Perfect love

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.          1 John 4:17 NIV

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love. 1 John 4:17-18 MSG

This past summer, I finally relented and purchased a new-to-me mountain bike. My previous ride was a tank with squealing brakes. It was not a fun experience…or safe, for that matter. The hope was if I got a lighter, better bike, I might actually enjoy mountain biking and not be so darn scared. In the past, I may have been known to, in a moment of desperation,  throw set aside my bike before sobbing in the fetal position, Eric looking on in disbelief, but not surprise.

I began challenging myself more on local trails, going out alone, taking my time. I became aware of a problematic tendency. Through some patient coaching from my husband, I came to realize how uber focused I was on each obstacle. Every rock or root, instead of increasing my pedal cadence and moving up and over, I would come to a near stop to maneuver around, so as not to fall. However, anyone who has ever mountain biked or skied, knows that momentum is essential. The moment I allowed fear into the experience, I became virtually paralyzed.

Fear is a powerful motivator…a motivator towards control, perfection, scrutiny. When I become afraid in my life, like on my bike, moving forward well is impossible, and each bump in the road becomes an object of concern. I exist in a land of extremes. Everything becomes worrisome, everyone is criticizing me, I can do nothing right or valuable, I am always going to fail. I can never live up to my expectations (nor can anyone else). I get blocked, creativity comes to a stand still, because I’m terrified of what others will think. Relationships are harmed, when I feel lonely as a result of my fear, because I isolate myself. Health suffers because of the need to strive and be in control. I cannot enjoy the things that bring most pleasure…typically, the small things.

While mountain biking, when I allowed fear to motivate my actions, I was miserable and actually less safe. When I let fear in – instead of yielding to trust – hope, joy, and peace all leave, along with desire.  I become so overwhelmingly concerned with the “what-ifs”, there can be no joy or promise in the journey.

What about fear and love? If perfect love drives out fear, could it be possible that the reverse is true…fear drives out love?

If there is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear and God is love, then the Holy Spirit would also be love. The indicators of a life lived according to the Spirit (Galatians 5), are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. If we live a life characterized by fear, and love and fear cannot co-exist, then potentially could our lives demonstrate hate, misery, conflict, impatience, unkindness, harshness, cheating, gluttony and greed?

I wonder, how has the Christian expression of love, possibly been perceived as the opposite, hate? We may think we are loving someone, because we don’t want to be complicit in their “sin”, by speaking Truth as we see it, or as we believe the Bible says. Is love actually motivating our hearts here, or is it mainly fear? I have to check my motives. Am I being motivated out of generosity, freedom and grace? Or scarcity, control and shame? God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’sThis is a game changer. We are to be free of worry…our standing is identical with Christ’s when we live a life of love. Why are we so afraid?

Fear is a block. Fear cancels our ability to perceive the love of God, and our ability to love others. When I am afraid, seeing beauty or experiencing grace and gratitude is an impossibility. I live stuck. I live in scarcity. The only way I can combat fear when it rises up, is to stop. I have to stop in the moment, seek the face of the One who adores me, made me, knows me and loves me beyond measure. I have to look up and give up. There is no way I can move forward when I am living while trying to control. I have to surrender…turn my palms over, dump out the contents, face them upward to receive the goodness that only the Lord can give. Only in this “letting go” can I receive again.

Living in love or living in fear is a choice, it’s a fight. Honestly, some days, fear wins. I can’t move. I can’t breathe. Thankfully, I recognize the power of God’s wonderful and magnificent grace that comes in and breathes relief, hope, freedom and mercy into my soul. It reminds me, through Jesus, I always get a do-over. I always am loved. I always am worthy.

I always have hope.