If fear of confined places = claustrophobia,

of crowds = agoraphobia,

of spiders, arachnophobia,

what’s fear of… porcupines?

Not that I had a phobia, just what I’d call a healthy respect.

I knew they didn’t shoot quills. Yet, if I’d ever met one, out in a field, say, I’d have walked fast in the opposite direction!

A friend of mine overcame her aracchnophobia by taking a class on spiders. I overcame my fear of porcupines by pure necessity.

Prison ministry evening it was—of course, with Husband absent from home.

By now, solo sheep duty had become quite simple. Just a few chunked apples rattling the feed trough usually brought them trotting…

I see them, straight out the window, munching grass, contented, but making no move toward the barn.

So I blithely start out to fetch them.

Two steps out, I stop short, nearly fall forward.  There, in the run’s dead center: a porcupine, quills extended like a thousand skinny spears.

How did this get here–with this surround of wire fencing, six feet high on the inner side, eight on the outer?  Surely this creature didn’t come through the barn.

And how do I get it out?

Beyond the prickly intruder the sheep are clustering at the run’s far end. Leader Susie’s curiosity draws her toward new creatures!  And she’s at the front, stretching her head forward and down in her soft inquisitive way. What if she decides to bound forward to get acquainted? I have to shut that gate out there!  Which means getting past this porcupine—in a run little more than three feet wide!

But forward I must!  Slowly I approach, but not too slowly (I have to head off the sheep).

Quill-bearer doesn’t twitch, stands firm, facing me, its bead-like eyes unreadable.

Gingerly, I inch past, watching, watching, brushing my back hard along the inner fence. Beyond it, I sigh relief, then hurry to the gate—grab, unhook, swing, slam! Sheep successfully blocked from entering!

Now I must empty the run of Porky. But how?

I stare at it, it stares at me, turned now to see what am up to.  Maybe some aggressive stalking, a threatening look…?

“Shoo!  Shoo!” I growl, pressing forward, trying to sound like a powerful thing I’m not.  “Get out of here!”—-stomping my way forward.

It moves! Away from me!—Slowly, waddling. Trouble is, that means toward the open barn door!  What will I do with a porcupine in the barn?  This won’t work at all!  I cease growling and stomping, decide instead to edge past again, get back to barn, shut its door, then decide what to do.

But, now afraid of scary me, as I approach it spooks, seeks escape, wobbles ahead. Then as I pass, it turns toward the high fence… and… starts climbing!

I stop and stare. I didn’t know porcupines climbed fences! But there it is, clambering upward, paw after paw, claws curling around wires to keep gripping!  Now I see how it got here.

Hurray!  I think.

But alas, three quarters up, it halts, and clings, tenacious.

I rerun my threats—stomp and shout. But porky hangs tight, fear-frozen on.

I sigh.  Should I just retreat behind the barn door, forget the whole endeavor, hope it crawls the whole way over?

No, I can’t just leave sheep stranded in the field. Who knows what Porcupine might do by morning. Maybe something in the barn will spark a plan.

I hustle into its cool depths and survey its shadowy corners.  On the wall, a pitchfork. I grab it.

No,  I’m not about to poke with cruel prongs.  I exit barn again with pole end forward (prongs point toward me!) and approach the clinging creature, and feigning frightfulness, give it a poke with the pole.

Not a budge.

Poke again.  It just grips harder.

But it has to go!  Poke! Now push—harder—harder!

At last! It’s inching upward!

Now it stops again, high up on the fencing.  To reach it with the pole, I must stand right beneath it! What if it loses its grip?  If it falls, it’ll land right on my face!

Even thinking this, I step forward.  Prod. Prod again.  No response.

“Oh, Lord, help,” I am pleading.

I take that pole and push, push, push that porcupine!  It’s moving! Nearing the top!

Now stalled again!

So… one drawn breath, one mighty push, and… hallelujah!  Over it goes, tumbling down the fence’s far side, then regaining footing. I stomp and yell (though shaking inside), “Now get out of here! And don’t come back!”

Finally: the lovely sight of its disappearing into high grass, the lovely music of its rustling departure.


A young husband to whom I told this story said his wife would have run the other way. Fast.

I disagreed. “With a baby to protect,” I said, “I don’t think so.  I think she might be even bolder.”

Love and protectiveness made me bold. And calling on God did play its part. No, I didn’t give my life for the sheep. But I did get a little taste of how that happens!

Concern for those creatures overrode my (possibly groundless) fear of porcupines. Other fears don’t fly away so quickly. Sometimes the feared thing is truly horrific—and demands real wrestling with God to gain enough power to face it. What a horror was the Cross! What deep love One must have had to voluntarily go out to it! And what soul-wrestling He had to go through beforehand!


Did you ever have a notable fear to face? What enabled you to do it? Did you wrestle with God first?


[An edited repost]

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8 thoughts on “Of Porcupines and Woolies: Face That Fear!

  1. I love your story about your sheep and this one would scare me too. But we do get bold when the circumstance calls for it. You were brave a smart to get those gates and doors shut to prevent the obvious. Thank you for sharing at “Tell Me a Story.”

  2. Thanks for sharing this story. There is a lesson in 🙂 I am afraid for for my parents in law. Can I also overcome that?

  3. Thanks, Hazel. Love does make bold when circumstances call for it, sometimes causing us to act totally out of character, as I would describe myself in this instance. For me, I credit God for imbuing me with His own power — and for intervening. My “bravest” times have been my weakest times, verifying what God said to Paul: “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” and what Paul declared as a result: “When I am weak, *then* am I strong.” This story doesn’t illustrate that as clearly as some other situations I’ve faced, actually paralyzed with fear, needing to call on God even to move my body across a street, because I couldn’t! (And He did. And made me amazingly calm and clear-headed as well!)

  4. Jedidja,
    I know that kind of fear. A few years ago I feared very much for someone I love in a strange, frightening situation.

    Someone gave me the platitude about how we “shouldn’t worry,” “shouldn’t fear,” but I saw those emotions in me as goads to prayer, not a bad thing at all. I spent hours at what I then called “my prayer window,” especially when the fear would surge again (even in the middle of the night), praying fervently for this person’s safety, praying many appropriate scriptures. (The Psalms in particular have lots of appropriate prayers, ready-made, and scripture’s loaded with promises of God to bring before Him and call on Him to fulfill.)

    Yes, I needed to trust Him, whatever the outcome, but He works through our fevered prayers (by some mysterious means I don’t understand), and human angst fuels useful prayers. It’s really God that does the overcoming. We face the fear, which also means admitting its existence, and He overcomes.

    I will pray with you for your in-laws. I understand. (And yes, I did call on other people to pray, who wouldn’t think it foolish.)

  5. I”m taking a blog-break (in terms of commenting), b/c I am recovering from pneumonia and I tire easily, and should not be sitting here long…but I couldn’t resist. This is such a great (and funny–though I’m sure it didn’t feel like it when you fought the porcupine!) post! My daughter said fear of them is called porcuphobia. You may debate that. This is just so well written, complete w/ a spiritual point. Amazing. I loved it. You are SUCH A GOOD WRITER!!!!! When are you writing THAT BOOK?! Or maybe you have. Have you? ANd this post was serendipitous b/c I had just watched a movie called Homeward Bound, in which a porcupine “quilled” a dog. I had assumed that they do release their quills. So I learned something new. But I would have been a basket case in that pen w/ the porc. I wouldn’t have fared nearly as well as you, so your sheep are very fortunate that they are not in MY care! I totally “freaked out” recently when my dog gifted me with something dead. I couldn’t even get close enough to him to ascertain what it was. Thankfully, my neighbor, a former surgeon was home, and just calmly removed WHATEVER IT WAS, from Chevy’s mouth and unceremoniously deposited it in our trash can. I had screamed and yelled for him to DROP IT until I was hoarse, all to no avail. I need to think about what the spiritual lesson was in all of that, but admittedly, I did try to put it out of my mind. Thanks for a great post, Sylvie, and for all your charming, beautifully written, and deeply spiritual prose. You bless me every time I read your writing!

    1. Oh, thank you, Lynn, for such encouragement. I have been praying for your full recovery, including of your strength so you could make your trip to England. I hope you haven’t had to miss it. I understand about taking a while to get strength back after illness. It’s an oft-recurring theme in my life. (Even as I write I am trying to recover from some flu-like thing, and as it was going into my chest I thought of you and pneumonia in May/June. (So, being careful.) Yesterday I didn’t get the post finished that I wanted to. Feeling better, maybe today?

      As for the event this post recalls, I never *ever* would have pictured *myself* dealing with a porcupine in this way either!

      And as for “the book,” I already did write it. More than one. There was the big long passionate one I (and a friend also) thought God wanted to be a book (and, unpublished, is now dreadfully outdated), and there was the one I sold, over three decades ago, a children’s book. Someday I have to post about my bizarre writing history, and my present (strange?) views about pursuing “the book” and “becoming a writer.” Someday.

      Meanwhile, take care and get that rest and restoration. I hope you can get to England, all strong and healthy!

  6. I remember this story…don’t know if I read it or you told me–I ‘hear’ your voice when I read your posts either way…we need to be so familiar with Scripture that we can hear our Lord’s voice.
    Love your comment about our fears for others being prods to prayer… the unrest in our spirit must come from the HOLY spirit and not the spirit of fear …but I think it often starts with that fear and our prayers turn it to trust in God’s control of all things, helping us AND the ones we intercede for
    David must have prayed for help when face with the lion and the bear…and as God answered, David’s trust and confidence grew….like you said sometimes it happens quickly and sometimes it is with wrestling over time

    1. What a good thought, Laurie: “we need to be so familiar with Scripture that we can hear our Lord’s voice.” Yes, I totally agree!

      I also agree with your thoughts about our fears in relation to our prayers and the growth of our faith through the interaction of the two, and the Holy Spirit.
      A long time ago I heard a sermon on Hannah and her prayer, born out of her deep heartache. The speaker pointed out how God used the natural human longing, sorrow and anxiety expressed in a personal prayer to further His large plan of redemption through the line of David. Interesting thought that has stuck with me ever since.

      Right now I am also recalling a friend’s sharing how, when she was pregnant and honestly desiring a (boy/or a /girl, can’t remember which), her pastor advising her to go ahead and pray “her heart.” We need to be willing to accept whatever answer God gives, but He knows our heart already and intimate relating expresses the authentic emotions and hopes in our souls…

      Thanks for your comments. So often they add significant spiritual insight.

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