Fearing Perfect Love

I had one of those experiences today when a verse reaches out to you and the impact is so large that it stops you and almost takes your breath. I was reading in 1 John 4, reading about love and I came upon a phrase often quoted “Perfect Love drives out fear”. It’s in verse 18 and what I didn’t realize, or hadn’t remembered is the rest of that sentence.

“Because fear has to do with punishment”

That’s what got me. God stopped me there and I stared. Because fear is something that I struggle with. It’s fear in its various forms and manifestations. Fear of failure, fear of death, fear of rejection. But what this verse connected in my head is that yes, all of these fears I experience have to do with punishment.

If I fail, will I still be of value? If I make a mistake, hurt someone, don’t perform as people think I should, will they cut me off or reject me? When I die, will heaven be what I hope, or is it all a trick.

All of these things are tied in with some sort of punishment or repercussion. If I don’t, then…If I do, then… Where’s the freedom in that? How do we not spend our lives tied up in knots, pussyfooting around the world and our situations?

Because there is no fear in Love. God’s perfect love, made manifest in Christ’s death for our forgiveness, negates our fear. If it’s fear, it’s not from God, not sourced in Him. So when I fear that maybe I won’t see the fulfillment of God’s promises or that somehow I’ve got it wrong, I’m not accepting the truth of God’s love for me. That I need to realize that if he is indeed the perfect and holy God, his love for me must be perfect as well. Not driven by human sins like manipulation, bait and switch, meanness, envy, jealousy, and the desire to climb on the backs of others. If God is perfect, there is none of that. He is not bound by our sinful natures.

And one step further, as we enter into our relationships with one another with the basis of God’s love, there should be a lessening of fear as well, shouldn’t there. Fear of rejection, judgement, not meeting someone’s standards. When we love one another as Christ intended and modelled, then the fear begins to dissipate. When we are loved and held accountable, but not punished, fear begins to lessen.

It is eye-opening for me. Realizing that it’s my lens of human relationship and imperfection that clouds my judgement of who God is and how he loves me. That this perfect love that he offers doesn’t break and bruise, but heals and uplifts. I knew this in my head, had thought the thoughts, but sometimes God needs to spell it out for me in black and white. A reminder of my preconceptions and the freedom that comes from the truth beyond them. So I’m releasing my fears to the cleansing of his perfect love.

Advertisements

Small Sacrifices

At 34 years of age I’ve decided that I need to learn to ride a bike. This was a skill I was taught as a child but growing up on the farm, learning to drive realllly early, having no where to bike, and fear of hurting myself all combined to mean that this was something I never learned how to do. But It’s surprising how God uses things that stretch you to teach you about compassion.

It wasn’t under my own instigation that I started this journey. A friend/mentor/woman I greatly admire asked me if I would organize a ride in my community that would support Defend Dignity, an organization seeking to end human trafficking. This woman, who I admire so much, could ask me to jump off a cliff and I’d hope there’s water at the bottom because I’m jumping. So I said yes, with the disclaimer that I didn’t know how to ride a bike. Didn’t matter so here I am.

So the journey so far has led my wonderful husband to purchase me a bike (name still as yet undetermined) and I have logged some kms so far. It was after a ride today, which I’m really starting to enjoy, that some of the meaning of what I’m doing began to register in new ways with me. I opened my Facebook page to read a prayer request for a 9 year old girl in Cambodia who had been raped, likely by her father, and had been hemorrhaging for 6 days and might have to have a hysterectomy. While praying for this God pressed it upon my heart that for people in prostitution around the world and in Canada, statistically, they are extremely likely to have a history of abuse, rape, and violence. These women trapped were once little 9 year old girls who do not choose the abuse they suffer.

I’m grateful that God has presented me with this opportunity. I’m grateful that he’s showing me that in even a small sacrifice of ourselves it takes us OUT of ourselves and focusses us on others. I am being taken on this journey for something and the benefits for me are likely just the side effect. We are called to cry out for change, be change, make change, and be changed. We sacrifice for others, stride out in faith and conviction so that this doesn’t have to happen to any more children and women. So I ride, I stretch, I give, I grow, I pray, and I learn more and more about the calling to see and sacrifice.

Soccer Communion

Soccer Mom has certain connotations, doesn’t it? A certain look, a certain intensity, a certain type. I am a soccer mom. Which means that on Monday and Wednesday nights I’m sitting on a blanket at the soccer field wrestling two kids while watching another play soccer. It’s been an enlightening experience for me. I played most of the sports growing up and it’s interesting for me to be on the other side of the field as a parent. But it’s good.
I had great hopes for this soccer season. Hopes that my son would enjoy it, get some exercise, make some new friends, learn some new skills. But I also have hopes for myself. With the majority of my work life spent in the company of other Christ followers and the rest of my time in a stay at home or church context, I’m trying to meet new people in my community. I’ve been praying for opportunities to connect with people and get to know them, all kinds of people. But I’ve discovered something.
I’m a little shy. There’s still a part of me that needs to overcome the “maybe they’ll think I’m nerdy/creepy/lame/don’t fit in. Because to tell you the truth, last year, I was an organizational soccer mom partial disaster. I felt like I was always about a step behind the other parents. And maybe some of that lingers with me still. The feeling that I’m missing something.
So, as I was sitting on my blanket, I felt like an observer. And I was. I was getting the lay of the land. Seeing who this new crop of people were and how I might interject myself intelligently, wittily, and seamlessly into a conversation. A lot of thought is going into this process.
But there was something I observed that struck me. It was while watching two women who I don’t get the impression saw each other outside of the short soccer season. One approached the other and they began the talk about kids and school (I wasn’t eavesdropping. Clearly the blanket I was on established my prior stake to the area and they had come later. Here’s the disclaimer). What I saw and heard was interesting. Not so much what they said (because I did try not to listen) but the ease of their interaction. Though they hadn’t seen each other for a while, they slipped so easily into speaking of their struggles, families. The level of vulnerability was amazing.
Vulnerability is something we strive for in the Church. It’s essential to discipleship, growth, communion and community. But it’s so difficult in practice. These two women, on sporadic acquaintance, were open in a way that I find difficult and I believe many others in the cChurch would as well. Because when someone you don’t know that well is vulnerable in front of you it’s a little shocking, isn’t it? Yet these women were completely comfortable with it.
Why? Why is it so hard for me/us to be easily vulnerable? God created us for it. It’s essential to community. Lack of trust in other people? Fear of exposure when everyone around you seems to have it all together? Or maybe we feel like we can be vulnerable about the big things like diagnoses or losses, but if we’re vulnerable about the troubling little things it shows lack of faith in God. Is it me? Is it the people around me? Is it warring cultural pushes and pulls that caution us against sharing too much but encouraging us not to close ourselves off?
As I watched those women it reiterated a certainty in me. That we were created for vulnerability. And that takes courage. It takes courage to set aside imperfection in favour of community. Vulnerability is more valuable than perfection or presentation. It is the stuff Christian community is made of.