Perfect love casts out fear.
And it does, you know.
Do you know how something gets to be perfect? Of course you do. Practice.
Just as our fear was perfected in us through our practice of it, so will be our love.
Practice fear? Did I ever? Who, me?
Yes, love, you.
When you learned to worry about going new places, adopting the cautious apprehension of your caregivers who tried to stay close to home as possible and did not like to vacation or venture anywhere new or uncomfortable or different. When you began to hate change and avoid it at all costs, equating it with the beginning of the end of the world, it was then. That’s when you perfected your fear through practice.
When you convinced yourself familiarity was safer and better and worth more than peace and health and independence, if it meant being alone. When you compromised, settled. When you held on even when all indications were letting go would end your pain, end the lessening and oppression or your spirit, mind and soul. When you did it again, then again. You perfected your fear through practice.
When you learned to recognise all those who need be referred to as “others”, and those who ought to be considered one of “us”, adopting the exclusion and inclusion habits of your peers and the tribe. When you learned the names and the jeers and the labels, and you applied them to yourself as often as to others. When it became a habit to see the differences between people, rather than recognise all are connected. You did it. You perfected your fear through practice.
When you hoarded and collected and protected and defended and fortified and piled up and locked away and accumulated and called your own that which was not you, not part of you, and would not help, heal, save or redeem you. When you felt deeply you were defined by what you owned. You perfected your fear through practice.
When you believed God was going to get you in the end for the things only He knew you did in the dark, in secret. When you warned others of their similar fate and felt it was your duty to so do. You perfected your fear through practice.
When you heard the voice in your head demand to know “Just who do you think you are?” whenever you began some deeply spiritual or creative work, or even some frivolous fun thing that didn’t even matter, or perhaps whenever you suspected you held the key to your own healing, or felt you had a thing of significance to share with another. And you believed that cynical voice of resistance that interrupted every brave attempt at growth and change was you, and was from you, and could be trusted and believed. You perfected your fear through practice.
When you dropped the brush, put down the pen, took the key from the ignition, unpacked the bag, threw away the application, resigned from the course, told yourself “it’s too much money to spend on me”. When you mistook the inner critic for the voice of reason. You perfected your fear through practice.
Yes, my love, your fear is almost completely perfected. You’ve been at it for years.
But all is not lost.
Perfect love casts out all fear. Casts it out. Like old rubbish. Like too many sweaters from a crowded closet. Like too many cans from a cramped pantry. Like lies are thrown from the presence of truth. Like hecklers are thrown from a theatre. Out you go – you don’t belong here. Take your impolite, boring nonsense from the room. Fear bluffs it’s way in with weighty talk and scary threats which sound like authority and feel like truth. But fear did not pay its dues. Love bought a ticket. Love paid the price.
If only you would practice love until it was as perfect as your fear has become. What would it take, for you to practice love for your own behalf as relentlessly and faithfully as you’ve dedicated yourself to fear? What would it take, my darling? Would you try? Will you?
Perfect love casts out all fear. You can’t scare yourself out of being afraid, out of resistance. You have to love yourself out of it. Love yourself through it. This means rather than hating on your fear, hating yourself because you have it, gathering it up in your arms, laughing and tossing it in the air. It means knowing the voice of resistance is not your voice – rather, you are the one who witnesses resistance, who observes your fear. And if you are the witness, the observer of your fear and resistance, then it cannot be you who is afraid. You have fear, but it does not have you. And you can love the part of you that feels the fear, and reassure it, and have compassion on it. And you can support that part of you to keep on moving, towards healing and growing and changing, even with the fear, if you must. And as you perfect this love, the fear will be cast out, not like a demon, but like the annex, the accoutrement it is; a part of you who is afraid of change, who mocks to make itself feel bigger, who bluffs to convince you it has authority and weight. But who is a wisp of a thing in reality.
You will cast out fear like a an artist casts out a brush without suppleness. As a writer casts aside a pen that no longer writes. With thanks, for the service it provided thus far. Thank you fear, for the safety and security you gave me. Thank you for helping me in your own way. But you no longer serve me as I need you to. I am not attached to fear, any more than I’m attached to the plate I ate my last meal from, or the flowers than grew in my garden last year. That time has passed. It’s time to go forward now. Love your fear, be grateful for it. Love it, and love it perfectly. Perfect love does not hold on to its object. Perfect love lets go.
Love your fear, with compassion, as a witness, and not as its owner, master, servant or slave. Love your fear, and don’t despise it as a combatant, or opponent would. Love your fear, laugh at it, with it, like that heckler in the theatre, and let it go, show it the door. Perhaps it served you once, but it can no longer. It did, you know, for a time, keep you company like a friend. But it’s time for it to go.
Practice love as devotedly as you did your fear, my dear. Practice love like a beloved nocturne, like a favourite verse of a special song, like one foot in front of the other at the same time every day, until the walk becomes a mile, becomes a day and another day, and before you know it, love is just what you do, the way fear used to be. But you don’t do that anymore. You do this now. Perfect love. Practice makes perfect.
Perfect love casts out all fear.
What would it take for you to have a perfect love, for you? Practice, my love. It’s time to begin.
Love, Jo xxxxby