Confession Testimonial: No Fear in Love
The following was given during our Lenten Dinner Church. No audio is available.
Scripture: 1 John 4:16-18
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I’ve been thinking about how fear gets in the way of our relationship with God, how it keeps us from growing in faith.
We were in San Francisco recently, and one afternoon my son Malcolm asked me to get up the next day to go rock climbing with him at a gym down the street from where we were staying. Well, I said, I don’t know. You can get there yourself. I’m not really much good at climbing. I’d have to get up early. It’s kind of expensive, and probably not worth the money for what I can get out of it. Plus I haven’t worked out or anything in ages, so it’s going to leave me really sore the next day. I don’t know. OK, he said. I’ll ask you again in the morning.
The truth is that I knew--maybe even while I was saying these things--if I thought about it at all, I knew that Malcolm didn’t really care whether I was any good at climbing. He just wanted me to go with him. And I knew that my excuses weren’t good enough reasons not to go. So, despite my misgivings, the next morning I got up and we walked down to the gym, where he climbed walls with holds I could barely see while I fumbled up the most basic routes, clinging for my life. Near the top of one climb--with my feet all of 6 or 7 feet off the thickly padded and exceptionally forgiving floor, I found myself unable to progress for fear of falling. Go on, said Malcolm. Just one more hold, it’s right there. I can’t, I said. I can’t let go. Sure you can, he said. Just reach for it.
Fear is a powerful obstacle. It exists in many forms; there is the very practical and tangible fear of injury that I felt on that wall; there is also a more abstract fear of humiliation that prevents us from trying things in public we’re not yet good at. Perhaps there’s that conversation with a colleague or loved one that we avoid because we know it is going to include some conflict and disagreement. Or maybe we don’t take that career risk because we’re not sure if we can be successful. We don’t talk about things we believe in because we fear the response of others. When Kent asked me to give this confession, I went through the same list of excuses I gave Malcolm. It will be inconvenient. I’m not good at speaking about my faith. All those other people are better at that sort of speaking up than I am. What if I sound foolish?
And yet, here I am.
What fears are holding you back?
Please join me in the unison prayer of confession.
When we are afraid,
Afraid of what others will think of us,
Afraid that we might be wrong,
Afraid that we might fall down,
Reassure us that we are safe in your love.
When we are paralyzed by anxious thoughts,
Worried about potential conflicts with others,
Scared that things might not work out right,
Unsure of how to take action,
Give us gentle support.
When we are embarrassed to say what we believe,
Intimidated by the conviction of others,
Certain only of our doubts,
Help us find our strength.
Assurance of Grace
Later in our time at the gym, Malcolm was giving me some pointers about how to climb more effectively. I’ve been watching you, he said, and here’s something I see--even when you have solid, reliable holds, you never relax. You’re exhausting yourself on the easy things. Loosen up and save your strength for when you need it. And practice falling more.
I also feel fear about speaking up about my faith and spirituality. It feels like walking out on a tightrope, or standing alone on a stage in front of an audience. But like my kind and patient son, when we resist taking risks out of fear, God keeps asking us to let go and try things that are out of our comfort zone. OK. I’ll ask again in the morning. God also surrounds us with a welcoming and supportive community, a safe space to practice speaking up about our faith, a padded floor to protect us while we work up the courage to let go and reach for that next hold.