There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:18
I recently returned from spending time with my aging mom and autistic brother. During my stay in Oregon, I tried, many times in vain, to write my next post; one to introduce a summer series on how to become more wholehearted- brave and engaged – in everything we do. It’s a topic I have been contemplating for months; yet I struggled to even get started. In hindsight, I see now that God had a very important lesson for me to discover first, a truth that reveals the root issue of what often prevents me from living wholeheartedly: FEAR.
So as an introduction to this series, here’s my story and what God revealed to me after this most recent trip to Oregon. ( I hope to hear your experiences as well. By sharing our individual stories, we can learn from each other and together reach a deeper level of wholehearted living.)
I am ashamed to admit that several times during this last visit, I had grown impatient with my mom who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s. One day, we even exchanged angry words after which I left for a walk in order to pull myself together. Upon return I found her lying in her bed, wrapped up in a quilt. She looked so small and frightened. I had wounded her. I broke down in tears as I rubbed her tiny back and reassured her that I loved her and was terribly sorry for becoming impatient and angry. By the next morning, she had forgotten what had happened. Alzheimer’s is slowly but steadily removing her memory as well as her ability to reason. Her feelings however remained on high alert and she did remember that I had gotten angry – terribly angry as she recalled.
In a sense she was right. Difficult emotions well up inside as I watch my mom become increasingly more child-like. Frustration mounts as I see her try to remain independent yet she lacks the skills to do so. She recognizes that I am making decisions for her which she sees as bossy and controlling. I want my mom back – the one who trusts me, wants to spend time with me, and values me as her daughter – yet she is slipping further and further away. How in this final season of her life, can I give her the support she requires without stripping her of the dignity and honor she deserves? How can I remain loving and kind and not respond in frustration to what this disease is doing to her?
First, I know that I must be patient at all times and joyfully serve my mom. Patience is still having its perfect work in me however; I am deeply grateful that God is long suffering with me in this process. In fact much about my life has been an exercise in developing patience. Being married. Raising kids. Now grand kids. God has graciously used the most precious individuals in my life to forge this virtue in me. In this season of life I am task with thoughtfully serving my mom. If the time I spend with her is not bathed in patience, I fail to be a safe person and wound her instead. (no different than the task we are given as parents to raise kids in a nurturing, patient manner)
What God revealed to me however is that the root of my struggles are really not about a lack of patience.
Nor is it about counting these various trials as joy. I am often patient and very thankful for these opportunities to spend time with my mom. I falter at times, and become impatient and even angry, because there are places in my heart that still remain untouched by God; places He is opening up and revealing to me as I serve my mom.
These spots in my heart are areas still controlled by fear.
What do I fear?
- Disappointing my mom.
- Losing her approval.
- And her love.
“ I thought you were my nice daughter but you are terribly mean,” she defiantly said to me this past week when I insisted that she needed help with her yard. (overworking outside has landed her in the emergency room several times but she has forgotten these episodes!) Her words pierced my heart. I try to do what is best for her but she resists needing me. Like a child she fails to grasp reality. The real issue that stabs me deep inside is fear over if doing what is required to keep her safe will negate her love for me? This anxiety at times is stronger than my desire to do what is best for her. Really, it’s the same fear many parents have who struggles being firm with their children. “What if they won’t love me as a result?”
I long for the approval of others and at times this need can get in the way of wholeheartedly embracing what God has in store for me. Being disapproved of (by anyone) frightens me deeply and makes me anxious. This fear shrinks me. I fear what Alzheimer’s will look like in my mom down the road. Will she fail to recognize me as her daughter? We have always had a uniquely close relationship but already I sense a season in which she may grow increasingly angry at me and disapprove of me. To love her well requires that I may have to make decisions she won’t like.
To love her well requires that I allow God into the untouched places in my heart where fear still controls me so that I can serve her in His strength rather than fall prey to my own weaknesses.
If I am honest with myself, fear is at the root of most things I struggle with. I believe that this is the case with most of us. Fear limits us. Takes us off course. Puts our focus onto circumstances and others. Fear is what God wants to free us of. Perfect love cast out fear. Jesus wants to free us from all fear so that we can wholeheartedly embrace life.
My two-year-old grandson Will is fearless. (picture below!) I pray that as he grows up, he will gain self control and wisdom but never, never lose his wholehearted approach to life. While Will’s fearlessness can be frightening – he will suffer many bumps and bruises – it is the characteristic that allows him to fully embrace every opportunity. I want to be like Will – only mature!
- Losing a child? (It tops the list for most parents.)
- Divorce? Loss of provision?
- Being misunderstood? Disapproved of? Rejected?
- Failing? Making a mistake?
- Succeeding? ( I was never afraid of failure, for I would sooner fail than not be among the best. ~John Keats)
Ultimately I know that on the other side of every fear is freedom. Christ came to set me free- free to live wholeheartedly. Bravely. Do I really believe that? Does my life reflect that?
Join me this summer as we consider those dark places in our hearts that Jesus wants to reveal and set us free from. I want to be perfected by God’s love and freed from all fear so that I can wholehearted embrace life. Send me your stories. What is God revealing to you about your fears? What hold’s you back from heartily embracing life?
More next week!
Please considering subscribing on my home page to get new posts directly. And go to my Facebook page to enter for a chance to win a full set of the Christian Mama’s Guide series!
Oswald Chambers on Patience.(A great read on a related topic!)
Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says – “I cannot stand any more.” God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. For what have you need of patience just now? Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. “Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him.”
Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but robust vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. You cannot see Him just now, you cannot understand what He is doing, but you know Him. Shipwreck occurs where there is not that mental poise which comes from being established on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the heroic effort of your life, you fling yourself in reckless confidence on God.
God has ventured all in Jesus Christ to save us, now He wants us to venture our all in abandoned confidence in Him. There are spots where that faith has not worked in us as yet, places untouched by the life of God. There were none of those spots in Jesus Christ’s life, and there are to be none in ours. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee.” The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we take this view, life becomes one great romance, a glorious opportunity for seeing marvelous things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power.