Love and Fear: Two Trinities / by Michael Nichols

Imagine two arrowheads colliding point to point, all of their energy focused upon that single tip for the sole purpose of destroying its intended target. How often does that really happen, one spear trying to pierce another? I dare you to think of an instance.

It happens all the time, though, but we don't tend to see it. We have been told that we are made in the image of God, so what does that mean for us, and how far does that image extend? Is it skin deep, or is it also a likeness that gives our hearts a common language, one that even we humans don't fully understand?

In my last entry "Identity Crisis," I talked about what happens to instill fear in us, when opposing truths are separated by lies, when we change how the world sees us so that we can survive. There is a certain problem with that, however: when we change ourselves so that world sees us differently, then we die. (I didn't address it in that post I assume because it wasn't relevant to the subject.) The fact is that when we put up those walls, we become something like Pandora's box, filled with all variety of woes, locked up with the key out of our reach, with one shard of hope buried beneath all the rubble we locked away with us.

Being locked away from everything else does something to us. Actually, it does a lot of things, but let's tackle them one at a time.

To be quite honest about the matter, locking yourself away can initially feel like you just went home, walked into your familiar bedroom, and wrapped yourself as tight as you could beneath several thick blankets and turned up the heat to its maximum on the coldest of nights. Heck, you probably even brewed yourself a cup of hot chocolate. Sounds peachy, right? After all, sometimes you just need to be alone, think, recuperate, bask in Jesus, right?

Then you fall asleep. You shut down. You rest. You dream, momentarily forgetting about the world that exists outside of your own heart and mind and spirit. Eventually, however, one must arise, awake, face the future, fight the fires... but what if you don't want to leave? What if that comfortable place of solitude is too tempting to let go? After all, the world outside is harsh. It doesn't live by symbols, dreams, metaphors, or even heart much too often. Most of what we observe is the cold functionality and the brutal sting of rejection when that functionality is unmet, leaving us to accept or reject one thing above all others: the world is not heartless, for without a heartbeat the corporation that is society cannot lift a finger to tie the nooses around our necks. So what is their motive? Do they really want to destroy us or do they just think they have no other option to preserve themselves? Maybe it's a little bit of both. There are a lot of people in the world, and they don't always behave consistently in all areas.

The real question I'd like to push out there is simple: how long does it take for us to lock the door and throw away the key? The answer is also simple: however long it take for our love to be replaced by fear.

How does that happen, though? Guilt. We have to be told (or at least be able to gather) that we've done something horrible enough to warrant punishment. But it's not a matter of just taking your love and replacing it with fear. Each of the layers built on love have to be broken through first, though sometimes the process can be quick depending how thick the layers are and how deep the betrayal. The first one to go is faith. Faith can be given without giving love with it and vice versa, but they do tend to reinforce each other. The trouble with faith (much better called trust) is that it can create hope, a sense of security, a meta-faith almost. The future suddenly seems brighter. It's stronger than faith because it plans on the long-term fulfillment of that which you trust. It takes serious travesty to rob a person of hope. The shadows of things to come must be erased by a traumatically blinding light. Assuming however that hope is not eventually stolen, it does something amazing. We tend to only be able to take so much of something as finite human beings before we start running over (see Psalm 23). When we've started running over with faith and hope, what remains? what hides beneath the surface of these two layers?

Love.

It's immutable, unchangeable, unstoppable, intangible, inconceivable, illogical, irreplaceable, unfathomable, indescribable, uncontrollable. Once it is found, it cannot be forgotten, and once it is seen, it cannot be unseen. It is the point of an arrow on fire (the reference to Cupid was completely unintentional). Love is the strength to hold onto what we have in spite of what is trying to take it. It's saying, "This matters, I will fight for it, and no matter what you say or what you do to me I will never let it go." Love is the mark of God, for He is the Father in whom we trust, the Son, Jesus, in whom is the "hope of glory," and the Holy Spirit who allows us to feel and reveal His love.

But what about fear?

Fear is the antithesis of love. Fear is the void that happens when it is all taken away, the room shared by only you and an otherwise empty bed, maybe a few photographs on the wall to remind you of who you miss, a life you wish you still could lead. Fear is a lie. Fear say we are alone when we're not. Fear says, "Where is God?" trying to drown out His voice, crying, "Wait on me, for your life has just begun, and this is not the end of the world." Fear tries to convince us that we are different without the things and people in our life when love is just trying to turn us inside out because it knows there is beauty deep within the rubble.

Fear builds it's reputation on anger, a force of destruction antithetic to faith because it destroys that which has destroyed its trust, and apathy, a force of abandonment antithetic to hope because it has given up the will to care about that for which it once hoped. The biggest problem with fear is that it by its nature forces itself to be alone. It pushes everybody away in anger then leaves itself to die in apathy, rotting alone running in fear from anything new. It simultaneously hates itself and couldn't care less that it does so much so that it will not even address the issue. It feels no sympathy for itself, nor does it see beauty, for there is no beauty in fear because there is no love in true fear. Fear is truly an unholy trinity, but fear is just a lie.

The truth is if you were meant to live in fear, there could be no love. Fear is death. Fear is an end to love, and love is an end to fear. Functionally, they are equal in purpose yet opposite in action and in ending. Fear ends up alone and tries to sentence anyone else to the same fate, but love ends up together and neither can nor will allow anything to separate us. They both pull others to themselves and magnetize the ones they find to their respective kind of magnetism, but fear will never truly let a person into its heart because in reality fear does hold love inside. Fear cannot exist without love. Fear is a parasite sapping every bit of love from a person until that person has nothing left. However, there is still hope. I think it's a lot like the legend of Pandora's box. When she opened the box, all the woes of the world fled out and covered the earth, but beneath it all, hope remained.

If Pandora's box, our souls, is built of every lie we've ever been told and every bitter word we have to say, then fear is what was trapped inside, and the hope that doesn't flee away when the box opens must be a love strong enough for someone to still believe was still there, someone with the same unstoppable, immortal love. The simple fact is this: fear needs that strength to survive, a strength that love alone can provide. If we stop loving the fear that suffocates us, it will wither one day, and the love that remains will last forever, and that means that you are not, and will never be, alone.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear..." ~~ 1 John 4:18a