I freely walked into a bird cage at the zoo today and faced my fear of birds. With my body shaking, I stretched out my arm and let a lorikeet perch on my finger and drink nectar from a small cup in my hand.
At one point, two birds rested on me. But one flew away.
My husband held me up as my body shook. My daughter stood by and sort-of watched, naive to the anxiety and fear surging through me.
I left the cage when the bird moved on and our time was up. Why did I face my fear of birds?
Because I no longer live in fear. And nothing, even birds, can stop me.
Here's the story (and a lot of pictures down below.)
I’ve been scared of birds all my life. I've never received an official diagnosis of "ornithophobia," although I'm sure that's what it is.
I don’t recall many other childhood events with such crystal clarity as I do the day I became terrified of winged creatures that fly. It's one of my earliest memories.
Where my fear of birds began
It all started in the pet store.
I was with my family at the mall. We walked up to the pet shop. The rest of the family wanted to go in. I grew immediately hesitant because of a colorful bird sitting on an open perch right outside the entrance. With no cage surrounding it, no leash anchoring it, I felt immediate concern about its lack of containment.
What if it flew away or came into the store... or after us?
I stood there alone in an elementary, paralyzing fear. My parents’ gentle persuasions and reassurances of my safety eventually got me to move. I darted into the store and veered right toward the caged puppies and kittens. I squeezed into a crowd of people adoring the cuteness, baffled that everyone else completely ignored the threat.
They didn’t see or feel it, but I did. My concern grew. I didn’t feel safe.
Following the flow of traffic, I walked with the other guests toward the back where aquariums full of colorful fish lined the wall. They held my attention for a few seconds, taking my mind off the bird. Once the group moved toward the front again, panic returned.
And then, in the middle of an aisle of pet supplies, it happened.
The bird flew off the perch and landed right in front of me. It made a few chirps and hopped closer.
I screamed and shook in complete horror.
Terror ran through my little body as my dad held me and store clerks rushed to get the bird contained. Once I finally made it out of the store, I swore I’d never go into a pet shop or anywhere near a bird again. I hated the sound, sight and thought of them.
For all my life the fear dwelled in me.
Fear factor and facing my fear of birds
As I got older, the deep-seated fear of birds remained. I gradually got to the point I'd go into a pet store again, but it ended there. Even as an adult, I wouldn't go near birds and shuttered at their sight and sound.
That is until today.
While I shook in fear, I pressed into the very thing that seemed impossible. I looked fear in the face and delivered the news: you don't win. It wasn't easy, nor was I initially brave. I wanted to turn around. I doubted that I could go through with it. But something in my heart told me to say yes. Something I've learned to listen to.
How I overcame fear
Today's journey into the birdcage didn’t come from an intentional plan to conquer my fear of birds. (Although it felt like an episode of Fear Factor). It’s actually a byproduct of a bigger work in my life.
God's shown me what true freedom means.
He's shown me love that's unstoppable, unrelenting and unyielding. He's helped me see the real enemy: Satan. He is the author of fear. Through this experience of connecting with God over my fear, I've learned I don't have to be a slave to fear. I am free.
I’m free from cancer (and met God as Jehovah Rophe - my healer). I’m free from legalism and judgment that’s often linked to my “religious” and church background. Emotional abuse and other generational issues that kept our families bound for years no longer hold me. Misplaced identity, depression and anxiety are now gone, no longer prison walls in my heart.
With the unseen enemy who hides in darkness now seen, the freedom grows. It grows to the point I can face any fear, including a 30-year "bird phobia" and conquer it.
Goodbye, 30-year fear of birds
So today, I found strength to face a nearly 30-year-old childhood fear of anything aviary. With a prompting from the Holy Spirit, and support and affirmation from friends, I knew it was time to face the birds.
I’d given them too much power as a little girl. And today, the little girl grew up. Into birdcage I went with an outstretched arm and trembling heart. Why? Because obedience paves the way to freedom - which is a place for both me and the birds to fly away. (See more pictures below!)
"Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away.
I'll fly away, Oh Glory; I'll fly away;
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away.
When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away
Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end, I'll fly away"
I’ll Fly Away, Albert E. Brumley, 1929