I confess. I most often cover my ears and look away when I’m watching a scary movie. I learned my lesson from watching the movie “It” which haunted my nightmares for years. Pennywise the clown has lurked in my mind and has crept into my dreams even now that I am thirty-two years old. It’s a silly thing. Reflecting now, I probably would undo having seen the film. Some experiences are better to avoid; especially given the effects which follow them; however, fear can also keep us from the wonderful experiences of life. We cannot avoid all chances.
Fear is a powerful thing. I would say that it singularly is the most effectually prevalent force in all of humanity save God’s enacting grace and love. The shadow of fear stretches over almost every encounter in some measure or form—from avoiding a simple conflict to completely socially isolating. Its prevalence can be seen in minor insecurities to extreme avoidances. I see it everyday in my clients; I see it everyday in my friendships; I see it everyday in my family; I see it at my church, the internet, and everywhere. Fear is celebrated by some, denied byothers, and still embraced by many. It often prevents us from achieving our calling or drives us away from each other. It is a tyrant that rules with an iron fist. Yet, fear is the very thing that believers are called to counter. It is our great enemy. Scripture address fear more often than it does almost any other foe. The phrase “fear not” or some derivative shows up almost enumerable times (I’ll leave it to the biblical linguists out there to count).
How do we beat it you ask? Love. Or at least that is the Sunday school answer— “Perfect love drives out fear.” But like you all; I don’t know how to love perfectly. As a one liner—it’s great but in practice I am dumbfounded on the how. Love is the mutual connecting we enact. Perfect love must be the balanced connection in relationship. Yet, perfect love comes with a caveat. We must give up our natural inclination to reactively pull away—to attempt to guarantee our safety. But perfect love comes with no guarantee. To love perfectly, we must overcome this fearful reaction. In other words, we must give up our need to control. Control, or at least our attempt at it, is how I see fear being played out. The problem is that control is something that we never truly have; and it most definitely is not a part of love. Control cannot be love. It drives people apart. Control hardens our hearts. Control is a lie. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to convince ourselves that we have nothing to fear. So, like me watching a scary movie we cut off our perception in denial thinking that we are safe. It is a lie. C.S. Lewis said it best saying
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (Lewis,The Four Loves).
C.S. Lewis nails it. Fear drives us not to connection but isolation; while love drives us towards connecting byencouraging vulnerability, pushing us towards a more perfect love. God did this in becoming us—the ultimate vulnerability, the ultimate perfect love. This love drives fear from shadowing our hearts; it drives into loving connection. I must confess; I’m not very good at this. I still am a scaredy cat. I still cover my ears and close my eyes when fear presents itself. But, I do know perfect love; and by this love I will seek to drive out my fears to emulate the perfect love of Christ. I strive for this knowing that it is a work characterized by fear and trembling.