When the Wild Thing is Love

I’m pretty fearful.

You must know this already, if you’ve been around for any time at all. I fear being left behind, and I fear being the one who has left. I fear the unknown and I fear staying the same. I fear failing, and I fear succeeding, and I will always, always fear being pulled behind a boat attached to a string. I’m interested in getting over all of those fears except the last one.

I fear loving and being loved–I especially fear these things done perfectly. For we have been told, “perfect love casts out fear,” and I guess that I fear losing all of my fear: What would I cling to then? How would I know when I’ve gone too far? For what other reason would I climb into bed again and leave it until tomorrow or decide, instead, to look out for my own best interests?

flowernotweedsBut a bigger part of me–or at least a part that is growing steadily, some part that the fear touches, but does not consume–knows this is just the scaredy cat of my heart mewing. This nugget knows and believes in perfect love and what it does. And whether this part of me is beating in some corner of my heart or burning down in the gutsiest part of my gut or standing on my shoulders ready to run, it intrigues me, challenges me, asks more what-ifs about loving perfectly. It suggests that I do not lock my car doors or avert my eyes when someone on the street looks at me, questions in his eyes, on his lips, in his hands: “Ma’am, do you want to buy a newspaper?” No, I don’t, get away from my car, I’m a girl, I’m a young girl, get away from my car, you’re scaring me.

***

I like to control how I’m loved–that’s silly, isn’t it, but there all the same–but I don’t mind being loved, per se. I like it most when people steadily drizzle their love on me, so that I may take it in slowly, taste its sweetness, announce at once if I wish it to stop. That process is all steeped in fear, for if it’s a rush, if I get drenched summer-rainstorm style by someone’s love, I’m left dry if they take it away.

I like to control how I love, too. I like to love extravagantly, I do. I like to love endlessly and tirelessly, but I like to decide how I do this. I like to love the people who do not make me uncomfortable. I like to encourage and pray for and pour into and lavish those souls who have proved that they love me back, that they’re interested in being loved by me, though I can’t claim to love even them perfectly. But at least I know they don’t mind imperfect lovin.

1044913_10200553799139981_1876305815_nBut then this is spoken to me, a refrigerator verse if I ever heard it: “Perfect love casts out all fear.” Get your toes wet in that, though, and you might want to take it down off your refrigerator.

Love and trust, these things walk hand-in-hand down sunset beaches and through the slums and in the grocery store aisles, arguing over what kind of spaghetti sauce to buy. Trust and fear, these things cannot be in the same room without lessening the other. So this is the call: Step into trust. Trust what you cannot see. And to that call, I so often say, “No, I’m sitting in a chair if I can’t see it.” This seems wise.

But oh, the wise are shamed. And our God takes things the world dubs foolish and calls them smartypants. And he asks me to sit in a chair, to get so wet I’ll never dry out, to turn around and love the old man on the street corner–the one selling newspapers–like I know for sure he’ll love me back.

Being able to do this, love so deeply that you must turn down your happy music when you pass someone hurting so that you can have a reverent place to cry, love so fearlessly that you go back into the houses of those who have hurt you and try again, love so remarkably that the recipients want to try it themselves–this takes 100 buckets of trust and not a single one of fear.

photo 1It takes you, on your knees, tasting first the kind of love that fills you up and drives you forward, with no time left to consider safety.

I’m pretty fearful, fearful and yet learning all the time to spend my days loving, loving where and who and whatever is before me, loving practically and grandly, quietly and gently, through and through.

I’m pretty fearful until I find myself loved so wholly that it must be perfect, and then–then I am not fearful any longer.

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