Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Love Casts Out Fear

I'm not even going to name names. The photo is reference enough. There are plenty of blogs full of justifiable outrage and protest---I feel it and I've made my share of comments here and there. But for this moment, stepping back from the outrage, the confusion, the sadness, I just have two thoughts, both having to do with the Image of God.

1. The Image of God is in every, single one of you. In every single one.

We're scary sometimes, but more often than not, we're taught that someone else is scary. I was taught it, you probably were, too.

This is an old thought, an old practice that I've written about before.

I ride public transportation. For the most part, I do not find this scary---I know some of you do, a lot of my "car friends" in Houston do. But for the most part, it's simply not. It's the working poor, getting to and from work, sometimes with families in tow. I'll even go so far as to say some of the more heartwarming moments of my day come from watching interactions on the bus.

And sometimes, there are scary people on it. I won't go into the markers that make me uncomfortable. They'll be different for you, anyway, so just imagine what you find disconcerting in another person, and you can bet you can find that in the seat next to you on the bus. Not everyday, but occasionally.

Now, next time you see that person with that trait that discomfits you, please, just take some deep breaths and remind yourself: that person is made in the Image of God. Try it. See if it doesn't expand your idea of God. And give you pause about how much you would like to get away from that person.

I'm not saying it's some sort of magic spell of protection. But it calms me. Helps me love the stranger, no matter how strange. I can't offer any kind of proof, but I swear it's relaxed me enough to even make the other person relax. (I admit, I may be projecting.) In any case, if you love God, look for God in that scary person. Every one bears the Image of God.

2. The "Otherness" is what makes us all holy.

Part of ancient Hebrew thought is that God is completely other than us. I begin to wonder if this is the image we carry. Our own unique strange(r)ness may be, I think, that Imago Dei spark. .

God can be strange. God can be scary. God can evoke awe---fear! God can set us in situations that surprise us and disquiet us---all the while reassuring us that nothing separates us from the love of God.

Again, this isn't some kind of magic. I'm not saying that there isn't real danger in other people, but if we could just try, every now and then, to take stock of our discomfort and not react out of our initial fear, we might find the other person is not only harmless, but that they may open us up to a revelation of who God is. We might find we have capacity for a love that isn't warm fuzzy feelings, but is a healthy respect and awe of one another. We might find an encounter with holiness.

Really, all I'm saying is slow down. Try a little respect and a lot less suspicion.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear . . ..