Monday, January 25, 2010

Fearless Love

 I have been paying attention recently to all the things I fear, in decisions, relationships, actions or lack thereof. How much of our lives are motivated out of fear? Why am I afraid? Where does fear come from, and how can we be free from fear?

I had a dream a while back that has really stuck with me. Maybe it was from God. I'm not sure. But one of the things that keeps coming back from that dream is this statement, spoken by a "mediator" between me and another person: "So we are agreed then? You will not make any decisions based on fear, because God is greater than your fears." Ever since then I have been catching myself making (or almost making) decisions based on fear, and that phrase comes back to my mind. If fear were not present in my heart, what would my decision be?

I am a fearful person. Not anxious. Fearful. There is a difference. For me, fear causes me to want to run away. Anxiety usually makes me want to take control, but fear just makes me want to run for the hills. Usually, this fear is manifested in relationships. For a while, God has been speaking to me about the relationship between love and fear, and it has taken me a looooong time to begin to understand the connection.

How many of us have been burned by people we've loved or who we thought loved us? Just about everyone, probably. For many, this wound leaves deep pain that is hard to get past, and trust is replaced by fear. Fear of being hurt again, fear of loving too deeply and being left alone.  And so our relationships begin to be motivated largely by fear rather than love, including our relationship with God. We can't believe that anyone will really love us. We can't believe that God really loves us. And if he doesn't love us, we cannot trust him. That is a problem because trust is the foundation of our relationship with God. If we cannot trust him, we will not follow him. So we live in fear, trying to trust only in ourselves, but even then knowing we ourselves cannot be trusted.

All throughout scripture God speaks of his love for us. Psalm after psalm speaks of the enduring nature of God's love. We are told that God loved us so much that he gave his own son to die, so that we might live (John 3:16). God compares his love for us to that of a husband and a father who desires nothing more than a relationship with us that would bring us true delight, satisfaction and joy. Over and over again he calls us back into loving relationship with himself, settling for nothing else. (see Jer. 2 and 3) God's very nature is love; none of his actions or desires exist apart from love (1 John 4). For the longest time I've struggled to believe this, but am finally beginning to grasp the depth of God's love for me, for you, and what the implications of that love are.

1 John 4 says: 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  19We love because he first loved us.

Yes, my fear is dispelled by my trust in God, but in order to trust him I have to not only believe that he is great, but that he loves me. A God who loves me may not always do or give me what I want, but I can trust that he will never lead me astray. Whatever he does will be motivated by love. I have been created for loving relationship with God, and because of that I am most satisfied in him. Regardless of where he leads me, it will always be back to himself, which is true life.

When I believe in THAT love, I can trust. I no longer have to fear. The answer to fear is to "know and rely on" God's love. We no longer think of God as a God of vengeful judgment but as a loving husband. The reason we fear is that we have not yet been perfected in love. Love perfects us? It does. Once we live in God's love, we can trust and live in connection and obedience to him, which in turn reinforces our love and trust as we see him working for the good of others through us. And it is receiving this love that enables us to love others without fear as well. We no longer have to fear the rejection of others, intimacy, or judgment, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts, driving out fear.

Just imagine what your life would look like if you were perfected in love. In other words, you knew and relied on God's love completely and because of that trusted him completely and lived moment by moment in satisfied connection and relationship with him. Listening, worshiping, thanking, obeying. You are no longer afraid to love others because God's love has satisfied the desires of your heart and placed his own love within yours. You no longer have to fight for your own rights because God's love is enough. You no longer have to prove yourself, because God's love has saved you through the sacrifice of Christ. You can serve others with joy and rest because you understand not only God's love for you, but the depth of his love for others and his desire to bring them into loving relationship as well. That knowledge enables you to sacrifice your own well-being for the sake of that love. You can love, because he first loved us.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. Let it be, Lord! Let it be!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Complex of Grandeur

I'm awake. It's 2AM. I wish I could say it's for a good reason. But it's not. I've been flipping a mental coin for hours, thinking, thinking, thinking. Praying. Evaluating. Worrying. Trusting. Afraid of making the wrong decision. Somehow I think this decision will determine the fate of the world. Ha...  It doesn't. And I wonder what God is thinking. If I could just hop into his mind for a second... Oh, wait... I can... Somewhere I read that I have the mind of Christ. Where does that theology meet my decision? I remember that God is great, and that he is good, gracious and glorious. He is pleased with me. He loves me. I am his child. Christ is in me. I'm accepted. It's not one strike and I'm out. There is grace. I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to know what to do. God knows, and I know through his story that he talks to people. I'll bet he'll talk to me. What must God be thinking? Hmmm... As he looks down on the world, all things in his hands, with power and grace. With a love strong enough that he would sacrifice himself so that we would know him. He sees me. He sees my church. What does he see? He sees someone he loves. Imperfect, fumbling, tumbling, I can imagine a chuckle, a tear. And a hand of mercy raising us up. He sees many other things that I cannot see, and the things I worry about are like dust, blown away by one exhale of his breath. He sees a grand plan that involves all of humanity, all of the earth, all of time. I think I have complex of grandeur... I keep forgetting it's not about me. Finally, I remember that the Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know what to ask, and I throw myself upon that.