By Joanna Delalande
Once a happy and confident child, 25-year-old Nateeka White spent years of her life crippled by severe social anxiety.
You could say it began with a hat. As a Year 4 student, Nateeka was told off by her sports teacher for not having brought her hat, an unpleasant experience she came to associate with sports in general.
That feeling then grew into an irrational fear of sports carnivals.
"Every year at the lead up to carnivals I would cry, gripped with great fear. Mom never forced me to go. She would encourage me but she could see how gripped with fear I was," Nateeka recalls.
Soon it was not just sports carnivals but any kind of social interaction that terrified her, and she grew to dread shopping centers, social events and even the social time following church services.
"This fear wasn't something that I could simply face on my own," she explains. "It's a difficult thing to explain but anyone who has experienced irrational fear will know that it's not an easy thing to get over."
But in 2005 Nateeka was able to attend her school carnival with no fear. "I actually love crowds and thrive in social settings," says Nateeka, who is now studying to become a primary school teacher.
The change happened in a matter of seconds. Nateeka, who had grown up in church, was singing songs of praise to God and heard Him say to her: "Today I am going to take your fear away."
"I didn't feel different but I had a deep sense of knowing that what God had told me was true," she says.
On the morning of her sports carnival that year Nateeka says she felt only peace, and when she opened her Bible she read in 1 John Chapter 2 verse 13: "I am writing to you who are young because today you have won the battle with Satan."
She realized her social anxiety had not been from God but was a lie from the devil. By dying on the cross for everything she had done wrong, Jesus allowed her to access the love of the Father and be delivered from all her fears.
All she had to do was realize God was stronger than any lie Satan was trying to tell her about herself, and accept Him into her heart as her Lord and Savior.
"Since then God has also showed me how He has healed me of fear in other ways. I am healed of my fear of crowds. I know that this liberating feeling I have now is truly how God created me and intended for me to be."
Nateeka is now studying and preparing to be a primary-age teaching trainer in East Timor from 2016.
"If obedience to God has brought me this much joy I will gladly obey Him wherever He sends me and in whatever He tells me to do," she says. •