A few months ago, I was getting a cake from Publix for my friend’s birthday. I didn’t know what flavor of cake she would prefer, but since the cake was a surprise for her I couldn’t ask her. So I asked her husband and he didn’t know either (turns out she doesn’t have a favorite cake flavor). I ended up going with the raspberry flavor since that’s what sounded good to me, but the whole time between getting the cake and giving the cake to her I was insanely terrified that she would absolutely hate it because of the flavor.
When I say I was insanely terrified, I’m literally talking about a fear beyond what’s rational. My friend is a very sweet, mature person, but I was still terrified that she would yell at me or be upset with me because I somehow got the “wrong” flavor. I mean, after I gave her the cake she thanked me. She told me I had made her day. Everyone liked the cake and I even had some people come up to me and tell me that they especially liked the cake flavor. I mean, of course she’d like the cake, right? It’s cake! Where in the world did that fear come from??
That wasn’t the last time I’ve felt fear like that and it was far from the first. If I had to guess, I’d say it was the worst in Middle School. Back then, I felt like literally everyone was smarter than me. I didn’t talk much for fear of saying something stupid and then everyone would realize that I was a total idiot.
So for me, fear is a girl who has just become a teenager. She wears glasses and has braces and zits on her face. She’s pale and spends a lot of her time alone wishing other people would come up and talk to her. Sometimes they would; sometimes they would and she wouldn’t know how to interact with them. She never thinks she’s good enough. She always listens to the negative voices in her life – the ones who thinks she’s weird or fat. She thinks that if she stays around people too much everyone will just see her as a burden or annoying. She feels awkward if someone does compliment her. She’s terrified of taking risks. She never tries any new styles because no one has criticized her old style and why take the risk? Her hair always looks the same. And if she does try something new she is going to make sure she is least decent at it before she even tells anyone she has an interest in said thing. She amplifies her negative traits in her mind to the point where everything else about her is eclipsed.
I’m visited by this girl a lot. No reason to feel lonely when she’s around, right? I know this girl isn’t real. She never was real. She’s just my fear and I am more than my fear. But then the question is how much of her is me? How much does Fear control me?
She doesn’t have to be any part of me, right? I don’t have to be anything like her, and wouldn’t I be much better off if I could just ignore her? If I could just not have anything to do with her and leave her on the side of the road until she slowly dies off for want of nourishment? (Is my metaphor getting too literal?) But can I ignore her when I know that that’s one of her strongest fears? If I abandon her – the person who knows her better than anyone – isn’t that just confirming to her that she’s worthless? Isn’t that telling me that there’s a part of me that deserves to be abandoned by everyone? Doesn’t that just play into all of the negatives that she tells me? All this talk of getting rid of fear reminds me of a scripture verse:
1 John 4:15-18 “15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. [emphasis mine]”
Then… What? Should I love the girl named Fear? Would that get rid of her negativity? Should I just accept that she’s a part of me? Should I accept her? Engage her? Treat her the way I would want to be treated? What would that do to her? Can my fears and negativity exist in the face of perfect love? What is perfect love?
I know what perfect love is not. I know that perfect love doesn’t stop loving. That it doesn’t give up or throw in the towel. I know that it doesn’t hold a grudge against the worst in people. I know that it doesn’t look down on people or judges people beyond how you would judge yourself in their shoes. I know that it shows mercy and prays for good for people. It doesn’t belittle people or makes anyone feel worthless.
So can I show that love to myself? Can I know that love if I don’t see anyone who loves me in that way? How can I show love to myself and others if I can’t accept the love that others have for me? How can I understand love if I don’t experience love? Isn’t that the whole importance of the gospel? Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So Christ is my example of perfect love. Because of Him, I know what love is. Because of Him, I see an example of love so strong and sacrificial that he gave everything – even his own life – for the people he loved. So knowing He loves me and others in that way, I can also show that love to me and others. That’s the gospel.