Some of my earliest memories are rooted in the act of boldly loving all over another child. I distinctly remember feeling lovingly protective of my kindergarten classmate, Dia, even though we were both four years old. In first grade I learned that my friend Danny’s father had died when he was an infant. I can still picture where I sat in my bedroom, my six year old heart breaking for him, making the decision to wrap him up in love. The next year there was Stephanie, who in 2015 would probably have a cluster of diagnoses including PDD and ADD, who needed a wingman to survive second grade. I made it my job to help her through the day when our force of nature teacher would dump her messy desk out all over the floor or humiliate her for wetting her pants. By the end of elementary school, I was the keeper of the secrets, the girl who classmates turned to when the abuse at home became too much. In high school I was periodically called from class by the guidance counselors because a student had requested my presence before disclosing date rape, pregnancy, abortion, suicidal thoughts. I silently made myself a human blockade for the downtrodden and the misfits as they walked through the dangerous halls of high school. It felt like a calling.
In her book For the Love, Jen Hatmaker writes, “The whole world is filled with lonely and left-out and humiliated and sad kids…develop eyes for pain, which is exactly how Jesus walked around on this earth. If your mercy radar is strong now, God can do anything with you later.”
I was born to love. I knew it from my very first moments of awareness of self.
But the world has a way of teaching us to fear instead.
A very smart friend once told me that everything we do comes either from a place of love or a place of fear. When we pull up to an intersection as the light changes from yellow to red and we see the man with the sign walking towards us, do we fear – fear that if we give to him we’ll not have enough for ourselves, fear that he’ll use our money to buy the next bottle of vodka or pack of cigarettes, fear that he’s crazy and dangerous and dirty – or do we love – give what we have to those who have so much less? When someone who has hurt us wants to reconcile, do we fear – fear that we’ll be hurt again, fear that their motives are less than worthy, fear that we’ll feel foolish for hoping – or do we love – giving them the chance that we’d want extended to us?
Every day, scores of snap decisions, responses, choices, all rooted in either love or fear.
Somewhere between those moments of pure, bold, audacious love from our childhoods and those moments of doubt from our present, fear came in and drove out what we knew to be our calling. Our calling to love. Our calling to love one another just as Jesus loved us.
According to Christianity Today, one of the most searched and shared verses of 2015 was Joshua 1:9.
And there it is. Not only does the Bible tell us to love. It reminds us first not to fear. Fear or love. It is our choice. It is the Lord’s command.
Father God, the days of celebration as we remember the birth of our Savior, your Son, are characterized by joy, peace, and hope, but they are also filled with broken humans interacting with other broken humans, with stress, with hurry, with fear that sometimes gets in the way of love. Lord, help us to remember your commands: do not fear. Love. Love boldly. Love audaciously. Love without fear. In the coming days, please help us to walk this earth as you did, with eyes for pain and hearts for mercy. Let this be the way that we celebrate the season and honor you this Christmas. Amen.
What is keeping you from sharing audacious love? What fear is getting in the way of following the command in John 13? What do you need to lay down, let go of, walk away from in order to be free enough to love without fear today?