Casting Out Fear

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… love casts out fear”.

I have often wondered at this and have longed for the freedom that it offers, for those who come to some experience, or understanding, of what it means. I would suppose most children have a time in their lives when this is something lived out, for a longer or shorter period of time. However it is unconscious and is soon lost by the simple fact of slowly growing up and experiencing the pain and suffering that is part of life. I think the verse (love cast out fear), points to a conscious, existential, living out of a deep reservoir of faith experience and not something merely assented to on a intellectual level, though this is also important.
People deal with fear in different ways. Some go towards it and fight. While others flee from it and seek to hide; flight or fight syndrome. I would suppose each is compulsive in their own way, for attack, or flight, can just be unconscious ways of dealing with problems, knee jerk reactions taken for freedom. The trick is to become free enough, were perhaps some other approach is grown into. I tend to be of the ‘ attack ’ school, for fear given into only leads to deeper imprisonment; in a smaller and smaller inner world…….that is my compulsive approach. However constantly being on guard, defending ones turf, trying to force things to be ‘ just so’, also leads to a shrinking world. For people after a while, really, really, get tired of the in your face approach to life. It can get wearying for others. For me the loss of control, or weakness shown to another, is something that I compulsively fight against. So to be strong or weak, can be just two sides of the same coin. Just different corners of the same room or prison. Extremes either way will lead to greater and greater isolation with the illusion of control. In reality people just get tired of it and leave those afflicted to themselves.

It is easy to see the illusions that others blind themselves with, on the other hand, to see ones own can be very difficult, or perhaps impossible at times. What I see in the mirror and what others see when looking at me can be very different things and that is something feared. The knowledge of what others see. No big deal to them, but to the one looking out it can be shattering to ones self image, if it is learned of the foibles that are seen in us by others. Of course we all see them in one another and think nothing of it. It is only when applied personally that it can lead to problems, to fighting, defensive stances etc. What further complicates things is the fact that sometimes the defensive stance is the best way to go, for truth perceived too soon can be harmful and not healing at all. Simply not enough love present.

Fr. Bill once asked a group, of which I was one, to think of someone that really got on our nerves. When we got a clear picture of that person, to write down the main points that really bothered us about them and to be very honest and blunt for no one else was going to read what was written. So I zeroed in on my victim and began to write down a rather impressive list of attributes that I did not like. Halfway through the exercise I began to feel a tad uncomfortable, and as the list got longer I started to feel agitated. When we all finished our list, he then asked us to make another column, and under the column to write: “I am a person who can be…. “, and then to use the same list as I did for my ‘ victim ’. Damn I thought, I have been busted, for I was looking at my own reflection. Nothing like having a first hand experience of ‘projection’ at work, something unconscious suddenly brought to the conscious mind to be contemplated. Well it was not pleasant, but freeing, for my relationship with this person actually improved. However what if I fought it and did not believe it? Perhaps I would have gotten worse, at least in regard to my relationship, since it would have only hardened me further in my unfair treatment of the other. The defensive approach might have been necessary, but it could have caused problems for others in my life. It is iffy, but the technique was safe, since the insight came from me, I guess I was ready. It was not thrown in my face. Hence no fear, no walls, no fighting or running, just a bemused acceptance of what is.

In our relationship with God, once it is experienced that all is already known, seen, that nothing can be hid, goes a long way in releasing fear. We fear being seen by others. Also we fear true self knowledge, for it can wake up a sleeping self satisfied ego to a harsh reality and cause some major fear, which can be the worst kind of experience. Yet once it is known that God sees all and is ok with it, and also that friends see it and are ok with it, then we can learn to allow truth to flow into our souls more and more as we learn to trust love and let fear go. I know this sounds simplistic, but it is not at all. To face up to well worn patterns of emotional responses is not easy, for they are like well worn paths, easy to trod and yes easier to believe. To grow in trust and love is a choice, to remain in fear may or may not be.

Before God our souls are crystal, transparent, nothing hidden, all is simply there before God’s loving gaze. In the Christian faith this love is shown in Jesus who became man, our brother, who lived a full human life with all of its sorrows and pains and yes death; a terrible horrible death. In this I believe is shown what has always been true. God has always experience each life, the sufferings, the joys, the loneliness and longings, and in the end death, the easy ones and the most horrible ones. The immanent presence of God is shown to us in Jesus, God with us, as he is called. Christians can often be faulted with limiting God’s love, but I think that can be understood, for who can understand infinite love? I can’t. I still don’t understand it. However isn’t that enough, if really meditated upon, to take away our fear? Self knowledge can then be seen as a way to greater freedom and a deeper ability to love, because self knowledge leads to compassion and empathy and that leads to giving and helping and healing. Others or looked upon as just another self, as brothers and sisters beloved by the infinite. It is really mind boggling when thought about.

Union with God does not lead to some kind of fusion where the person disappears. No it leads to expansion, to love, to the eternal fiery embrace of a God who is just that, love. All the fear comes from us, causing restriction of our personalities hardening ourselves. We build our prisons, our hells; it is God’s love that breaks them down. So when you are at your worst, most bowed down, near despaired and want to simply sink…..well look up…..you will see love looking back. It is harder than it sounds, for true freedom, without walls, is a fearful thing. That is the greatest fear to be overcome perhaps.

The mind’s chattering and fears,
the what ifs,
the what I have done
and failed to do,
are calls to dive into the infinite,
for fears are chains
created by our thoughts,
something taught,
branded into our souls,
yet
“love cast out fear”,
who can understand such freedom?
what is feared cannot be trusted.

Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO, Holy Spirit Monastery

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About thewannabesaint.com

thewannabesaint.com is a place for sojourners walking this spiritual path called life. - Brian Loging, brian@thewannabesaint.com, is lead writer at tWS. He is also a speaker, author, poet.

Posted on January 10, 2015, in Guest Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “Before God our souls are crystal, transparent, nothing hidden, all is simply there before God’s loving gaze.” Thank you for reminding us of what Paul tells us in Ephesians 1.

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