For your mid-week meditation, I present to you the devotional site thepracticeco.com, written and maintained by a pastoral couple in Australia. There is an iPhone and Android app version of their site, and you can also purchase subscriptions or some of their published devotion books. I registered an account to check them out, and this was the first message/devotion.
Blessings on your Wednesday,
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In the Complete Jewish Bible, 1 John 4:8 says:
"There is no fear in love. On the contrary, love that has achieved its goal gets rid of fear, because fear has to do with punishment; the person who keeps fearing has not been brought to maturity in regard to love.”
I used to think that love banished fear, as in, removed it, as in, I would never feel it. In love, there is NO fear… it should create a state of fearlessness, right?
Well, if it does, I haven't experienced it yet. Even in love - love of God, love from God, love of neighbor, love of self… all the love that exists in my world - I still feel fear. It’s still present. Sometimes the more you love, the more fear there seems to be. Nobody told me that becoming a parent would be the most terrifying thing I would ever do. No one said to me that falling in love and committing myself to be in a relationship with another person for the rest of my life would be a risky undertaking. It’s almost like love can create the perfect storm of fear…
What do we do with that?
In Ancient Hebrew, the word for fear is Yirah, and it has three meanings: fear, awe, and reverence. It can be used interchangeably to define these singularly, but it also carries the possibility that we can have an experience where there is no boundary between fear and awe and reverence, all of which show up in one merged experience, an emotional state that does not have an equivalent English word. Yirah also means “to see” which is tied up with its definition of ‘awe.’ It teaches us to pay attention to reality and warns that if we don’t, we will suffer the consequences.
Reality always has an element of fear, because we can’t control other people, or everything that happens to us, or the things that happen inside of us regarding chemical reactions and illnesses. The one thing we have control over is our response.
There is no fear in love because love is not motivated by fear. That doesn’t mean that love doesn’t make space for fear, listens to what it has to say, is compassionate and gracious, takes on what it needs to and leaves the rest. In fact, I think that’s exactly what love does. When you can love yourself through fear, and even learn to be grateful that fear exists - that it's saved you from making terrible choices, and has sometimes been the catalyst for deep and meaningful change - I believe that’s where fear turns into awe, awareness, and attention. Where wonder and beauty and grace come into play. I think that's how we live aware, awake, and alive in the world - eyes wide open, staring reality in the face with love.
It’s not that you’ve matured when you no longer feel fear. Maturity comes as you learn to stay in the way of love, even when you’re afraid. Punishment is something we do to ourselves when we let fear take control; when we don’t pay attention.
Fear can be paralyzing, or fear can be clarifying. And how much love you allow to rule your heart determines which way you’ll go.
Perfect love puts fear where it should be. A part of us, with something to say, for sure. But not at the head of the table, at the helm of the ship, or the driver's seat in the car. That place is for love.
Written by Liz Milani.
Mindful prompt: If fear rises up in your heart, take a moment to be with it. Listen. What is it trying to tell you? Be calm and patient with your fears. Begin to practice handling your fear, rather than being handled by it.