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Divine Love casting out my fear


Last week, I naively took off for a 24 hour silent retreat at a retreat center.  What was I thinking?  Did I expect that I could spend a day alone with God and come away unchanged? It just does not work that way does it?  Not that I am complaining or am disappointed.

I am not sure that I ever truly settled down and enjoyed being still, alone and quiet.  I think the ability to maintain an inner silence even when there is an external silence along with solitude flows out of a regular discipline and practice and I have definitely been out of practice.  I was continually fighting a desire to be “doing” something besides listening.

But, the Lord was kind and revealed glimpses of grace.  I met with someone at the retreat center and it was suggested I read Isaiah 43:1-8  I got as far as verse 1!  “Fear not. I have redeemed you.  I have called you by your name.  You are mine.”  I knew that I had felt an unsettledness headed into the retreat but I didn’t think it had anything to do with fear.  Guess I was wrong.

During the retreat, I “happened” to bring along David Benner’s Surrender to Love. Benner is saying that Christian transformation is only possible as we surrender to God’s love.  But, he is also saying that our fear will keep us from receiving and giving love–from God and from others.  And yet when we surrender surrender our fears to his love, changes begin.  Do you sense a pattern going on here?  Benner writes,

“How terrifying it is to face my naked and needy self–the self that longs for love and knows it can do nothing to manipulate the universe into providing the only kind of love I really need.  The crux of the problem is that i cannot feel the love of God because I dare not accept it unconditionally.  To know that I am loved, I must accept the frightening helplessness and vulnerability that is my true state.  This is always terrifying.” 78

Part of facing this naked and needy self is identifying those fears that prevent us from receiving love and the fears that need healing by his love.  What did the Lord help me to see?  I fear failure and seek to avoid it by compulsive over-achievement.  I fear intimacy and attempt to minimize this fear by keeping people at a distance, neglecting certain relationships, holding back on my emotions etc.  I fear losing control and I avoid this by trying to do everything by myself.  I fear being alone and neglected and counter this by showing off, being funny, doing stupid or controversial things (hmmmmm).  I fear insignificance and loss of respect and so may refrain from speaking up when I am not sure or am just silent, do not attempt something new and/or delay activity.

Fortunately, along with these insights, there was the more than compelling words of Is 43:1 into which I was able to insert my various fears and bring them to God.  Fear not failure, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name.  You are mine.  I think you get it.  Fortunately, this is a process and God has been at work and continues to relentlessly pursue me with his love.  Some days I get it more than others.  Benner says that when God says “Fear not” he is issuing us an invitation rather than rebuking us with a command.  “God understands our tendency to fear.  And in gentleness he invites us to let him rid us of our fears and heal us by his love.” 47

Ok, a final Benner quote,

“Transformation occurs when we bring all parts of ourselves into the banquet of love provided by our divine host. Our fearful, angry and wounded selves can never be healed unless they are exposed to divine love.” 82

“For love to transform us, not only must we meet in vulnerability, we must also linger long enough in it for it to penetrate our woundedness.”  83

selah

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