It was the kind of discussion I relish, one of those where a big vision comes forth and one can’t help but get excited about the possibilities.
This time, it happened at my house, in my home office. There’s an open invitation for those in the pregnancy help community to stop by and visit with Jenn and me here in the Nashville area, and an executive director and her daughter took us up on it. What followed was energizing.
In the course of three or more hours together, one idea—among many we explored--leapt out at me. It’s not a new one, but whenever it comes up, it’s a game-changer: Perfect love casts out fear.
The idea of course, started with John, who wrote this more than 1900 years ago in one of his letters to fellow Christians. Like I said, it’s not new.
But a story our friend told us had Jenn and me thinking about the idea of perfect love, and how fear can sometimes affect us in ways we don’t realize. Here’s the story:
As a new executive director, our friend checked in on a follow-up appointment with a client. Perhaps it was a parenting class—I don’t remember. But during the session, the client mentioned she was hungry. Not a big deal, usually. But this new director’s ears perked up.
She asked, “Did you have a chance to eat breakfast this morning?”
A mumbled reply, “No.”
When our friend asked why, she was told, “We don’t have food.”
This executive director quickly realized her client couldn’t possibly pay attention and learn a thing if she wasn’t at least fed.
“We’re getting you something to eat,” she told the client.
As soon as the words came out of her mouth, however, a volunteer gently rebuked our friend, the executive director. “We don’t do that,” she was told.
“Oh yes, we do,” our friend replied.
In a flash, she was off to a local fast-food restaurant, picking up something to feed her client.
For our friend the executive director, two thoughts came to mind.
The first, and most salient, is that our first calling is to love those we see, wherever they are.” Instead of working off our agenda, we must listen enough to discern where the need is for our client—and make sure we first address that need in some way.
The second is to realize that if we’re not careful, we will operate out of fear.
Her volunteer had a good heart, no doubt. And, she might have had a good reason to speak up.
Perhaps she spoke from a ministry policy, established with good intentions.
Or, she might have thought, “If we feed her, she may take advantage of us in the future.”
Or, “We don’t have the money in the budget to go and buy lunch for clients.” Or even, “If we feed one, everyone will start coming to us for free meals.” I don’t know.
And let’s be real enough to say, the volunteer could have been right. This client could have started coming each week, asking for food. Or, the client could have told friends, “Go down there and tell them you’re hungry—we can all eat free!” If this scenario took place, the budget would be in trouble for sure.
So no, her resistance wasn’t likely based on a lack of love or an uncaring heart. Yet, each of these reasons is rooted in some way to . . . fear.
Yes, some will take advantage of our love. And sometimes, love doesn’t automatically give what is asked for. In truth, our friend’s ministry was not designed to become a food pantry for all who asked. It’s not part of the mission.
But we—the pregnancy help community—must admit that sometimes, we act—or fail to act—because of fear. I know I’ve done it.
Perfect love, however, smashes all fear and sends it away into darkness where it belongs.
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Further in our conversation, she talked of other fears.
“In our centers, I have people come to me and worry if a phone call was a plant—from Planned Parenthood or somewhere else. Or, they fear someone coming into the office, trying to record us.”
I smiled. The answer was coming.
“But,” she said, “I just tell them that if we love, and if we do what we’re supposed to do, we have nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.”
Sure, there will be some who attempt to misrepresent our words. They may even record something and take what we say out of context. Some man named Jesus had the same thing happen to Him, often.
Yet, He chose to keep loving. And He started a movement which shook the world.
Let’s love, even if it can sometimes mean we must rethink our rules. Let’s love, even if someone takes our words and uses them against us.
Love doesn’t automatically inoculate us against every person who might try to take advantage, or against those who wish to destroy our work. But, taking the risk to love those we see brings the power to change the world.
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If we set love as our top priority, everything else falls into place. Better yet? Once we choose love, we have nothing to fear.