Last week I had a discussion with my parents and my sister about being incapacitated in life, knowing that something is wrong but not knowing what to do about it. I have finally realized that my fear of pain is inextricably bound up in my desire to “do the right thing.” In and of itself, the right thing is, well, the right thing. But what I realized was that I have agonized over every decision from what flavor of ice cream I should choose to which man I should marry simply because I (falsely) believed that if I got it all right, I would avoid pain. If I pick the right flavor of ice cream, I will like it and not be disappointed that I didn’t get another one. (Or perhaps won’t be sad if I never get to come try the other flavors, ha.) If I marry the right man, we will be happy (of course, arguments are normal from time to time, but overall happiness here), stay in love, never even consider divorce. If I get it all right, pain will never come.
A friend and I were talking about newborns and I shared how much I struggle with fear of SIDS. I constantly check their breathing, sometimes starting up in the bed, heart racing, scrambling to find them (my husband–the right man!–has felt the brunt of this more than once). My friend told me she doesn’t struggle with that fear. She knows it is possible, and of course, if it happened, she would be devastated, but she knows there is nothing she could do about it. Ah, but there’s the rub. I feel like I could. If only I had checked right when they stopped breathing and resuscitated. If only I noticed the telltale warning signs of whatever preceded it. If only we had bought the right mattress or sheets or….
I’m finally understanding that I cannot bear the responsibility for the pain in my (or anyone else’s) life. That I cannot base my decisions or actions on whether or not it will avoid pain. There will be pain in my life no matter what, and it’s not just because ”this is a fallen world,” which seems like a lame excuse to me. It’s because God loves me. He knows what I need, what will stimulate me to love and good deeds. ” ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness..” Hebrews 12:5-11 I used to think this referred to punishment. Discipline = Punishment But no, it doesn’t, actually. Discipline is training, growing, molding, shaping. It’s positive, not negative. It’s given to those whom the Lord loves. It’s grace-ful, not punitive. In other words, no matter how perfectly I live life, I should still hope for the Lord’s discipline. Hope for the pain that will bring about the peaceful fruit of righteousness. And that peaceful fruit? That may just be the ability to love without fear.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18