Live Bravely. Live Loved.
2019 was a year of personal and professional risk-taking for me. I changed everything from career and social circle to how I conduct relationships and view time. It was a long year of research and soul searching. Across the many resources I’ve delved into spanning everything from financial strategy, business development, the finer points of introversion, and how to be a good Dungeons & Dragons master, one sticking point repeatedly cropped up: Fear.
Though some fears are rational, they can still hold us back if we allow them. We fear success. We fear failure. We fear rejection, disappointment, poverty, responsibility, change, loneliness, vulnerability, and all kinds of things that discourage us from committing to our dreams and potential. But 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
What struck me as I read these various books was that even those with no religious or spiritual affiliation dedicated sections to the relationship between fear and love. Concepts like not being afraid to financially invest in things you love. If you love what you’re doing, you won’t be so afraid of taking the necessary steps to succeed. If you root your customer service in love, you break down barriers. If you learn to love yourself for who you are, you won’t be as afraid of marketing yourself or building a business around your personal strengths.
The same translates on the personal level. Have you ever watched a friend’s blossoming relationship with someone who truly loved them? Did you see how they became better versions of themselves with the encouragement and acceptance of that other person? I think of Baz Luhrmann’s film Strictly Ballroom (1992) in which the shy, dowdy Fran finds the courage to compete in a glitzy national ballroom dance championship once her partner recognizes her potential and her overprotective family offers full support. Believing in their belief in her results in groundbreaking choreography and personal triumph.
When we don’t just know but believe we are loved for who we are – warts and all – we’re freed from the burden of earning love. We no longer fear to the point of immobilization. Love sets us free to pursue the best versions of ourselves despite the inevitable mistakes and failures along the way. How much more freedom, then, can we enjoy in the experience of God’s love?
God is perfect, unadulterated love. Any fears we need conquering can only be fully overcome with the acceptance of who God says we are. Yet, in a strange way, clinging to fear can lend us a sense of control. It becomes a comfort blanket or crutch. We use it as an excuse to avoid doing things that could change us or our circumstances even if for the better. There’s a certain power to fear, but love is the greatest power of all. Only true love – God’s love – can empower us through even the most crippling doubts.
As we launch into a new year, we may already have fears niggling at the back our minds. Perhaps just the simple thought of the unknown, of what 2020 could bring, makes us uneasy. What perfect opportunity to invite the love of God to cast out those fears and free us to pursue our best selves by pursuing his character.
As you take the first faithful steps into 2020, ask yourself:
If you believed – I mean truly and deeply, a conviction saturating to the very core of your existence – that the God of the universe and worlds beyond LOVES you perfectly, what might you do differently?
How would that free you to live differently?
What fear is holding you back?
How will you invite God to conquer that fear?
Here’s to living bravely. Here’s to living loved.