Sunday, 19 March 2017

Love and Fear: What do you feel?

“I bet you feel nervous don’t you?” “No not really,” I said “I feel ok about it. I know why I’m going and it’s a real honour to be asked. Any way I won’t be travelling alone.” “Who are travelling with?” I was asked “Oh I am travelling with love all the way. I only travel first class these days.” Several people have asked me this question or similar ones these last few weeks about my attendance at the Slimming World Policy Workshop and Parliamentary Reception exploring ways to tackle obesity that I would be taking part in and given a speech at, in the Houses of Parliament. The truth is I wasn’t feeling nervous about it at all. I felt good. I knew why I was going and do you know what I knew I belonged there, I knew I had something to offer from my own lived experience. I knew what had got me to where I am and that I could trust in this loving power to guide me through the day. I knew why I was going and I knew it wasn’t about me, it was about being of service to others who struggle with shame about their own physical being. It was about being in love.

Even on the morning as I set off, really early, there was no fear. I felt at ease, I knew why I was going and I knew I wasn’t alone. I was travelling with love flowing through my veins. I arrived at the Houses of Parliament early and walked around the square looking at the statues of the great and the good, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln rising from his chair, Gandhi, Nelson Mandella and others. I thought about the history of the place and the people who had spoken there in some form or another. Yes these are great figures but they were no more human than any of us. It was strange there was no fear, love held me through it all. I then went, through security and to the round table discussions on obesity, something I know much about. Again I passed statues of the great and the good and took in the immensity of the place. The only time I felt any fear at all was when I passed through security and I got that weird guilt feeling so many feel at airports and also as I passed the armed police with their automatic weapons, sad signs of the time. I joined in the discussion at my table with a variety of health experts from many fields and Lord’s and M.P.’s from all the parties. I spoke my truth in love and I listened with the ears of my heart, in the room named after the great orator Winston Churchill. Later was the reception when again I listened to speeches first from Baroness Benjamin, Floella Benjamin from my childhood, what an amazing woman, even more wonderful in real life, then politicians and a young weight loss champion and then it was my time to speak. I stood at the podium I opened my mouth and I just let my truth come out. When I had finished speaking the response was amazing and Floella held out her arms to me and hugged me like no one has ever hugged me before. She then spoke so lovingly and glowingly about what I said, saying that she wants me back and telling me that I need to keep on sharing my story. I then mixed with many others and photos were taken and arrangement s were made to speak again and join in the efforts to help so many people out there who are suffering with obesity. I know the truth that love can help anyone overcome whatever it is that is holding them back and stopping them living the life that they are born to live.

I had travelled, spoken and been in love all day, there had been no fear. Perfect love and truly cast out all fear that day...

Fear haunts so many lives. It has certainly done so with mine over the years. We seem to be living in ever more fearful times. Actually I think it is the biggest epidemic that is crippling humanity. I suspect it is at the root of virtually all our human troubles. Fear is on the increase, humanity seems to be increasingly losing faith in itself. This troubles me, because I know it doesn’t have to be this way. I know the power of love can and does overcome crippling fear. The last third of my life is proof of that.

Thankfully I’m not alone in this. I know others who see the world through similar eyes, through the lens of love. It was very clear that Baroness Benjamin is one of them and so are many others I spent my time with that day. If I could have one wish it would be to encourage everyone I meet to look at the world, at one another, and themselves through such lenses. 

Now as a minister of the Unitarian tradition you would perhaps expect me to see life this way. I remember speaking with Rev Jill McCallister at our General Assembly meetings a couple of years ago. She was visiting from the US as a representative of the International Council of Unitarian Universalists (ICUU). I talked with her quite a lot over the days, I enjoyed her company immensely. I remember her telling me of her greatest concern in pastoral ministry, this growing sense of fear and pessimism in the people she served. She told me they were not poor, they were fairly privileged and had lived and were living good lives but still she noticed this growing fear amongst them. She said if she could give them something it would be to give them the loving faith they needed to overcome the fear. Oh how she wished she could give them the love they needed to feed their souls and thus overcome their fear, for if they didn’t they would not live the lives they needed to live in order to live in hope and dispel their growing despair.

 John Lennon said:

 “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” 

Fear is a powerful force and it comes in many forms. There are of course phobias such as of spiders, or heights or people we can perceive as different. There are internal fears such as commitment and loneliness, the sort of fears that shut us down and close us in. There is fright a healthy kind of fear that kicks in if we nearly get run over or a brick falls from a building being worked on from above. Then there is dread, the worst kind of fear, the kind that stops us living at all.

Love is as equally a powerful force, in fact perhaps even more powerful than fear. It too comes in many form, there is not just the romantic kind that we talk about on Valentine’s Day. There is also a deep sense of happiness that comes from a love for life itself, the opposite of dread. There’s the love we feel for friends and family and community too. There is also another kind of love, the type that David Whyte talked about extensively in his book, “The Three Marriages,” this is a deep engaged love with life whether that be with our inner selves, others, life itself, a work or calling, for nature and of course a love for God. There are many forms of love.

These two forces “Love” and “Fear” pull and push at us constantly, like the great tides and whichever one we feed is the one that consumes us. Fear can stop us functioning, as it shuts us down completely or perhaps worse, it can lead to terrible destruction, as we make wrong choices about life and take wrong action. Fear can block us from experiencing the one thing we all need to live happily in this world, it can stop us from knowing love.

Love though can drive out fear, it does so by nourishing our souls. As John wrote (1 John Ch 4 vv 18)

 "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

 To know love and to share it with others will always overcome fear. It has always done so. I know this from personal experience. By constantly turning to love fear is overcome and cannot take hold and by living in love we become beacons of hope to others of what living in and through love can do. Love gives us the courage to overcome fear, to face whatever is causing us fear and to walk through it and as we do the fear diminishes. As we do we can feel the love flowing again. All we have to do is turn in love and the tide can begin to change direction. Hard to believe I know, but true. It’s up to us, by simply choosing love we can cast out fear and be of service to ourselves and the whole world around us. Fear and cynicism are the easy lazy choices. Love is harder, well actually it’s tougher, but it is most certainly worth it.

So as I set off on last Wednesday morning I did so in faith. I knew what I was engaging in was an act of love. An act not only for the good of myself, but for the good of many. It was an act worthy of engaging in. at the core of what I was doing was love. A love for self, a love for others, a love for life and a love for God. Ever since I have known this love any fear I have known has been easily cast out. This love is at the core of all that I do in life these days. Who knows what adventure it will lead me on next? God only knows.

I’m going to end this little chip of a "BlogSpot"morning with the following “Love Verses Fear” by Sarah Nean Bruce

LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL (fear is conditional)
LOVE IS STRONG (fear is weak)
LOVE RELEASES (fear obligates)
LOVE SURRENDERS (fear binds)
LOVE IS HONEST (fear is deceitful)
LOVE TRUSTS (fear suspects)
LOVE ALLOWS (fear dictates)
LOVE GIVES (fear resists)
LOVE FORGIVES (fear blames)
LOVE CHOOSES (fear avoids)
LOVE IS KIND (fear is angry)
LOVE IGNITES (fear incites)
LOVE EMBRACES (fear repudiates)
LOVE CREATES (fear negates)
LOVE HEALS (fear hurts)
LOVE IS MAGIC (fear is superstitious)
LOVE ENERGIZES (fear saps)
LOVE IS AN ELIXIR (fear is a poison)
LOVE INSPIRES (fear worries)
LOVE DESIRES (fear Joneses)
LOVE IS PATIENT (fear is nervous)
LOVE IS BRAVE (fear is afraid)
LOVE IS RELAXED (fear is pressured)
LOVE IS BLIND (fear is judgmental)
LOVE RESPECTS (fear disregards)
LOVE ACCEPTS (fear rejects)
LOVE DREAMS (fear schemes)
LOVE WANTS TO PLAY (fear needs to control)
LOVE ENJOYS (fear suffers)
LOVE FREES (fear imprisons)
LOVE BELIEVES (fear deceives)
LOVE “WANTS” (fear “needs”)
LOVE versus fear: what do you feel?

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