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 I 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]