John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
Fear is sneaky. He hides in the unseen parts of our soul. Feelings of sadness, worry, and anger bubble up to the surface, while fear - the true culprit - lurks beneath. He forces us to please others instead of doing what is right and good. He convinces us that comfort is better than sacrifice. He makes us see the worst - in ourselves and others. He covers up the thousands of reasons to say yes with the one reason we should say no. And eventually, fear paralyzes us, keeping us in our safe bubbles. And inside our bubble of safety, we are free from hurt but enslaved to Fear. And that's just where he wants us to be.
Since I can remember, I've been fired up about foster care. I knew it would be hard, but I couldn't wait to welcome a kid into our home and cheer on their families. I didn't feel the fear; it was masked by the passion. But when the call came, Fear reminded me of his presence. I saw one small behavior challenge or past trauma on the paperwork, and I became hesitant.
What if I can't do this? What if they struggle at school (where I'm a teacher)? I've never been a parent before. What if I'm bad at it? What if saying "yes" changes my life forever?
TJ and I drove to Roanoke, Texas after church to eat and discuss the call about our son, K. We walked for a little while, ate some ice cream, and sat on a bench. As usual, I talked a lot and TJ listened. And when I was done, I asked him, "So, what do you think?" He waited a minute, as he usually does when I ask him that, and eventually responded with a simple answer that has informed a thousand choices since: "We got into this to give a kid a home. This kid needs a home. So let's do it."
So we said yes. Fear didn't necessarily relent, but a seed of Love was planted where Fear resided. As Love grew, Fear became uncomfortable. Love is gentle and kind, but she also knows how to stand up to Fear and put him in his place. The more we spend time with the God of Love, the less power Fear has over us, the less control he has in our decisions. Love frees us from the enslavement of Fear.
Jesus, both fully God and fully human, knew that he would die a horrific death for the sake of the world. He knew about the impending beatings and the blood. He knew he would face the rejection of his Father at the Cross. He knew that his best friend on Earth would betray him. He knew his disciples would fail him. Jesus likely faced immense, debilitating fear. And yet, he chose to love people anyway.
Jesus didn't let the fear win. His grand love cast out the fear and drove him toward sacrifice.
The fear that overtook me when we got the call has reared his ugly head time and time again throughout my parenting experience. I'm fearful of the hard days, of my kids being eternally mad at me, of mood swings, of trauma behaviors, of learning challenges and difficulties. I'm fearful that I'm being too strict or too loosey-goosey. I'm fearful that my kids will grow up and not want to be part of our family anymore. The fear still lives here, even on the best of days. But the closer I get to Jesus, the more His Love casts out the fear.
Emily P. Freeman says, "The goal is not necessarily to get rid of fear altogether. The goal is to pay attention to our life as it's united with Christ and make our moves as He leads."
The fear doesn't go away without Christ's love. As we inch closer to Jesus, His love finds a home in our hearts, in our homes, in our lives. And Fear? Fear dwindles away, losing its grip on our lives and decisions. And Love? Love multiplies, finding people to invite into it, even when it's hard (maybe even because it's hard).
Fear makes us seek comfort.
Love shows us that true joy comes through sacrifice.
Fear sees the worst in our kids.
Love reminds us that they are precious.
Fear says, "Don't do it. It will be too hard."
Love says, "Say yes anyway."
Fear paralyzes us.
Love moves us.
When fear paralyzes you,
May you hear the words of Jesus,
"Stand up and walk!"
And may love move in you
As you take those first steps
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”