Much Afraid and Perfect Love

My friend JJ and I had a really good discussion the other day.

We talked about things that go on but that we can't see, how the Bible is very elusive in its hints about spiritual warfare, and how, while this can be exasperating, is also gracious. How we have to trust instead of having tangible facts, and how trust is really all we have anyway. How hard of a grace that is to live in.

We talked about age, how it seems that one grows older with experience, younger with love.

We talked about the odd connection that some people have -- she called it being on the network -- the connection where they hear other people's heart-cries. About how maybe, if you hear those cries, you could walk away rather than give yourself in responding, but you have to lie to yourself ever after. Walking away is not a good way to live. People call that heartless, said JJ. But they call it insanity to stay, I said.

To stay when it hurts, to to remain in the fire by choice, can look like insanity. It has a cost. It refines your strengths and breaks you at your weaknesses, and you can emerge knowing yourself. Knowing what you need to be striving for in sanctification.

JJ pointed out that you can often look back on those crucible times and see the linking chains of grace. The grace upon grace, grace leading to more. Gras ar ben gras, I thought, because that's the name I had for it for most of last semester.

The grace is what saves.

The what-ifs whisper condemnation, those things that replay and haunt after those times in the furnace, aching fears that the grace is a shadow.

And we talked about how, in those fears, we find that we do not yet love perfectly, for perfect love casts out fear. We long to love that way, but find ourselves thwarted at every step by our flawed love for God and for others.

JJ's confession, "I am much afraid" is mine too. I am a disciple of little faith, one of those panicking during the storm. Never mind that the Lord of Storms is enough at ease to sleep.

I am much afraid, but He is all love. So my life is caught in a tangled, delicate tension that every moment and action and breath flows out of. Sometimes gloriously and sometimes painfully, woven in between natural fear and the real love.

We thanked God that His mercies are new every morning.

And morning came while we talked, and we said 晚 安, goodnight, and went to sleep, to wake to new mercies.

[Sandra McCracken has sung two hymns that fit beautifully with these subjects.

Grace Upon Grace

In every station, new trials and new troubles
Call for more grace than I can afford
Where can I go but to my dear Savior
For mercy that pours from boundless stores.

Grace upon grace, every sin repaired
Every void restored, you will find Him there
In every turning He will prepare you
With grace upon grace.

He made a way for the fallen to rise
Perfect in glory and sacrifice
In sweet communion my need He supplies
He saves and keeps and guards my life

To Thee I run now with great expectation
To honor You with trust like a child
My hopes and desires seek a new destination
and all that You ask Your grace will provide.

and I Glory in Christ

God forbid that I should glory,
save in the Redeemer's cross
Counting shame for Him but honor,
Counting earthly gain but loss
All the love of God is here,
A love that casteth out all fear

God forbid that I should glory,
save in Christ my Lord alone
Him I lean on; Him I follow
Him, before the world, I own
All the love of God is here
A love that casteth out all fear

God forbid that I should glory
save in Christ the Son of God
Him who sought me Him who bought me
Him who washed me in his blood
All the love of God is here
A love that casteth out all fear

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21)]


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