When fear is overwhelming, sometimes you need to press the button—the emergency button. In this special episode, Kate gets real with the people that she calls when she needs to push the button. You'll hear from comedian Joel McHale, writer Nora McInerny, preacher Beth Moore, and Kate's mom for a little dose of courage (and a lot of yelling by one of these people) in these uncertain times.
CW: coronavirus, death of spouse, death of child
The amazing Nora McInerny can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. (This tweet is my favorite and my new quarantine mood).
Find her books It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Okay Too), No Happy Endings, The Hot Young Widows Club, and Bad Moms: the Novel. And if you want to support her incredible non-profit called Still Kickin’ (that has adorable t-shirts), click here.
Bonus: Nora and I had the best conversation on the podcast not long ago. Listen to our conversation here. And gather some friends on Zoom or FaceTime to discuss it with these discussion questions.
Joel McHale can be seen in amazing shows like Community, available for streaming on Hulu, The Joel McHale Show, available on Netflix, and The Soup.
You can find Joel on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and MySpace (yes, really, MySpace).
Beth Moore can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Beth’s latest book Chasing Vines can be found here. Other books by Beth that may provide comfort during this time include Delivered and Praying God’s Word.
You can find plenty about my beautiful mom, Karen Bowler here or here. Oh! And she wrote this gorgeous article on “When Your Child Gets Diagnosed.”
Kate Bowler Well, hello, my dears. I’m Kate Bowler and this is a special episode of Everything Happens. Because our team is practicing social distancing during this pandemic we couldn’t get into our usual studio, so the sound is going to be a little less than perfect and the episode a little different than you’re used to. But in the midst of so much uncertainty, I thought it might just be nice to be together. We’re all feeling a bit fragile. You might be immunocompromised or part of a more vulnerable population or love someone who is. Maybe you’re feeling a lot of financial fear as a small business owner or an hourly employee, or you don’t know if you’ll have your job for much longer. Or maybe this is your first experience with feeling the bottom drop out. So if you’re new to constant fear, I just wanted to say I’m so sorry and welcome. And if you were already here, I’m so, so sorry and thank you for your service. Fear is like a landscape, like a wilderness. And there aren’t many sign markers and I must have missed the free map stand at the entrance. But as we walk this uncertain path, I wanted to introduce you to some of the people that I turn to when I feel afraid. Today, I’ll be talking to four of my favorite people: comedian Joel McHale, preaching powerhouse Beth Moore, the person who housed my body for the greater part of a year, my mom, and this next lovely voice here. You’re about to hear from my friend Nora McInerny. She is tall and from Minnesota and the host of a perfect podcast called Terrible, Thanks For Asking, which I would highly recommend binge listening to because she loves everyone and you can hear it in her voice. She is no stranger to having her life completely dismantled. In the course of six weeks, she lost her husband, Darren, her dad and her unborn baby. The other day I saw this beautiful sign that Nora has in her hallway, a thing that her late husband, Aaron, said even in hospice. It said “it’s going to be OK.” So I thought I’d give her a call and talk about how she thinks about being OK. Also, can I just say before you start listening that my accent goes way Canadian in this phone call, sorry. It’s just how I get under stress. OK. Here’s Nora.
Nora McInerny So what, what are you scared of?
K.B. Yeah, yeah yeah.
N.I. What’s going on with you?
K.B. Well, I hope it’s OK that when I think about just like really terrible stuff, I just think something about you.
N.I. If you didn’t think of me, I would be like, wow, OK.
K.B. Who were we to each other?
N.I. Wow, yeah. Huh, OK. OK.
K.B. I think a lot of people like this is their- this is like their first go around with all of the awful. And I like- but you’re like, you’re a pro. Like for anyone who might not know, you’re like you’re a ninja with- with dealing with terrible at this point.
N.I. So I was thinking about this last night because I was like, God, why am I being so not chill, but just very like.
N.I. I guess like accepting of whatever this situation is and I that it’s because I- I’ve already had that veil lifted for me once and it never quite goes back to being the same. Some of you have never had your lives fall apart and it shows and some of you- But this is revealing like this, more vast uncertainty that some of us, you know, have been sort of blind to because of privilege or because of sort of a willful ignorance. And other people have- have in some ways obfuscated for us because they’re villains, too, because they are villains that we all know that our bodies are so dumb and and brilliant and and fragile. And-
N.I. And we know that about these systems that we have in place. Like we know that they’re just run by people. Right. So they can’t be perfect and they can’t. But just seeing that fragility of- of like- of our system at large is so scary for people. And I think it’s scary for Americans and it’s scary for, you know, white Americans and it’s scary for rich white Americans because, like, it’s just a place they haven’t had to live before.
K.B. Yeah, yeah.
N.I. And some of us have dipped into that because of diagnoses and because of- and because of tragedy. And, and, and if you have like you I don’t know, it’s almost like the rest of the world is being brought up to your temperature, you know?
K.B. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a lovely image. That’s true.
N.I. And you’re like, oh, okay, so like this is- when I first got here, it did burn. But now like you know it just it just-
K.B. Yeah, yeah. And also the temperature you’re describing is a fever and so it’s like oh-
N.I. You’re describing a fever with a hacking cough. Okay.
K.B. It’s true. I know, this is like an unbelievably- it just reminded me when you said that. Like sometimes we just expect systems to work when we’re in positions of privilege. And it just reminds me of an argument I had a really long time ago with one of my friends who had had had a couple of kids and was like absolutely running herself ragged, running errands. And I was like, ‘okay, well just walk me through like like like how hard is it to have your constellation? Like, what’s like- just talk to me about your world, like what needs to happen?’ So she was describing like ‘and then I work all day and then I’ve got and I take these kids and I teach them all these things. And then they go to bed and then I run out and get groceries and I do all these errands.’ I was like, ‘wait, why don’t you take your kids out to ever to run errands?’ And she said, ‘well, I don’t think that would be fair to them.’ And I was like, ‘okay. But like what you’re describing as a world in which, like, Micah will wake up every morning, open their fridge, and imagine that milk appeared there overnight. Like there we’re all- that’s sort of how I felt when I didn’t realize we’re all in terms of groceries and resources and supplies like we’re all Micah. We’re just imagining our milk appears in the fridge. And like all the- the wheel turns and all our sustenance is provided. And like other people knew that that wasn’t true.
N.I. Other people knew.
K.B. But it can be very surprising.
N.I. Yeah. That- that our garbage gets picked up every Friday and I think and that and then all these all these things are just sort of in place. And like I remember Aaron being diagnosed and just being like, oh no, we’ll take something else, you know, like we’ll- no. Like no.
K.B. Do you have a common cough or a flu available for us to have? Because we’ll have that instead. Thanks.
N.I. Yeah. We don’t want this. And that’s the thing. We all, we all don’t want whatever this is. And also, I felt this like itching need for certainty. We all want certainty. The other day I was in a group of adults and we all kept going, ‘I mean, they’ll close schools, right? Right? But this will happen right? But then this will happen. Right?’ We all kept saying ‘right. Right.’ To each other. As if as if there was an absolute answer. And if one of us would’ve said yes, then that we could have been like, okay. So then- okay. So then they’ll do this and then we’ll and then we’ll know this and we actually know nothing. And.
N.I. And- and that’s kind of a weird place to be, but it can also kind of a like an okay place to be.
N.I. In some really crappy ways. And especially because the fear that I have it is not for me or my family really. I’m like eh you know it’ll be okay. Like I’ve also I’ve been through, you know, one-.
N.I. One big thing, so like what’s the worst? What’s the worst that could happen? I’ve had nothing already. Like I’ve already been there. But that there are so many other people who- the reason that that I ended up okay with Aaron, that we did not lose everything, although we did lose one house, but like, what’s one house? I’m just- I’m kidding, it actually sucked. But like- but at least I knew we would never truly have nothing because we had a network of people, we had parents, we had parents who could figure it out with us and and parents who had more resources than us and and who could. And when Aaron died, like a whole group of people showed up with $10, $20, and that paid for Aaron’s funeral, paid bunch of our medical bills, let me pay my mortgage while I was having a mental breakdown. And I know from life and from working with Still Kickin’ and, this you know, organization that I have.
N.I. That most people don’t and most Americans don’t have five hundred dollars saved for an emergency because we are all living so close to this edge. This is going to hurt some people so much and it will minorly inconvenience the rest of us. And what I experiencing right now is a very minor inconvenience.
K.B. Because like I think that’s- I think that’s exactly the thing that’s making my heart ache right now is like I’m I feel like, like, I’ve been cracked open before, and I know that this is not going to be the thing that breaks me, but I know it will be the thing that breaks so many other people.
N.I. Oh my God, that’s it. Please edit everything I said to just be what you said. It’s like it’s there, there are people all over for whom this is- this is their moment in the hospital where they’re told, you know, there’s there’s nothing you can do. This is the moment where they’re like, oh, my God, I did not realize that a brain surgery cost as much as our house. I would have liked to explore other price options.
K.B. Oh love, yeah. It’s the feeling of watching the ripple effect, like you’re just watching all the dominoes of sad and and like that’s- it’s a very it’s a very intense sadness because, you know, it’s structural. And, you know, it’s personal at the same time. And like both of us have gotten medical bills we can’t pay. Both of us have gotten- like we’ve gotten the stuff in the mail that comes after. So like first comes the pain and then comes the paperwork. Right. And there’s all these people that, you know, like that the- that, like everyone will be paying more than they more than they can for longer than they can.
N.I. I’ve got this side pen pal ship going on with a college friend that I used to dance on the bar with who is now a cloistered nun.
K.B. Shut up!
N.I. I was writing to her about how I don’t know how to pray. And now I’m like, I do feel like closer to God than I have before, but even then, I’m just like,’ oh, God, I don’t know.’ And she wrote, “I’m sure you encountered much self-sacrifice with Aaron, your dad, and as a mother, is it fun? Of course not. It hurts, but it can be used as an offering to God. The pain can be a prayer, even if one does not have the ability to formulate words. Pain one endures can also help others, both through prayer and understanding. I think of it this way. What you went through together and what you went through after Aaron’s death has been intense pain and grief. Can you see today how your lived experience has enabled you to open your heart with great empathy to the suffering of others? The gift is borne of all that pain, and all the tears is the gift to see the suffering of others. It doesn’t mean the pain goes away, but rather it becomes a purpose.” Oh, wow, the pain can be a prayer. Oh, shit like maybe.
K.B. Yes. I know we both would refuse to let anybody try to make our pain unnecessarily meaningful, and we both agree. But I do love the fact that, like what your friend is like, calling us all too is likes is- is a softened heart and an increased sense of purpose. And that’s that is gorgeous, especially cause it shows us it shows us who to love. And that’s the big question I hear you saying right now is like, yes, we’re all going to be in pain, but like some people more than others. So like God show us who to love, like show us who to love right now.
N.I. Oh, oh, oh, God. I’m writing that down.
K.B. Nora, you’re my favorite. Thanks so much for doing this.
N.I. I love you so much. I’m taking notes. I took several notes, I took several notes. Okay alright, bye. You’re wonderful. Thank you, everybody.
K.B. Isn’t she wonderful? She just gets it. The pain that comes from making us notice the people around us and softens our beating hearts. But that kind of got me thinking, what if we don’t have the words to pray? Well, I only have one answer to that and it’s my mom. For some reason my mom always knows what to pray, even though she is a very nervous Nellie, or maybe because she’s a very nervous Nellie, but she knows how to talk about fear. OK. Here she is. OK. Hey, mom, thanks for letting me call you.
Kate’s Mom You’re welcome.
K.B. I been thinking of you so much during this Corona madness, in part because sometimes when I think about fear, I think about you.
Karen I have no idea why!
K.B. Ah growing up, I would say you are one of the more cautious moms on the block. Does that sound right to you?
Karen That sounds absolutely accurate.
K.B. But like safety mom wise on a scale of one to safety mom, where would you rate yourself?
K.B. Yeah, I will. That’s the safest number, probably eleven. As a fear conscious mom, what kinds of stuff would you have already would have already come naturally to you?
Karen Well, thinking ahead to the worst possible outcome, planning in advance before anybody is woken up in the morning and just ensuring that I run ahead and make sure that you had your lunch and not a bag of mushrooms. But if you did get a bag of mushrooms instead of your lunch, then I got to the school before your lunch time.
K.B. Did that actually happen?
Karen It happened. Yes.
K.B. Wait, who got a bag of mushrooms?
K.B. Maria, the little one, the youngest always get the bag of mushrooms. Well, that makes sense. Mushrooms breathe really well in a brown paper bag.
Karen It’s true. Especially in a locker.
K.B. I’m guessing that since fear has been a pretty constant companion to you and to me, I wonder if you might have any good advice for living with that heightened sense of vigilance.
Karen Vigilance is just one way of paying attention. It’s the broad horizon scan that looks for something at a distance that might impinge upon life and safety. And another way of paying attention is to be able to narrow the focus and look at one thing. And when one is in a state of hyper vigilance, the whole body has a hard time thinking about that narrow focus. So what really helps is to narrow the focus and think of one word. And in a, I guess, one approach to prayer is the centering prayer where you repeat a word that becomes a prayer word that basically expresses your intention toward, toward God and to focus all those things toward that one root word and and just dampen out the the other focus.
K.B. That’s a nice image going from like horizon, horizon to telescope kind of vision.
Karen Just one little narrow point of light.
K.B. Do you have any words that you used lately that help.
K.B. More for him, I guess.
Karen Yeah, we’re on the team.
K.B. I like that. I think mine was just like two words for a long time. It was just like, save me, save me, save me when I was really desperate. I found that actually was that kind of summed everything up.
Karen Yeah. Or the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God have mercy on me, a sinner” which is, you know, instead of a word, a phrase that becomes a container for aspiration to God for help, for safety.
K.B. Yeah. Yeah. Well I’m gonna have to go but just a couple of things. One, wash your hands mom. I know you’re a big hand washer. Do- try not to antagonize dad with too many safety tips. Just like keep them inside. Keep the conversations to minimum and stay safe out there. You’re you’re in the old bracket, my love.
Karen I know, how did that happen?
K.B. Alright, I love you, love you.
Karen I love you, honey.
K.B. My mom. Have you ever heard a person with a more sincere heart? I love what she said about managing anxiety as the ability to switch between horizon thinking and telescope thinking. Sometimes you have to scan the horizon to see what to be afraid of, and other times you have to switch it to a single point of focus. And her super simple prayers help her focus her mind and give her body a chance to settle. It’s so funny because my mom is very fazed, which she manages beautifully. And this next friend is utterly unfazed. My friend Joel is one of those people who seem to feel absolutely nothing in the face of fear. You’ve probably seen him play Jeff Winger on Community or host the television show The Soup. Joel McHale is one of my favorite people on the planet because he is the king of pep talks, which he would never admit. Also, as a disclaimer, he had previously asked me not to make sympathetic sounds while he talks and I just like couldn’t do it. So enjoy as he goes slightly ballistic every time I sound like I care.
Joel McHale All right. Fear and Trembling, by my favorite author, V.C. Andrews.
K.B. Kierkegaard, it’s technically Kierkegaard, but.
J.M. Nah, I think it’s V.C. Andrews.
K.B. Now who’s being pretentious? So I- One of the funniest..
J.M. Did you you say kierkegourg?
K.B. It’s supposed to be Kirker Gore, technically.
J.M. Oh, where’d you hear that?
J.M. So someone during a kiss. Kierkegourg.
J.M. We’re pretty good at it. Or maybe it go ignored. Yeah, they are wrong.
K.B. They were. Yes, that’s exactly what happened.
J.M. And then and there will be a test on this at the end of it like it was.
K.B. Pretention V. Pretention cage match. And like one person who spoke Dutch went up against one person with a British accent and it was unclear which person would win.
J.M. Damn, that is that isn’t exciting. That is as exciting as an MMA fight. And I’m not kidding.
K.B. You are probably one of the most confusing people I know about fear.
J.M. Yes, that’s true.
K.B. On one level? You seem to have no fear at all.
K.B. It just got like your your system got overheated and now it just can’t experience fear anymore.
J.M. It did. I would agree with that. And then when I do fear things, it’s very strange. I go, wait a minute, what am I experiencing right now? I don’t understand what’s happening. I feel like the Whale in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as it’s falling through space, trying to figure out what it is. And then it smashes on the rocks. But ah..
K.B. Like, what are some of the terrifying things that you have done in the course of a normal your normal human life?
J.M. So I hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner. Thank you. Is this where I pause for clapping during your…
K.B. Yeah sorry, I can add it just personally if it’s helpful.
J.M. I was terrified at the moment. I stood up to give these jokes after the president had just killed it. Just nailed it. I had this massive dizzy spell like, oh, oh, here we go again. Do you hear that small cat whimpering in the corner of your office? And so I had this dizzy spell and I was like, well, that’s new. That’s my first. And then I got up there. I did all these jokes and in my mind. And this is how, believe me, it takes a lot for me to say this. I think it went well. Because I’ve never been more prepared. I was so much more prepared for that than I was for fatherhood. And so that moment of great fear was I was just like, well, you have no choice. So after that, I have never since then walked on stage and ever had a shred of nerves.
K.B. I, I find you’re like immunity, I guess, to fear. Sort of amazing because you’re always the person that I like to talk to when I feel afraid because I feel you’re you’re just really good at like the talk down, which is I feel like it’s the person who’s really good at scanning the horizon and just saying like this this this is a danger. This is fine. Duck now, you’ll be OK. It’s like a whole it’s a whole thing you do. And it’s kind of it’s kind of magic.
J.M. Oh, I see. I know you’ve told me this before, but I don’t really. I’ve never thought about it because I just thought everybody does that. Oh, here’s something that happened to me, Kate. Here’s a wonderful anecdote. No. Because when Eddie was born and I was traveling a ton, my son Eddie is now 53 years old. He’s fifteen. And every time I get on a plane, I would start to go into this mild panic like, oh, this plane, like this weird, unreasonable, this plane is gonna go down thing. And it had never happened to me ever. And I was like, what, I called Sarah, my wife, and I’d be like, what’s going on? Why am I afraid to get on this plane and sit here? And I wouldn’t. So the way I got over it was I would start looking around at everyone on the plane. And then I would look at the the attendants that I would look at the captain and be like, all right. So they’re not afraid. Why? Why would I have to be afraid? And then I would start clicking off the reasons why I wouldn’t be afraid. And about three times into doing that, I was like, oh, you’re you’ve you’re fixed. You did it. You did it. Now please enjoy a movie. And like twelve glasses of wine, if we’re going to the East Coast. So, ah…
K.B. Yeah, that makes sense. Yes. I think like love. Love makes us terrified. The love that we have for others, the fragility. Like I’ve never had crazier dreams then when I was pregnant, it was always like I had the baby, but I left it in the basement by accident. And there were rats the size of ponies and, I had like super weird, but they were all they were all just kind of like love dreams like, oh, my gosh, I’m gonna love this. I’m gonna love this kids so much that I can’t possibly manage how that’s gonna make me feel.
K.B. I do kind of think right now with this with this cultural moment, everyone’s having sort of the opposite of your airplane moment, which is that they’re looking at everybody else’s faces and becoming more and more and more afraid.
K.B. I think, though, your possibly, unbelievably dumb, fearlessness.
K.B. Does have like a, it has like an effect on the people who love you though where it kind of acts like a little battery, like people who are feeling fearful, they just kind of like, come close to you for a bit now, like, OK, it just sort of, I think it, I’ve seen you do this with other people. I think it just kind of gives us who are maybe more fearful or and just kind of more delicate circumstances. It just it feels like a little bit of a shelter from the storm.
J.M. I had not thought about that. I think just, when they look at me and they look at my attitude, they’re like, yeah, that’s that macho asshole.
K.B. I was describing like a nice umbrella, but, there’s room, there’s room for multiple metaphors.
J.M. I should be a coach of some sort. I should coach a team, a team of swordsmen. Swords, swordsers. Excuse me. Not swords, swords x? I don’t know.
K.B. Sure, that’s inclusive.
J.M. I swear to you and are not trying to throw this back on you like so many people do with these conversations, because I. Kate, as you know, I cannot receive compliments. And believe me, this has been a very difficult 28 minutes. But I do go like I would, when you called me and said, this is what’s happening, I’m like, well, that is shitty and I am not. It’s hard. Cause I’m like, that is difficult. And and it’s I I I can’t relate. But I I do. I do. I hate it when my friends are not happy.
J.M. See what I did there? That’s what you call sticking the landing. Well, this has been delightful. You guys are great.
K.B. Even though you are never afraid. I’m still glad you’re in my corner.
K.B. Joel is someone I turn to to reset the horizon of fear. How scared should I be right now? What if there’s nothing I can do but be afraid? I thought I’d call someone I really admire to ask a final hard question. What do you do if the pain is so real that it starts to take you apart? The person on the other end of the phone here is the lovely Beth Moore. Millions and millions of people have read her Bible studies or come to hear her speak. And if you follow her on Twitter, she is hysterical. But she’s also an inspiration to me. So I thought I would ask her some of my hard stuff like. Am I alone in this? Can fear really consume me? What should I do when the fear gets to be too much? OK, here’s me asking her a hard question. I’m sure you’re seeing it everywhere. There, too, is people are starting to lose everything and they’re losing it so quickly. Yes, they’re losing jobs and they’re losing what little cushion they had or they’re unable to be with that person they love and hold their hand right at the minute that it matters.
And I remember like I, I only have my limited experience of, of losing a lot quickly. But I I started to feel really confused right away that that maybe because all these terrible things were happening. It started to make me feel a little worthless.
Beth Moore Yes.
K.B. And I’m wondering if maybe you have a word for people who the worse things get, the more it’s harder and harder to feel loved.
B.M. One of the commonalities we have right now is that all of us. It differs in intensity, but all of us are feeling that same sense of, have we been forgotten? Does he know? Does God know that we’re here?
B.M. Does he know? And we know that he does. But that sense of I need to know for a fact that we are on the radar here. Because you are so right. When we get to a place where we don’t have the things that in our minds would have been what we would have turned to. This is just common sense. This when you turn to your loved ones, you turn to your extended family. And suddenly all this that we had access to, all that was our this was our go to this was the plan. And now we’re there. That isn’t possible. And so here we are. And I you know, I. I don’t know.
B.M. Call me an optimist if if that’s appropriate. But I’m also way too old to be very idealistic. What I do think is it’s not until we we are at times on our own with God that we begin to get a clue that he really is with us. It’s easy to think, Kate, that he’s with someone else. So I need to be with them, be it my spiritual director, my pastor, my Bible study teacher, my community group leader, whoever I look to, maybe a friend that’s just really deeply spiritual in our eyes and we’ll think – He’s with them. And so I need to be with with them so that I can be under the umbrella of God’s God’s presence. And I just I think that sometimes, and listen, I’m not selling aloneness. I don’t….
I am an extrovert. I keep saying in all the introverts going like, this is a beautiful time for the universe, I’m going like, this is a nightmare for the extroverts. But it is extremely important to know to sit before God and know without any one else in sight. I matter. You matter. All by yourself. You matter. You matter to him.
K.B. Yeah. My sister said something to me when I was just in a, in a very alone place, and um, and I was I was worried that like, that like, that in the midst of all of the things coming undone, that like too much could come undone. You know, that everything would just unravel, and she said:
You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. You will not disappear. You are here.
And I imagine like that’s what God wants us to know, like about like we cannot be undone. Like, we were just, we were made out of God’s sheer love.
B.M. We we can’t be destroyed. What you were saying a moment ago that your sister said reminded me of something that Mary Beth Chapman told me. Steven Curtis Chapman’s wife, after their daughter Maria was killed. And, you know, at five years old. And she said that they just fell and fell and fell. And she just I just pictured it like off a cliff. She said, you’re free falling, free falling, free falling, free falling, free falling. But she said somewhere, at the, at in the process of it. When we did land, we landed on solid ground. And I thought, Kate, it was the most beautiful picture because she did not deny the sense of just falling, feeling like there was nothing to grab onto in this, just this sense of this abyss, of aloneness and suffering. But she said when, when the bottom came, it was solid.
K.B. Yeah. People are going to be they’re not going to just feel stuck. They’re going to be stuck for the foreseeable future. Like what are some things people can do to just feel like they’ve got a little more spiritual grounding under them?
B.M. I cannot think of anything that has really tried to take control of me in my lifetime more than fear. When I say it, it, so I’m just going to personalize it for me, that it wanted me that if you think of it like like a dragon or you think of it like something, something a wolf, whatever it may be that you’re picturing something that is coming to bring great harm to you. It has always wanted me from the time Iwas a really, really withdrawn little kid. And I still, I don’t know if it had to do, I don’t know enough about , I can’t remember enough of it to know, did I get that way because of early childhood sexual abuse or or was I already sort of that way by temperament? Because I’m so outgoing now that these are questions that I have. I’ve ,I’ve had to know that I couldn’t just get rid of it once and it was gone. It’s been, It’s been too big, too continuous a threat to me. And I have had to very deliberately deal with it. But for me to put my hand up toward it and say, and I have to deliberately I mean, say no, no, no. I know where this rabbit hole goes. If it weren’t, if if I can’t just just end it with that and a whole lot of days I can end it with that other days, man. I’m a tell you, I’m just gonna be honest with you, Katre, I’m pushing away my coffee because I’m looking for what is it feeding my anxiety? That’s when I’m going to get off social media, I’m going to pull back from people. Watch right now. I would say to any of our listeners. Look around you. Who is just just feeding you fear? I mean, we have relationships, people that we love, that we just have to go. Man, I am going to have to push back from their voice some because we just got fear mongers in our lives, that are going to just, I mean talk us into what we’re trying our hardest to get some command of our courage here. And they’re just like tapping on it constantly. And also, I want to say one more thing about it. I love this image right here and I do it. This is on a, Oh – this is, I think, these sorts probably several times weekly. And so if anybody listening is a visual learner like I am, try to picture this. You know, in some of the older versions of the gospels that Jesus told them: Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid. Take courage. Take courage. And I love that. Not just have courage, but take courage. And I picture Kate, over and over, I picture that. His hands are out, that He’s going like here, I’m I’m holding it. You know, I just I don’t I don’t know if that helps.
K.B. But we got to hold on.
B.M. Holding it out to me: Beth here. It’s mine. It’s mine. I’m gonna give it. I’ve got all the courage you need. And so, Beth, take it. I’ve got it in the palms of my hand. Take it, take it from me. Reach out and take it from me. I don’t know why that helps me so much, but I try to picture he’s right there. He’s holding it out to you. And the beautiful thing about it is it’s the the the resource of it is is endless. It’s it’s it’s bottomless. The well. And so if in 15 minutes, I’m still going like, no, I’m I’m still terrified. I know exactly where I can go back. And I can also I know and I know that you do, too. And I just I want them to. I also know who I can call and get to fight this battle with fear with me. And I just. Man, I cannot say enough how we got to have some compadres that will help us fight and we help them.
K.B. Yeah, right. I always call it like pushing the button. Like there’s so there certain friends that are just like on call and like I had a friend ten minutes ago text and say can I push the button right now? And that’s like emergency. Like, you get all the like, I want to know, that I push that button, you come running and that’s it’s the best feeling in the world to know like we are not alone there. And it doesn’t mean that we, I love that image of like we can live alongside of our fear without having to deny its presence. But just to know we have a God who loves us.
B.M. I’ve never been able to get it to just disintegrate. I am having to believe God to get me through it. And I think I hope someone’s taking that is that there is just a pushing through. Even with it. Even with it. With it totally on us. A pushing through that says there’s something on the other side of this walk of faith through this thick fog of fear that is going to be worth it.
K.B. You know, one of the things that I do when I’m really scared, like if I’ve got a scan coming up or I there’s just like a terrifying reality I can’t control. One of my, I guess, prayers about fear, I hadn’t really thought of it was God, let let me not miss this. Like, let me let me not for the sake of fear, like miss this moment. And it’s usually, it’s usually a kid in pajamas or like a friend leaning over a table with like a story that I really do want to hear, like God in the midst of fear, like like just help me not miss this, whatever this is going to be.
B.M. I could not I could not agree with that more, Kate. And this is this is the strange prize in it. Here’s where we don’t we don’t have to come to a place where we go: It was worth it. I think that’s just so sick that we get forced into a place where we think we have to go. Well, it was worth it for this result. Well, you know, are we going to tell, are we going to put them in the position that they lost a child and we’re gonna get them because they’re, they’re, they’re a person of faith. We want to get them to a place where they go, well, it was worth it, No,they’re still going to say what? I mean, what a sick thing to put someone in the position to do. No, we don’t have to come to a place where we ever say that it was worth it. But we can come to a place where we go, God made it matter. He made it matter.
K.B. Oh Beth,….that’s it. God made it matter. I love that.
B.M. If I could come there where it didn’t just not matter that in that moment I was awake to someone sitting across from me that was also in tremendous pain, perhaps a different kind if it made me… My, my, my background of abuse is a perfect example. I could go back and I could relive my life all over again and ask the Lord to have removed it from me, that it would just have not been any part of it. It’s the instability, my home with all of those things. All of those things were just removed. But the thing of it was it it made me awake to people and to end to their suffering and to their plight, into the common, to the fragility of being human but what it gave me meant that not that it was worth it, but that it mattered.
K.B. Oh, that’s the perfect thing to say. You’re killing me here. I love that. I love that. I love that more than I can say. Thank you for your tender heart and for your powerful mind. I am so grateful for it.
B.M. Well, I am. I’m so grateful for you, Kate.
K.B. I love when she says our pain may never have a purpose. It may not make any sense and it may never be worth it, but God will make it matter. Yep, that’s it. That was it for me. I can go home now. Look, I don’t know when this is going to stop feeling so scary, but I am here to look into your gorgeous eyes and say, hey, there are some things you can fix and some things you can’t. And it’s OK that life isn’t always better. We can find beauty and meaning and truth, but there’s no cure to being human. So let’s be friends on that journey. Let’s be human together. I have met so many experts in chronic fear in this beautiful everything happens community. Caregivers, care receivers, soldiers, widows, people living with poverty, racism, mental illness, pain. If you’ve been living with chronic uncertainty, people would love to hear your wisdom right now. Is there any advice that we can try today? Find me online at KateCBowler, I’d love to hear from you. And in the meantime, onwards together. This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the Reynolds Foundation. Huge thank you to my team, Jessica Richie, Keith Weston, Harriet Putman and JJ Dickinson. This is Everything Happens with me, Kate Bowler.
4 thoughts on “The Emergency Button”
Thank you! I enjoyed those four very different voices.
You are so welcome. I’m so glad you enjoyed this! Sending our best.
Kate, your podcasts, book club, and articles have sustained me during my son Nate’s 18 month fight/battle/endurance test? of young onset colon cancer. As I type this we are waiting for him to be released from Georgetown University Hospital into home hospice care. Nate found out he had cancer just after he and his wife returned from their honeymoon (he was 32). He has endured every type of treatment and now his life is ending in the midst of the Covid 19 outbreak. His wife was barred from going with him into the hospital and our prayer has been for him to come home so we can touch him and love him out of this life. It has been pure fear, pure torture, and you know the medical staff is suffering too as they tell spouses and parents that they cannot be with their dying loved ones. Kate I will always be a follower of Christ, but also of you, I have grown to love you, your guests, and have learned so much from your gift of this website to all of us who keep on walking through the “Valley of the shadow of death”
Betsy, we are heartbroken to hear about your son. Thank you for reaching out and letting us know. One of our team members is going to reach out via email to let you know we are here for you and praying for you in this time!