Big Cats and Great Fear

Not all things that make noise beside the path come down the path.
-Traditional African proverb

My grandfather loved to talk the Wampus Cat. We would listen wide-eyed as he wove tales of the massive, mythical, predatory cat. I learned that it’s big: “Once, I heard about a Wampus Cat carrying off an adult cow.” It’s fast: “He can outrun cars, so you can’t get away in one.” And it has some kind of special power over its prey: “If you look at his eyes, he will hypnotize you, your feet will stick to the ground, and you won’t be able to call for help.” As a small child, I had a healthy fear of the Wampus Cat because of the powers it was said to possess, but that wasn’t the most terrifying aspect.

The one thing that gave that sick feeling of being cold and hot at the same time was the habitat of the Wampus Cat. It lived everywhere. If a softball rolled far under the porch, a warning was voiced from the rocking chair with the squeaking runners, “If you climb under there, the Wampus Cat will get you.” I couldn’t stray too close to the woods, go into the old barn, or wander around after dark (or in daylight for that matter). Wherever I went and whenever it might be, the Wampus Cat was watching and waiting.

One warm summer evening all the years of the stories and the resultant wariness funneled into a single defining moment. My brother and I were playing at twilight near the edge of my grandparents’ yard near the rusted barbed-wire fence hanging heavy with twisted honeysuckle vines that blocked a clear view of the pasture. As my grandfather, returning from fishing, heard our voices across the fencerow, he crept over to the fence and gave the honeysuckle a shake. We froze. “What was that?” my brother asked. We moved slowly toward the noise. He shook the vines again. We took a few more careful steps. With each shake, we drew nearer and nearer. Finally, when we were squinting in the dying light, trying to make out any detail of the source of the noise, my grandfather gave a loud, feline-sounding yowl. Instantly, I yelled, “It’s the Wampus Cat!” I left my brother and ran as fast as I could go.

I covered the distance of the yard with the speed that comes from knowing that if you are not fast, you will be eaten. I threw open the screen door so hard that it never closed quite right ever again. Running through the house, passing my mother and grandmother, I found a suitable spot in the kitchen between the stove and the countertop where you wouldn’t think a child could fit, squeezed myself into the gap and waited for a giant paw to drag me from my hiding place. It was one of the most frightening experiences of my young life.

As real as that childhood threat felt, concerns rooted in reality do come, and they can be just as terrifying. Relationships, health, job situations, financial concerns, plummeting stock markets, pandemics – each and all may snap at your mind with the teeth of panic and worry. Each person faces a personal Wampus Cat.

The good news is that we are not left without encouragement or defense. “Fear not” is a command found often in the Bible; God understands that we can be fearful people. Living under the cloud of worry may overshadow life to the point that any fleeting ray of light will not be enjoyed, but rather anxiously watched in the fear that it will dim far too soon. “Do not fret, it only causes harm,” wrote the Psalmist (37:8b).

How can we face fear? First, by the gift of God: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7); He has equipped us in Christ with power. As a Christian, you can face your fear because He is with you; “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b-6).

The key that makes boldness possible and enables a person to avoid unnecessary fear is a necessary fear: the fear of the LORD. This “fear” is a worshipful and trusting attitude. The Bible shows us how reverential awe of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 9:10), keeps us from sinful ways (Proverbs16:6) and brings satisfaction and life (Proverbs 19:23). “The Angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear him and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).

This isn’t to say that we won’t face hardships, loss, and fearful situations; we will. But, in the midst of the storms, we must remember the focus: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13b). Christ is present and in control, and we approach Him with fearful reverence.

So let the Wampus Cats yowl as they may, for our Sovereign King walks with us and will bring us safely through.

Pray that…

We will seek God’s presence, pray to him and trust him to deliver us from fear. –I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).

We will depend fully upon God’s wisdom from his Word to guard our minds from anxiety. – “Whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:33). 

We will live out the truth that those who follow Christ are his, and he will walk with us through every situation. – “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:1b-2).

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