“I’m afraid; I’m simply afraid.” That’s how the young man summed up his feelings towards his girlfriend. “I like her. She’s a good person and lots of fun and we get along great. I just don’t know where she’s – where the whole thing is taking me and it scares me.”
I never found out how their relationship turned out. That’s campus ministry: a library of stories whose endings you never learn. Still, this one had a common but always important theme: fear.
If the core of Jesus’ revelation about God is the absolute love God has for every person, the biggest obstacle to experiencing as well as sharing that love is fear.
Why would the Creator of everything love me? What do I have to offer in return for love? What will love demand of me? Like the young man fearful of the demands his friend’s love might make on him, we all seem to have a fear of love – not just God’s love but of anyone’s love.
A long-married parishioner discussing how he and his wife had overcome their self-centeredness once told me, “We loved each other’s fears away. I don’t know exactly how. I think sometimes we just couldn’t do anything else.”
Thinking about his words many times, I realized that he was explaining something central not only to human relationships but at the core of God’s relationship with us as we’ve come to know it in Jesus. In Jesus, God loved or fears away.
When God loves away our fears, we’re freed to love away the fears of those around us. That’s when things begin to change. That’s when we begin to experience the world Jesus promised.
I often remember that elderly husband’s wisdom when I read of Jesus urging his disciples to forgive one another and enemies just as God forgives them.