The above quote stirred me deeply today. “Do not be afraid” is a constant mantra through the scripture (some 70+ times) ... and from personal experience, I can understand why.
I continue in a season of a long dark shadow. A dark shadow cast by my beloved’s journey with Cancer. These past 6 months have been the longest decade of my life. This journey continues to bust all the seeming necessary lies I have believed, the pie-in-the-sky theology and all its pithy cliches. We all know in the core of who we are that shit happens. It’s no one's fault, certainly not Gods. The problem is many don’t live from the core of who we are. For this is indeed the wild frontier - the undiscovered country.
I think the fear of death in its multiplicity of forms is the essence of the beasties that guard the gates to that inner place, our core. That place of Union with God and our true self. For me and for many the space of where we live a lot of the time and where we want to live from is where the wild beasts haunt. Beasts of uncertainty, anxiety, the dreaded what-ifs along with their henchmen: should’ve, could’ve and only-if. The source of sulfurous anxiety-induced sweats, the wrenching of our guts into knots, the roars and taunts of lies serve well to turn us back - to live shallowly, fearfully and reluctant to truly live into our gifting, our values, and our faith.
Perfect love drives out fear, and this is why becoming love is such a necessary journey. I believe it. I have experienced it, but like summitting any great inner mountain, each new elevation comes with its own old perils - presenting as seemingly new. The truth is, the way through these challenges is the same as the ones before - love inspired courage and the awareness that we are not alone.
I get it, I guess on some level. Yet, I suppose the truth is I’m am unsteady in the face of my beloved with Cancer (and this serves a petri dish for a whole host of other uncertainties). The phantasms and what-ifs sometimes rattle my cage, most often in the dead of night. The cliche’s and bravado of my younger faith are no longer comforting or helpful. The necessary lies that once provided comfort are exposed as flaccid and paraded in disgrace through the neural pathways of my mind.
God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful. - Henri Nouwen
My refuge is to descend from my head to my heart. Past the terrors of what-ifs, the threats, lying hisses through into the secret place.The place where God and I live as one. The confluence. It is the place of presence and co-suffering love.
Scripture encourages us that there is really nothing to be afraid of because of the way Jesus holds us (Ro.8). Jesus holds us all in such a way that that no created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God. I am comforted with this tenacious hope, that the light of love is the assurance of that we’re never alone. A light that burns in the darkness, a guiding light that declares that death(s) doesn’t have the final word. But because of Love there is a rugged overcoming life.
But to be honest, some days in feels like I am alone, that the light is damned illusive. Sometimes I need some help to reorient myself to the lingering light in the midst of a dark season. Most time my spiritual practices are helpful for reestablishing my bearing, but sometimes it requires the help of a faithful forgiving friend. These gifts, these practices, these relationships can help us see the light and get our bearing. I suppose one can even say that as one walks this out, with each tentative step, we are learning to walk in the night-time of life or if you like, walking by faith not by sight.
This is the push - pull in my heart.
My holy work.
My steadfast living prayer.