Love or Fear

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This morning I pondered 1 John 4:18.  When I say morning, I mean 2am, the standard hour when anything that might worry me shakes me awake and starts whispering. The past six months, since moving to Seattle, I’ve been very grateful for the strength to roll over and go back to sleep.

But this time, it was about writing a dissertation chapter, due this coming Monday. Everything from general incompetence to the lack of future job opportunities to silliness like, “I don’t know how to form coherent sentences anymore,” listed themselves in my thoughts. Needless to say, it’s a vulnerable area.

I’ve asked many times in the past five years whether this path toward PhD-ness is really God’s call or my ego. I’ve asked many times in the past six months, so-totally-joyfully-wonderfully-grateful to be back in Seattle and at my church, whether I can eke out 200 pages of academic writing, battling the fears that steal sleep and energy, or whether I should raise the white flag.

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To surrender to fear doesn’t seem the best option. It might be the easy way, but not the way, as a daughter of the King, to live “to the praise of his glory.” Fear is not our inheritance in Christ. I can write this chapter, this dissertation, with God’s strength. To give up in the face of fears that tell me I can’t write it would mean calling that truth into question.

However, battling the fear, plowing through, doesn’t seem to be a good option either.  All the energy goes into the war and leaves little for much else. And the past year has shown me how much more there is. This Advent of Joy is overflowing with abundance.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” (Romans 8:15)

I don’t want to live focused on winning a battle.

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So, in comes 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!” (1 Jn 4:18, Amplified)

The focus is on the Love, not the fear. When Love draws me on, fear cannot repel me.  And God is Love, so God casts out the fear. Not me.

Rather than focusing on all the fearful whispers, I’m focusing on Who is the Love that beckons and all the ways He comes into daily life.  Those people, those experiences, those realities which are Love made flesh, Immanuel.

What this means for the chapter, I’m not sure. Somehow in following the Love, rather than focusing on the fear, an answer about writing the dissertation will become clear.

But for now, this gives me a much better response to those 2am anxious whispers.


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  • Becky

    Fifteen years ago I faced those dissertation chapter fears. But I pressed on knowing/believing God’s hand was in it all. Sometimes the hoops we have to jump through are part of the process, and we must keeping going in order to see what all the frustration can mean. I found out it wasn’t all that important, that the degree is only the tool, the union card to help us achieve our purpose. Keep swimming to shore. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Becky in Oklahoma

  • susan

    Thank you so much for writing, Becky. Your prayers and wisdom are appreciated. This morning I prayed for a word or image or something today that would confirm that this was the right path. I love your image of swimming to shore–I’ll keep going.

  • Shannon

    Hey Susan! I’ve been pondering this verse, myself. A friend from my church wrote this amazing post on our Advent blog… you might like it in light of the dissertation writing. It brought me alot of peace, and it addresses the temptations inherent in academia.
    http://cotcboston.org/advent/2010/12/02/day-5-be-at-peace-christmas-is-coming-by-erik-nordbye/

  • Shannon

    PS– You can do it!!!

  • It is amazing how often fear and love clash! Thank you for the reminder that it isn’t so much about one winning as it is one dominating. I will be praying for you!

  • susan

    Thank you for visiting Megan, and for the prayers!! Peace to you this Advent season :-)

  • susan

    Hi Shannon :-) Thanks for the link, it was great blog post.