Yesterday I wrote about fear’s power in destroying love. Thankfully, we can choose which of these worldviews we feed. And just as focusing on fear can make love shrink, so to can focusing on love banish fear.
Again, this is easiest to see in the world of human interactions. Growing up in the Midwest, surrounded by white middle class girls and boys, I had a fear of the other that zeroed in on Muslim people after 9/11. I didn’t hate them, necessarily, but I figured that if I ever met one, I wouldn’t want to be friends with him or her. I was afraid of the actions of a few, and it kept me from loving a massive population of diverse people.
Luckily, in college I went to Turkey and met Muslim men and women. I was overwhelmed to realize that they were normal human beings with fears and passions and hobbies. When I returned from that trip, things got a little weird, and I purposefully set out to befriend Muslim women in my college town. A year later I moved to Senegal, a Muslim country, where I ate with Muslims, laughed with Muslims, and taught English to Muslims. I loved Lamba and Mame Codou, and I could no longer be afraid of Muslims.
That’s an incredibly valuable lesson, but what gets me most excited about love casting our fear is when Jonathan Martin says this in Prototype:
“Because we are formed in the image of God, we are born with the capacity to dream, to imagine, to play, to create. The bike and the trampoline are important, you see, but they’re only props. When I was on my bike, my mind and heart were opened up to see things beyond the boundaries of reality as I knew it. Those were moments when my soul opened up wide enough to imagine a different world from the one I’d been given. And my creativity was boundless for envisioning such a world because those were moments when I did not feel fear.”
He’s referring to an ongoing analogy of his, how those moments in childhood when we were most free can reveal to us the kind of life God desires for us. For him, it was riding his bike. For me, it was dancing in the living room. I have vivid memories of riffling through my mom’s cassette tapes for something that seemed loud and exciting, then spinning across the room, leaping and trying to be graceful. I would perform for my family, happy to show them all the things I thought I could do.
I still love to dance, carefree and silly, but I almost never do it. I dance at weddings, where it’s mandatory and there’s often an open bar, and I once danced for my roommates, because I trusted them in that desperate college freshman way. But mostly I am paralyzed by fear when it comes to dancing. What will people think? What if I look stupid? And so I don’t.
And while I look forward to slowly conquering this fear and bringing silly dancing back into my life, dancing is not really the point. The point is the FEELING behind my childish dancing: the freedom, the joy, the openness. There was no fear, only love.
“For whenever fear is absent, God is not far away.”
I don’t typically think of God being in my silly moments, or what I mean, being MORE there than at other times. I tend to think of God using me when I am counseling someone, or when I am writing a *cough* meaningful blog post. But those things, good as they are, are also so bound up in fear (and therefore, sin). I worry that no one will read the blog post, or that my client will think I’m an idiot. The services I perform are just that: performances. So no matter how Good they are, they will always keep me removed from God just as much as I let my fears be a part of them.
But what about when I am crying with laughter with a friend? What about when I’m delightedly walking barefoot through fresh green grass. What about when I’m discussing my favorite stories, devouring all new information and sharing it with anyone who will listen? When I am at my most open and non-self-conscious…maybe that is most when I feel God’s presence in my life. After all,
“Every once in a while, we have moments when we are called back to the simpler life of love instead of fear. Those moments occur mostly when we experience true beauty in some form.
When was the last time you stopped long enough to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature or music or art? When was the last time you felt truly and deeply loved? Whenever we experience something truly beautiful, it’s as if someone is leaving a trail of bread crumbs to the place where we are fully known and fully loved. Our task is to follow the bread crumbs to see where they lead.”
Follow the breadcrumbs.
Where there is love, there is life, and there is God. Focus on that, and despite the loud clamoring of fear, KEEP focusing on that, and soon we’ll all be children riding bikes, jumping on trampolines, and dancing across living rooms. I’d like to live in that world.