If you read my last post about procrastination, you’ll note that I attributed the disease of procrastination to having a heart and mind filled with fear.
While I offered some basic, practical suggestions on dealing with the habit of procrastination, I still wasn’t satisfied that I’d taken enough consideration of the matter of fear. Being afraid of not being good enough, what people think, or outright failure is debilitating, and keeps us from taking the first step into what is essentially our calling. It’s more than just procrastination; its paralysis.
So I’ve been thinking about fear, and wondering how I could combat something so powerful. I read some interesting articles and book reviews, all with great ideas about visualization, analyzing your fears, writing them down, burning the paper you write on, meditating on your own strengths, yada yada yada… there’s nothing wrong with those articles, but not one of them made me feel remotely empowered to face my own fears.
My suspicion is that fear in its most essential form is a spiritual and supernatural problem. It may seem that the battle occurs within the mind, which is why we may attempt all kinds of mind games to fight it. But actually, the fear battle is fought within the heart, within the deepest and most vulnerable parts of our being. Because that is where failure hurts us the most.
As I was mulling over all this during the week, a quote came to mind:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
~1 John 4 vs 18
Not just love, but Perfect Love. When someone loves you perfectly (unconditionally), there is no place for fear in that relationship, or anything pertaining to that relationship.
Now this is a whole other can of worms for me. Love is beast that I have been wrestling for some time. I have a dear friend and pastor in America with whom I communicate from time to time, and he is constantly telling me, “Let God love you!” I know he is right. But it drives me insane! What does that even mean?!
Don’t misunderstand my confusion about love with in-gratitude. I know I am blessed and I am grateful. But consider the fact that it is possible to be blessed and grateful, but to feel un-loved at the same time.
We’ve all seen families where a father will give his children what they need: the best of everything, the greatest education, the nicest toys and the finest upbringing… but he never invests personally in the form of quality time and affection. Those children may grow up knowing that they are looked after and ‘blessed’, but they might never know what it feels like to be loved by their father.
In the same way, I might be blessed with a great life, a good job, a beautiful family, a roof overhead, and good health. As grateful as I am for every blessing, I might still not believe that I am loved by my Father God, if quality time and affection is something He and I do not share.
(Bear with me.)
I awoke too early yesterday morning, and ended up having a short Twitter conversation with my pastor-friend, in which he (inevitably) told me again, “Let God love you!”. I dumped my phone on the bedside table, and slumped back onto my pillow. Staring at the ceiling, I asked God irritably, “What does it mean, for goodness sake?! I know in my head that You love me, but how am I supposed to LET You love me? I don’t feel lovable!”
I lay there annoyed, and my thoughts turned to my daughter. I realized that the love that I have for my daughter is the closest reference that I have to understanding God’s perfect love for me. So I considered the ways in which I love her, and the ways that I hope that she will LET me love her.
There’s provision – making sure that she has food to eat, clothes to wear, a warm bed at night.
There’s personal growth – sending her to school, teaching her, showing her what kindness is.
There’s love of life – letting her be a child, letting her play and explore and have as much fun as possible.
There’s protection – looking out for her and teaching her about discernment and trust.
There’s discipline – showing her when her behaviour is wrong, and showing her what is right, so that she grows into a healthy, decent human being.
There was something missing though, and as it dawned on me, a light flickered inside my spirit. The most significant way in which I hope that my daughter will let me love her is in spending time with her. I hope that as she grows up we will enjoy life’s journeys together, go on adventures, laugh and cry together. I hope that she will welcome my presence in her life, not for my benefit or enjoyment, but so that she will feel secure in my love for her, and confident in the knowledge of how special and wonderful she is.
I also realized that no matter what my daughter does, or doesn’t do, whether she is well-behaved or naughty, whether she becomes a legendary leader, or a stay-at-home mom, or a total bum… I will always love her the same. My pride in her achievements will be felt as a joy for her, but will never mean that I love her more than I did before. My disappointment in her failures will be felt as a sadness for her, but never a loss of love.
If this is the love that I feel for my daughter, and is but a glimpse into the Perfect Love that God feels for me, it changes the whole dynamic of living in His love.
I wonder how many more of us who follow Christ have categorized God’s love as mere provision, personal growth, blessings and abundant life, salvation and discipline… and then we wonder why so many people in the church feel disillusioned and unloved. The modern church’s recent “Grace movement” is at least a step in the right direction, but the more I think about it, the more I believe we need a “Love movement“.
If we came to understand God’s Perfect Love for us as an all-consuming passion for sharing our lives with us, regardless of who we are and what we do, fear is replaced by complete security and peace, and the knowledge that we are unconditionally loved.
It makes it so much easier to get up and TRY things, knowing that the outcome changes nothing of God’s love for us. Whether we succeed or fail.
The problem only arises when we care more about what people think, than what God thinks. If we realize that people are fickle and inconsistent and will think what they want anyway, and realize that no matter what we do, God thinks we’re lovable and wonderful… how can we go wrong acting in God’s love, instead of people’s?
I haven’t got it all figured out. But I’m starting to understand, just a tiny bit at a time, what it means to let God love me, and why there is such power against fear in that statement.
I’m still learning.