When someone’s home is destroyed by a fire or flood or some other catastrophe, we hear that they are most devastated by the loss of cherished items like photographs and other mementos of special occasions. A television can be replaced. So can clothes, shoes, books. That picture of Auntie Sylvia and Uncle Ernie on their seventieth wedding anniversary? Gone.
A unique kind of pain.
One I realize I’ve inflicted on myself.
No, my house hasn’t burned down. Four walls and a roof, still here.
But my social media, that cloudy place that brings out the best and worst in all of us, that I’ve burned to the ground more than once. Deliberately lit the match. Watched years of thoughts and memories crumble into ash. Gone are the photos of an impromptu summer dance party in my dear friend’s backyard. Lost are the silly, pain-soaked words I shared from the hospital bed. Thoughtful discussions, memes, moments of growth and sharing – vanished.
There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.
– 1 John 4:18 (CSB)
The Beloved Apostle wrote these words to encourage Christians. We are not meant to quake in fear at the thought of meeting our Lord.
Absence of fear (boldness) derives not from a sense of self-sufficiency but from the relation of child to Father. Love and fear of punishment are incompatible. This does not imply flawless behavior on the part of the child; any claim to perfection at this level can result only in bigotry. Rather it is God’s full and free acceptance and the believer’s trust in His love that elicits a full confidence that excludes fear and uncertainty.
– Asbury Bible Commentary (emphasis mine)
Love. Fear. Incompatible.
As I seek to dwell in truth this year, I see just how bound up in fear I’ve been. Perhaps a, “Well, yeah,” moment for someone who doesn’t know what it is to live without anxiety due to her misfiring brain, but because God is good and promises to complete His good work in us, there’s always a new layer waiting to be revealed, a new space in which He desires to move. And I can’t stop the tears from stinging as I realize just how deep the fear of people goes.
Fear of their anger. Of their rejection.
You see, when I walk into a room, I don’t assume that I’ll be embraced. There’s always this wall. This wariness. This wondering. The last few years have done little to move me to a new perspective. I’ll own what I need to own here; I haven’t always spoken in love, used the best words or chosen my moment wisely. And the reaction to that – lack of grace, lack of love, lack of seeking to understand…
Burn up the memories.
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you’ve always had to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know… (Thanks, Elsa).
It’s deeper than that, though. Because I’m human and, smart as we can be, we are profoundly stupid at times. I know that God is nothing like people. I know that He is love. I know that I am chosen, redeemed and accepted in Him.
The unholy torture of the “but.”
What if God is like them? What if He isn’t that loving? What if I’ve gone too far this time?
Just goes to show how muddled our thinking can get. Fearing people, fearing God, full of doubt and shame. So, hit the “delete.” How I wish I hadn’t. Hadn’t given in to that fear. Hadn’t erased all those posts. Hadn’t been…frankly, a coward. We do that, you know. Justify acts of cowardice, frame them as self-preservation.
I have more to say, but, for now, I invite you to sit in this discomfort with me. Maybe you haven’t gone so far as to erase the online evidence of entire sections of your life. Maybe it’s something smaller than that. Something closer, that eats away at your joy. Whatever the source of your fear and doubt, I know it’s there, because, you and me, we’re the same. Different faces, different backgrounds, same drive for safety and acceptance. Where it counts, our minds spin in sync.
So park it next to me. Sigh as I do, amazed anew at both how quickly lost you can get and how much more quickly the Father comes running. Lay your head against His chest with me, allowing your hands to release their white-knuckled grip. Fear has no place here. We are loved.