Last night, before I went to bed, I realized that I needed to pray. So, I went to the church. One of the perks to working for the Church is alone time in the sanctuary. The downside to that perk is being in a big dark room by yourself is kinda creepy.
And so was the long, dark hallway that led to the sanctuary.
Nonetheless, I braved the walk down the hallway, feeling for light switches along the way. My heart was beating annoyingly fast and every creak of the building made me jump.
Once I finally sat down and took a breath, I looked at Jesus and said, “Why am I so afraid right now?”
All I could think of were the places in the bible where angels appeared and said “do not be afraid” to unsuspecting shepherds, thinking if that happened to me, I’d probably pass out.
Unfortunately, fear has governed a lot of my thoughts over these past few days. Fears about what will happen in the future, fears about if I’m doing the right thing in my life right now, etc. I was even afraid of talking to my administrator about vacation days. I avoided it for like two hours. It went fine, I didn’t have anything to be afraid of.
Additionally, I wasn’t murdered in the dark church last night, so that’s two wins for me.
The phrase that keeps going through my head is “Perfect love casts out fear.” [1 John 4:18]. Silly high school Patrick used to just apply this verse to dating. “If I love this girl, I won’t be afraid of her.” (Which is silly, men will always be afraid of women.)
Scrupulous adult Patrick applies this verse to himself. “If I’m afraid…I must not love God enough.” Then I despair that I don’t love God enough. Which is true, I don’t love God enough, but that’s part of being human.
John wrote this phrase to apply to God. Perfect love casts out fear, but that doesn’t mean you need to be fearless in order to love. I don’t know why I ever interpreted it that way, because then it would read “Only the fearless heart deserves love.” Which is not who Christ is.
This verse means that in the midst of fear, turn to Perfect Love. You and I will never love perfectly in this life. For now, while we walk slowly towards heaven, in order to cast out fear, we must rest in the Perfect Love of Jesus and have confidence in His Will for us. As St. Therese says, “It is confidence, and nothing but confidence, that leads us to love.”