Not your typical Valentine’s Day amore

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

So says the writer of 1 John (4:18). But if fear and love are mortal – if not immortal – enemies, then how do we perfect love in order to cast out fear?

Valentine’s Day month raises love to red levels. We want to tell our lovers how much we love the, and yet our conceptions of love are often misconstrued.

My 26-year-old expectant daughter confessed to me recently her fear every time her husband goes out of town. (Yes, permission granted to relay this story.) She becomes too consumed with worry that something will happen to him. She knows she needs to get a grip on it, but how?

Sometimes fear masquerades as love. When I asked Cameron why she fears bad things happening to Garrett, she said because she loves him and she doesn’t know how she would live without him.

Perfect love involves being all in. It makes you vulnerable to pain and loss, because you have set your heart on someone and hold nothing back. For her husband to suffer an accident means she will suffer along with him. A fatal fate will mean that a part of her will die with him. That’s the nature of love, and it’s not the product of fear.

Perfect love is not indifferent to tragedy. In fact, indifference is the enemy of love, more so than hate. Love is always engaged. It weds two hearts for better or worse.

The answer then to gnawing fear is not caring less or caring more but caring indifferently.

Caring less creates a distance from your partner that puts up a protective shield and thus casts out love. Disengagement like that deals with fear at teh cost of intimacy.

Enmeshment is just as deadly a strategy. It’s not really caring more. When in the name of love someone feels unable to imagine the future without someone else, two hearts have become one. As romantic as that sounds on the surface, it’s actually fear disguised as love.

To love someone perfectly means to stand alongside that one and walk together in a closeness unlike any other. The dearest recognizes the boundaries of each individual. It holds hands, so to speak, rather than trying to live inside the other person’s skin. Empathy like that shrinks love instead of stretching it.

True love acknowledges the infinite mystery of the other person’s existence and celebrates it. It respects the distinction of one soul to another and looks with wonder for all the surprises and discoveries that may yet be revealed in the other. It lives with perpetual gratitude that, no matter what else may come, love abides.

Whenever someone tries to control or contain another, even in the name of love, that mystery is violated by encroaching fear and love is threatened.

Perfect love lives in perfect freedom. Fear turns freedom into slavery. Slavery may result in a relationship of duty, but never love. Love allows the lover his or her own thoughts and feelings and beliefs – it even revels in them. This love in freedom looks like faithfulness.

So what to do about a loving wife’s fear of losing her husband, or vice versa. Imagine the worst outcome possible and face it with faith. Then let it go. Even death cannot defeat love. Nothing can seperate us from the love of God, after all.

There may be pain with love. There may be loss with love. But there needn’t be fear.

When all is said and done, we will not be undone. Faith in the god who raises the dead out of love can live free of fear and full of love.

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