions and you’ll find answers. I have found many that I believe because the MSM simply does not make sense most of the time. Think for yourself, and remember that if you talk to God, he may not always answer the way you want, but he will lead you. Get rid of your fear and be strong. Thanks, as always, Sean, for articulating the simmering fear many of us feel right now.
Christie McRae - October 8, 2021 3:19 am
Cancer..again. Another brain tumor. Metastasis from brain to liver. New. Frightening- if it weren’t for God. I believe in Him, His plan. His love is perfect and perfect love casts out fear. Others may struggle with fear and I pray for you. I pray you can break free, put your trust in God.
Karen Snyder - October 8, 2021 4:02 am
There aren’t enough ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️. Thanks, Sean. There’s also an excellent Eleanor Roosevelt quote, in a few tweaked versions, that speaks to facing up to our fears. It helps me to remember, too, that God always has my back.
Patri Williams - October 8, 2021 4:12 am
Thank you Sean! That means a lot that you’re thinking of us! It put a smile on my face tonight and I feel just a bit stronger than I did before I read “Afraid”
Diann - October 8, 2021 2:37 pm
Now that’s a friend! What a perceptive young man!
Kim Kennedy - October 8, 2021 7:06 pm
I try to be fearless but I’m just not. Thank you for this—maybe I can be stronger than I think.
Linda Moon - October 8, 2021 10:03 pm
P.S. to Christie McRae: I’ve heard “cancer again” several times. It IS scary. I pray you can can be free of it and continue freedom in your Amazing Faith.
Linda Moon - October 8, 2021 10:13 pm
…..and dance the “can-can”, too, through my inadvertent typo. Dance and be free.
Patricia Watson - October 10, 2021 2:25 am
I don’t feel strong. I used to. I lived overseas as a military wife. I was strong , had no family to rely on or hey when things were problematic. I did ok! Now I’m 80+ years old. I’ve been a widow for 28 of my 65 of married life.
My health, the virus, the government, the hate, the lack of manners and respect, the media and un-American things I see makes me afraid. I don’t like it but I don’t know how to change it. I’m not alone in my thinking. A lot of us older folks feel this way but we are the “Silent Generation” and our silence is now deafening!