For much of my life I have been plagued by fear. When I was a small boy I would have debilitating anxiety attacks; most kids are afraid at night, but I was hysterically, irrationally afraid of something getting me in my sleep.
So I wouldn’t sleep.
When I was a little older, I was terrified of losing my parents. I remember panicking so badly when they were late returning from a date that I literally ran into the wall of my aunt and uncle’s house. From the outside. I was 12 at the time–not a little kid.
And so I tried to keep track of my parents at all times.
By the time I reached high school I thought I had overcome much of my fear. But the trials of teenaged society elicited a new fear; fear of ridicule and scorn. This then turned into fear of being unwanted, unloved. And so I would try my best to say the right things and not offend anyone–if you know me, you know that was completely unsuccessful.
Eventually I grew up.
My childhood fears subsided, or at least became more refined: I still can’t sleep, but now I say it’s because my mind won’t shut off. I’m still afraid of losing my parents, but that’s a natural fear when middle age and health concerns become reality, right? And I even stopped trying–sorta–to not offend anyone. Now I just try to offend them for the right reasons!
But I am still afraid.
When I was 26, I had the unpleasant distinction of encountering the hatred and animosity that bitterness can build in someone else. I was the erstwhile recipient of a character assassination by people whom I had considered lifelong friends. That event still stings. I wake up in the middle of the night terrified that they’re plotting some new way of doing me harm.
A legacy of fear.
The religious community that I gravitated towards for most of my life was founded and built on fear. There are too many fears to count, but one big one stands out: fear of being wrong. This fear underwrites so much of what I’ve engaged in the past.
Perfect love casts out fear.
The reason I am writing this post is that at some point in my life I was grabbed by a reality that overcomes fear. I met Jesus–the real one, not the one who makes everyone afraid they’re going to hell. I’d like to say that I’m not afraid anymore, but that just isn’t true. But what I am doing is learning to live in the love that casts out fear. This love is not a white wash for evil, but is instead a love that realizes the evil–the wrongness of that fear–and forgives it. I’m still learning to do this. And I quite often react in anger and fear when I feel threatened. But the grace of God calls me out of it; calls me into a life of love without that kind of fear. And that is my goal; not just for me but for everyone I know. I want to live in the love that casts out fear. I want to be a part of that love.