We fear because we see ourselves as a destructible object.
We believe that whatever it is that we fear will either physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually destroy us.
And there is only so much that we can fear before out of self-preservation we will go running in the opposite direction.
Well, I feared love.
I didn’t love fearlessly. I loved fearfully. I was fearful that if I loved too much, too deeply, that I could be destroyed.
I realized this most recently after hearing about one of my wife’s students being assaulted over the weekend by a classmate who beat her so mercilessly that she lost several teeth.
Even for that briefest of moments where I entertained the idea that I had lost my son I had fallen to an even deeper depth of love for him.I immediately looked at my son Elijah and imagined the breadth of emotions I would be going through if someone had assaulted him and beat him so mercilessly. I would be devastated. And I admit that a part of me wanted to pull back my love from him to protect myself for fear that if someone were to hurt my son it might destroy me.
I knew love could warm the heart and make you feel alive. But I also knew that love could tear your heart out and make you want to die.
I weigh and measure everything. Did warming the heart outweigh making me want to die?
Before I had children the only love I really knew was of the romantic variety. And honestly, that really wasn’t love at all. That was more about me not wanting to be alone, whether or not someone matched well with me, or shared the same values as me or had the same goals and ambitions as me. It was all about me.
Then I had kids and love took on an entirely different level of depth.
Now when I see commercials about charities that support sick children and their families or I read articles about parents who for one reason or another have lost their children I almost forget to breathe I empathize with them so much.
And I feel that fear again.
When a heavy dresser fell on my son a week ago and I heard a loud crash and I came running into the room I honestly felt like if Elijah were dead under that dresser I would’ve laid down and died right next to him.
Even for that briefest of moments where I entertained the idea that I had lost my son I had fallen to an even deeper depth of love for him. When he survived unscathed I couldn’t stop kissing him and holding him and telling him how much I loved him.
That night before bed I read him five books. I would’ve read him 10 if he wanted. I was so thankful that he was still here so I could read him books. And I thought to myself, this is what love is? This is what I fear will kill me? Then I laughed at my childishness because it is Ok if love kills me because love is what keeps me alive. Love isn’t just what warms my heart it is what keeps my heart beating. Love is what gives my life meaning. My love for my kids, my wife, my parents, my siblings, my in-laws, my friends, my cousins.
But what is it? What is this thing, this force that I have so misunderstood that I assumed that it was something that I could keep at arm’s reach not realizing that I had already been completely submerged in it?
What is it?
It is kindness. There is love is just saying good morning to passing strangers on the street.
It is laughing. There is love in sharing a deep laugh where you have to beg for a moment to wipe the tears from your eyes and catch your breath. It doesn’t matter what you’re laughing about. The connection is made by the shared experience.
It is hugging. There is love in pressing your body against someone else just one second longer than anticipated to say that you are within me.
It is sharing. There is love in sharing your thoughts, feelings and ideas and even sharing your time with someone who wouldn’t put a price tag on every moment of attention you spend on them.
It is giving. There is love in giving something to someone who needs it more than you.
Love takes you over because love can be subtle. It can be a whisper when you were expecting a scream. But you still hear it, loud and clear. When you least expect it you realize that you’ve always been listening.