Most of us keep mementos, keepsakes that we cherish, often in the form of photographs. They can be in a gold locket we wear around our neck. They can be in an ornate silver frame on a dresser. When we look at them, we think about the person in the photograph, we remember times we spent together, we are able in a way to experience again the love we shared with that friend or relative.
It puts us in a meditative, reflective state, open to understanding more about how much that relationship means to us and more about what God might want us to understand about our own selves. With the love, we might experience feelings of nostalgia and sadness, but in this case, we usually feel love without fear.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us.
I have realized recently that when I tell God that I love God with all my heart and soul, I feel a tinge of anxiety, and I’ve been wondering what that’s about. Do you ever experience that? When you tell God that you love God with all that you are and have, what do you feel? Joy, peace, anxiety, fear, worry, contentment?
I think my anxiety has to do with wondering if I love God with everything I have, give everything I have to God, what will be left for me? It may also have to do with guilt, frustration, that I know that I need to live out my all-encompassing love for God, but I do not.
A friend and I were talking recently about lost loves – loves that we think of as being in our past yet appear to be present with us still. I asked her why this happens. She explained her theory to me, which is that once we love somebody, we always love that person. It may not work out, we may suffer heartache, we may think we have closure, but that love never goes away. It is eternal.
Just like God’s love for us. If God is love and love is God and God never goes away, then love is eternal and ever with us.
When I turn my face to God, what I feel is light, warmth. When I am aware of Jesus’ presence in my soul, guiding me away from past behaviors and welcoming me into new behaviors that fit more closely with his command to love, I never feel fear. I always, inevitably, sense Jesus as almost neutral – not neutral exactly because that implies a lack of caring – but nonjudgmental, simply a living presence emanating warmth and guidance and encouragement. And I am able to relax and consider without fear how to move forward in a way more pleasing in his sight. Not fear but love.
I have told you before in this space about a painting that I have of Jesus inscribed with the words “Suffer little children.” He stands in his white robe, encircled by children looking up into his handsome bearded face. He holds one of the smaller children in his right arm and extends his left arm out toward another child.
One of the little girls looks exactly like I did when I was five or six; she’s turned away from the painter and toward Jesus, so we see her from the back in her coral colored dress. Her hair is dark, almost black, and cut short and straight. Just like mine was.
When I tell God that I love God with all my heart and soul, I’ve recently begun to visualize that little girl – thinking of her as me – looking up into Jesus’ face with eagerness and enthusiasm, and I’m finding that that helps to allay my anxiety. It helps me to experience God’s love for me and mine for God as love itself, untarnished by fear.
This week, I invite you to join me in focusing on telling God how much we love God and checking to see if we experience any fear or anxiety when we say that.
And if we do, to explore ways to mitigate those anxieties so that we can truly say to God “we love you” without fear and with only joy and gratitude.