The first church I served as a pastor provided a house for the pastor’s family. It came with a full basement in which a nest of field mice had settled. When I started getting rid of the mice, my children objected. They knew only the cute mice of television and movies. I knew how often mice carry disease.

Thankfully they did not know what “La Cucaracha” meant.

We often alleviate children’s fears by making harmful things seem harmless. Mickey Mouse, La Cucaracha, Shrek the Ogre, Puff the Magic Dragon, and even Ring Around the Rosie make real and imaginary things more friendly.

That’s all right for children who would be helpless to do anything about some fear inducing things. But we have to grow up and face them eventually.

Among the aspects of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, there is a word that we translate as self-control. It could also be translated as inner strength. I have come to understand it as the strength of the spirit to control my thoughts, actions and emotions, including my fears.

Fear is part of our primal survival instincts. Our fight or flight response is necessary. We cannot do away with it. (When the Bible says “love casts out fear” it is talking about the fear of judgment from God.) We can, however, learn to control it. Both rational thought and a spirit of love can change the primal reactions to fear.

Fear of floods should not go away. We cannot live in denial of such dangers. However, rational thought can lead us to figure out whether to fill sandbags or evacuate. Love can lead us to help our neighbor fill those sandbags or to help care for those who have been evacuated.

Fear of people who threaten us should not go away either. Rational thought and the spirit of love can lead us to decide whether we can make friends of our enemies through active listening and compromise or whether we need take defensive actions.

Just don’t let fear keep you from loving.

Pastor Phil