Holy God, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Scripture tells us that resurrection is assured. Yet we live in fear. We’re afraid of losing our loved ones. We’re afraid of the unknown. We’re afraid people won’t like us or our children will forget us. We know we’re not the church we once were and afraid of what that might mean. We’re afraid that if people knew who we really are, they wouldn’t love us anymore. While we long for abundant life, we’re afraid of what it might demand from us. Disrupt our addiction to fear. Open our lives to true boldness. Give us confidence not in what we can achieve, but in the power of what you are doing in and through us. Amen.
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife . . . .” (Matthew 1:20)
When Joseph found out his fiance Mary was pregnant and he wasn’t the father, an angel says to him, “Do not be afraid.” It’s interesting that the emotion attributed to Joseph at this point is fear. I might have thought anger because from a human standpoint, the assumption would be that Mary had cheated on him. But anger isn’t named. The emotion that needs to be released in order for the holy wedding to take place is fear.
The thought of marriage scared the pants off me when Nicole and I were dated. My parents were in the process of an ugly divorce. Her parents had also had an acrimonious divorce. Our families’ recent track records were not good. Who could say we would do any better? In the end, with fear and trembling, I asked, and she said, “Yes.” Twenty-three years later we’re still together! For me, it has less to do with anything special about us. It has more to do with God’s grace and an amazing support system. And even after all these years, I am deeply aware of how fragile it all is.
The Apostle John writes that “perfect love casts out fear.” This suggests that love and fear go together. True love demands vulnerability, vulnerability brings risk, risk often gives rise to fear. “Will I be rejected?” “Will I be taken advantage of?” “Will my loved one leave or die?” Human love is imperfect, so fear goes with the territory. That’s why for me a key to making human love work is grounding myself everyday in God’s perfect love. If you’re not at least a little afraid, you may not be risking true love. If you find yourself afraid to, for example, share your feelings, be honest, meet a neighbor, share a gift, make a friend, commit to a relationship, instead of ignoring the fear, you might sit with it for a bit, invite divine love to shed some light on the situation, and then step forward with courage.