Many people tend to think the opposite of love is hate. In fact, we’ve begun to learn the great enemy of love is fear, the root of all other types of darkness. So what happens when you’re in a relationship that exposes fear? On the one hand, it is a beautiful thing to be with someone who threatens our fears in order to rid us of them. On the other, it is also a wildly uncomfortable and grueling process. Alicia has some thoughts on this…
By its very nature, fear twists and tears, worries and warps, hurts and hinders. Oftentimes, it’s the stealthy fears that harm us the most, the ones existing subtly and running deep. These types of fears often bury themselves deep within our psyche, and we get comfortable with them, usually not even recognizing the way they inform our thoughts. They cause us to question the compassion around us, coax us towards the lie that we need to put up walls to protect ourselves, and coerce our thoughts away from pursuing vulnerability, intimacy, and love.
Suspicion is one form of fear that I’ve had to overcome in my relationship with Coburn – it wasn’t that I believed he’d cheat on me, but somewhere deep down I believed that his love for me had an agenda or came with conditions attached. An ugly lie inside of my heart exploited the pain I had experienced from growing up with imperfect parents, who happen to be human (how dare they! haha!). This lie, buried in some deep part of myself, was telling me that I had to earn Coburn’s love, that he would only offer it transactionally if it profited him in return. It wasn’t until some deep, frustrating soul-searching that I was able to dredge this thought out of the depths of my spirit and brain. Surfacing any time an area in which I needed to grow was highlighted in my interactions with him, this false belief had not been previously active enough to identify in other relationships around me. When it became active within my romantic relationship, it was easy to assume that Coburn was the cause.
In reality, Coburn’s presence has been a filter of fear in my life. While this is a scary, challenging, and ultimately incredible part of intimacy, it stirs things in order to surface the fears in our heart, highlight what’s unhealthy within us, and call those things out to be removed. This can be a messy and unflattering process, and were I not armed with God’s promises in our relationship, it would have felt safest to run. Let me say that again: it would have felt safest to run. Yet I realized something through this. Exposing our insecurities often propels us to “fight or flight,” while love opposes that notion and propels us to stay. How else can one explain the decision to persevere in the midst of something painful, holding onto the hope of healing? The reward of the choice to remain is that we learn how to love well.
Facing our fears is a spiritual workout and a soul marathon. We often give ourselves lots of grace for our physical bodies, for we understand that using our muscles makes us tired in a new way; we keep at it because we recognize that we are growing. This same principle applies within, so let’s extend that grace to our hearts in the midst of “marathon training” in our relationships. After all, there’s no better way to go the distance than to train through the pain. Do not stop at fear. Instead, treasure the strength you are building in your heart as you learn to carry love far and carry it well.