Fearless Love

Today, on Valentine’s Day, I picked up an old “Magnolia Journal” which I have carried around in my book bag for nearly a year without taking the time to read. A big quote page drew me in. It asked: “If fear wasn’t part of the equation, how would your life look different?” The article, a short half page, was written by Chip Gaines. It’s no surprise that he would be encouraging the world to risk failure. In his funny antics he does it on most every episode of Fixer Upper—jumping off of precipices, bursting through walls, trying for the impossible basketball shot or attempting to pick up too-heavy objects. He lets his failures be fun and entertaining.

For me living from the “fear triad” of the Enneagram, “Failure” is a terrifying word—something to be avoided at all costs.  Something primal in me tells me, though I wouldn’t usually acknowledge it, that if I fail in an attempt, I am the failure.  Of course, I know that isn’t correct, but it is my default modus operandi as I approach life.

“Fear-less”[i] is the name of Chip’s article and, as a wordsmith, I love the twist of turning an adjective into a verb-adverb and thus to receive a subtle shift in paradigm.  This is exemplified again in Chip’s statement: “The courage to take your shot is half the battle.  The other half?  Viewing failure as a teacher and not an enemy.”

Risk, courage, and potential failure arise continually.  Valentine’s Day is a day of risk:

Sending a Valentine

Asking for a date

Saying “Yes” to an invitation to a date

Saying no to an invite

Getting married

Not getting married

Loving anyone

Not loving anyone

Setting Boundaries

Holding on

Letting go

Initiating a Friendship

Watching the winter Olympics I’m always amazed at the number of courageous athletes.  Really what they’re doing over and over and over is risking failure.  Of all the competitors, what are the odds of getting the gold?  And even for the medal winners, they are up on the podium only because they’ve allowed failure to teach them through multiple previous failed attempts at their sport.

Now my rational mind immediately can bring up exceptions to fearlessness such as when the consequences of failure are grave.  As mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal pointed out in his “wager” that it is staggeringly more risky not to believe in God than to believe in him: “I would have far more fear of being mistaken and of finding that the Christian religion was true, than of not being mistaken in believing it true.”[ii]  This is not the kind of fearlessness I choose to embrace.

On the other hand, yearly, monthly, daily I make decisions not to risk.  I choose “safe” often over living life to the fullest, over fearing the possibility of failure, and in doing so I miss opportunities, adventure, and even life lessons.  I know that:

            The sun still shines—after I fail.

            People still love me—after I fail.

            I love myself—after I fail.

            God loves me—after I fail.

I really like the book of Proverbs of the Bible.  I’m re-reading it now in The Message[iii] and seeing passages with new eyes, hearing with new ears.  Proverbs comes right up to us and tells us to Fear!  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom….” (Proverbs 9:10, NIV) The Message puts it this way: “Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God….”  But the same book of Proverbs also tells us to be bold and risk everything to find wisdom.  “Sell everything and buy Wisdom.  Forage for Understanding…Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom!”  As Blaise Pascal alluded to—there is big risk in not choosing God.  The God of love, peace, grace, and mercy gives us a choice.  Fear of God or Denial of God.  “Lady Wisdom” asks to be our filter—our first filter on whether to risk or what to risk.  The fear-of-God need be our main fear— “bowing down to God”; “paying attention” to God: “Lady Wisdom will be your close friend, and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion.  Good Sense will scout ahead for danger.  Insight will keep an eye out for you.  They’ll keep you from making wrong turns….”  They’ll keep you from risking what shouldn’t be risked.  “Carelessness kills; complacency is murder.  First pay attention to me, and then relax.  Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.”[iv] 

For some of us predisposed to fear, we hear the first part of that verse but forget the 2nd.  We—I—forget the part about, “then relax.  Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.”

Living life is taking risks. Living, abiding in, dwelling in safety by choosing to climb up into the lap, the embrace, the love of God, frees us to relax–frees us to walk forward fearlessly toward joy and peace, beauty, fun and adventure, and yes, even walk forward through failure and loss—because we can choose not to ever risk letting go of the One who is Love and the Love will not let go of us.[v]


[i] Magnolia Journal, A Look at Risk, Summer 2021, page 116-117

[ii] Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 241

[iii] God, Eugene Peterson, The Message, translation of The Bible

[iv] Excerpts from The Message, Proverbs

[v] Romans 8:35-39

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I was born into motherhood nearly 39 years ago. It is one of the highest privileges and deepest mysteries I’ve ever encountered. Birthing and Mothering allows women to participate in Sacrament—in unconditional Love, Creation, Christ-mas, Baptism, and Communion.

I’ve written a poem for all mothers and their children, for my daughters, granddaughter, and for my mother. It only scratches the surface of this unfathomable mystery. I share it with you here:

I am Mother

by Loretta Goddard

I lie down and surrender to love and risk.

Protection withdrawn, my womb opens to receive another.

My fertile bed prepared by God opens its lips to the seed.

The race is on—unpredictable and exciting—one possibility meets thousands and chooses one.

A match is made

A fire strikes

Burning and burrowing beneath the soil of blood and mystery.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

 

We test “waste” to know your presence. We listen and peer in with sound waves.

I lie down once again and look to screen and risk seeing you and falling madly,

deeply,

forever in love.

I carry you around in my purse and pouch and put you on my refrigerator and marvel at the blurry, fuzzy jelly bean sized person in me,

Who is you.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

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I begin to pant and feel squeezing—tightness

Yes—pain

Intense—severe

I risk death with joy and moaning, for you.

You have kicked in me, punched my ribs, rolled like a bowling ball inside me.

How I have longed to see you and touch you and now it is immanent and I am scared.

As you emerge I am born.

I am mother.

I hold you.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

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I give my days and nights to you.

I give my body once again—my rest and food, vitamins and drink all churn inside me until milk comes flowing through my chest to nourish you…sustain you.

My hours are yours, my body is given—scarred, stretched, engorged.

This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat.

You snort and grunt, draw near to suckle, your hands knead like a cat on a blanket, like a baker with his dough.

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I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. We lie still.

Selah

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Stay at Home Orders

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I slept late this morning.  Night before last I barely slept.  During this time of Covid-19 and “Stay at Home” orders all structure has been thrown out the window.

Actually what I have now is what I long for often–long periods of time alone to read and pray and journal…and drink coffee; less biddings to go and do, less social necessities, a monk-like/nun-like existence: Ora et Labora, Ora et Labora.  That is it mostly.

My evangelical Christian worldview brings guilt that I need to be out there spreading the word, helping people.  Indeed that is what Jesus and the disciples did.  They didn’t hole up and stay in caves praying–quarantining.  They didn’t even stay in one place like the desert mothers and fathers, or in a monastery or Christian commune, and let others come to them (except maybe some like John who was exiled to Patmos and Paul in prison).

But I am not Jesus nor His first century disciple.  The early church had a mix of calls for each person according to their gifts–according to what “body part” they were, according to their unique vocation.  And this pandemic time is a unique, likely, temporal time too.

My very good friend, Jan Kaneft, is the Archdeacon at Church of the Apostles in Columbia, SC.  She wrote a devotional during this time that really spoke to me.  I include it below:

SCRIPTURE: The LORD your God is in your midst, a Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
THOUGHT: Last week we ZOOMED with dear friends in North Carolina. Almost immediately, the conversation centered upon our grandchildren, a common occurrence with grandparents. Bill, our friend, laughingly described his new garden apprentice-his three-year-old grandson.
He loves to help me feed the birds. We end up with more seeds on the ground than in the feeder. It’s always messy. It would be easier and much quicker to do it myself, but I just love being with him.
He went on to say, Time spent with my grandson reminds me of what our relationship with Jesus is all about-He doesn’t need us; He wants us.
The prophet, Zephaniah, proclaims a similar message to the Israelites in Judah. God, the covenant keeper, initiates with His people a call back to relationship. He is faithful even when His children are making messes of their lives. He blesses with His presence because He delights in His people. Pure and simple, He just loves being with us.
Locked in the constraints of COVID-19, much of our activity has been curtailed. Has this restraint unveiled a fear inside that busyness has kept buried: does God really love me? Many of us believe that we are required to achieve something to prove to God and to the world that we are worth loving. In other words, what we do engages His love. The doing can become a lifeline to our significance, affirmation, security, acceptance—our value. It is difficult for us to believe that He just wants us. If this is your struggle, let the words of Zephaniah remind and encourage you today: God rejoices over you with gladness. God quiets you with His love. God exults over you with loud singing. Friends, He doesn’t need us; He wants us.

First, this includes one of my favorite Scriptures–Zechariah 3:17. This reminds me–We are/I am not socially distanced from God!  He’s in my midst.  He’s here.

And, as Jan reminded me, He loves me more than I love my grandchildren, Hazel and Julian, from whom we’ve been “socially distancing”.  And He wants to be with me more than Hule and I long to be with Hazel and Julian.  Wow!  That’s a lot.  Being around them, distancing 6 feet away and outside, and not getting to hold them was excruciating.  So I’m asking myself:

Do I distance myself from You, God?

Not going all the way to embrace You and sit on Your lap and be quieted by Your love?

Receive Your cheek kisses?

Hear Your ho-ho-ho; Your songs and shouts of joy and gladness over me?

I watched yesterday as Hule previewed a new video just sent of the grandkids.  Hule’s face was priceless–rejoicing over, smiling deep, deep face furrows of joy watching their every move.

God, if You indeed, rejoice over us–over me–in that way, it is an amazing privilege.  I want to acknowledge and soak it in.  I want to live seated in Your lap, in Your embrace, surrounded and covered with Your love and never let the wetness of Your kisses on my cheek evaporate.

Once again I’m reminded of another of my life Scriptures: Romans 8:38 & 39.

What can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus?

Not coronavirus

Not social distancing

Not job insecurity

Not economic catastrophe

Not sickness or even death

Nothing

This incomprehensible, unbelievable, ever-present love of God is the eternal foundation of life!