A bollard is a short vertical post. Originally it meant a post used on a ship or a quay, principally for mooring. The word now also describes a variety of structures to control or direct road traffic, such as posts arranged in a line to obstruct the passage of motor vehicles. In addition, bollards are used in the lighting industry to describe short, post-like light fixtures.
I was recently introduced to bollards and I immediately didn’t like them. In fact they made me afraid. I am a new bicycle rider, taking up riding on rail trails with my husband. I am gaining confidence but when I saw the row of bollards in front of me, I was afraid. I had to navigate to make sure I rode between these poles placed about 3 feet apart. I was sure I would miss and hit the pole. Because I was so careful the first few times, I managed to slow down and timidly make it through the poles. Then just as I thought I was getting better, I actually ran right into one of them! Yes, my husband laughed at me!
My plight with the bollards made me think about fear. People are afraid of many things. We call them phobias. Some fears are common, like the fear of heights (acrophobia) and fear of speaking in public (glossophobia). Some are understandable like the fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) or the fear of high speeds (tachophobia) or the fear of crossing streets (agyrophobia). Some make us smile like testophia (the fear of taking tests) or hobophobia (the fear of homeless people) or hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (the fear of the number 666).
I am not generally a fearful person. I don’t usually let fear disarm me. After all, I am not afraid to stand up in front of a large group of people to speak about almost anything or fly half way around the world in an airplane. Maybe that is why the bollard was so startling to me. It forced me to acknowlege that there might be other areas of fear in my life that I am avoiding. For example, I fear driving in a busy city or getting lost driving in a place I am unfamiliar with. I fear taking a road trip by myself to another state. Hence, I do not go unless I can find someone else to do the driving. I avoid making phone calls. I avoid heights. I avoid filling out the fafsa form. Yes, I avoid the things I fear.
David Benner in Surrender to Love says, “Fearful people live within restrictive boundaries. They may appear quite cautious and conservative. Or they may narrow the horizons of their life by avoidance and compulsion. They also tend to be highly vigilant, ever guarding against life’s moving out of the bounds within which they feel the most comfortable.”
Controlling our world usually backfires. My fear of driving has kept me from going some places I would like to go. My fear of the bollards could lead me to avoid bicycle riding all together. Or I might only ride on trails that have no bollards. If I let my fear of the bollards keep me from riding, I will miss out on many things - precious time with my spouse, the beautiful outdoors, a great way to exercise.
My fear of bollards is only a small thing. But I must start by recognizing and overcoming the small fears. 2 Corinthians 3:5 reminds me that We don't have the right to claim that we have done anything on our own. God gives us what it takes to do all that we do.
Even if I have to get off my bike and push it through the bollards, I will not let this irrational fear stop me from enjoying the beauties of God’s creation and the intimacy of time with my spouse. Instead, I will depend on the power of God to give me what it takes to face my fears and not avoid them.
What are you afraid of? Snakes? Losing a child? Being alone? Flying on a plane? Intimacy? Loss of control? Attention? Neglect? Death? Pleasure? Pain? Rejection? What are you missing out on because you are avoiding facing your fear?