(Originally written March 2016)
What's the greatest thing that holds you back from experiencing true love?
A deep, dark sin?
A busy schedule?
A spell from a poisonous apple given to you by a Disney movie witch?
Though it could be (almost) any of those, I'm going to guess none of those are actually the greatest stumbling block to love for you and for me.
You know what is, though?
Throughout my life, I've seen fear hold me back time and again from loving fully, loving freely, and loving...well...fearlessly.
My husband and I were privileged to hear Matt Hammitt (former lead singer of Sanctus Real) speak at my workplace fundraiser this past week. We were both powerfully impacted by the story of his son Bowen, who was diagnosed with a rare heart defect at 20 weeks in the womb. Matt and his wife, though advised to abort little Bowen and end his life, chose life and continued with their pregnancy. Little Bowen had open heart surgery at just 4 days after birth and the recovery included an episode when Bowen's tiny heart stopped beating-- a doctor did compressions on his bare heart in his open chest while Matt and his wife cried and prayed and held on to the blue toes of their beloved son.
But God has plans for Bowen. And we saw the adorable five-year-old this past week as he helped his dad sing a song on stage that was written around the time of Bowen's birth.
Matt shared with us that he struggled to become attached to Bowen after that tragic prenatal diagnosis. The pregnancy became a time of fear and uncertainty and even detachment. As his song states, Matt was "afraid to love something that could break." Yet God continued to move in his heart and mind and showed him that he could love Bowen in the way God loves us-- with all that was in him. Without reserve. Without condition. Without fear. Yes, there might be sadness or struggle or even loss, but freely and fearlessly loving-- being all in-- was worth it. He learned to "trade the fear of all that I could lose for every moment I share with you." ("All of Me," Matt Hammitt)
My husband and I had tears as we listened to his powerful testimony and our little one kicked inside my own belly. Though our baby had a healthy heart at 20 weeks, this pregnancy has been rocky with bad blood level results and our own fears due to our previous miscarriage. We have struggled with detachment at times and being afraid to love this precious child too much in case we lose this one, too.
But God continues to work in our hearts and we, too, are learning what it looks like to love freely, fully, and fearlessly. Despite lab results or increased medications, we are learning to rejoice in every moment we spend with this incredible gift from God growing inside me.
Fear creeps in to every relationship and circumstances because the devil is always trying to keep us from experiencing the rich love of the Father and the love He desires us to have with each other. Where might fear be holding you back?
Are you sharing your deepest self with your spouse--physically, emotionally, mentally-- or are you holding back because you're afraid of feeling inadequate or unloved?
Are you diving deeper into your relationships with family and friends, or are you afraid of losing them to distance, disagreements, or even death?
Are you tithing, giving, and sharing with others or are you afraid of financial insecurity?
Are you sharing God's truths with other or do you fear misunderstanding or being made fun of?
And here's the biggest one: is fear holding you back from throwing yourself into your Heavenly Father's arms? Whether you're afraid of your mistakes and sins or you just feel ashamed for not living up to your potential, know that He will never reject you and is always ready with open arms, abundant mercy, and the grace to start fresh. He loves you with all that He is, and wants to teach you to do the same.
Let's experience that freeing love together this week. God is an expert at breaking the chains of fear. All we need do is ask.