Love > Fear


I sat still, my legs drawn up under me, against the purple wall in my mother's living room. I remember heaviness coiled tense in my chest, up through my neck and aching behind my eyes. In my limbs, a happy buzzy sensation, like I feel when I'm deeply thankful. My niece and son came running over and clambered up, my husband busy taking photos, with the white of the flash bouncing off the glittery ceiling. My lips pulled back tight over my teeth, my eyes slowly trying to take in the chaotic scene of family and gift opening frenzy, a heavy compote of Christmas scents from the buffet filling the air.


Perhaps it is the many years of training and practice that makes me think of emotions as a linear thing. After all, the FACES scale for pain, the one we use in children, runs a spectrum from joy to extreme sadness, as if the two never coexist in our chests, in our hearts, behind our eyes.


What if half of your face can say something, and the other half another? I scan through a list of emotion words, trying to capture those feelings of the cool, coiled snake in my chest and the sweet joy of those children on my lap. Happiness and satisfaction. Words that describe love. Nervousness and apprehension. Words that describe fear.

Does that explain the lineless half smile, pulled tight over my lips, the widened eyes, the stilled forehead?

I have a sticker on my van that says "Love > Fear". The two emotions I felt most intensely throughout the holiday celebrations with family this year. Perhaps what kept me going through the holidays is this very principle, which stands out so clearly from The Message:
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (I John 4:17-18 The Message)