I recently wrote about how love trumps fear. Truly, love is the only game in town as far as trumping goes. We are programmed by our culture to dismiss fear and equate it with cowardice. When I was a boy, the one who showed fear was called ‘yellow’ and teased about being a baby. An image of General George S. Patton slapping a young WWII soldier who was overcome by fear is an iconic example of our disdain for succumbing to it. Love is not always easy to find when fear shows up.
But love is always present and always ready to be discovered. Overlooking it is the problem. We tend to try finding relief from fear by being brave, and by ascending above the troublesome circumstances we face. Though there might be some validity to rising above fear, the solution is only temporary. By shoving fear aside, planting it deep inside, and never dealing with it, we are setting up lifelong chronic survival responses. We are trying to grab control and hang on for dear life. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be brave. I’m saying that there is a time in which we must descend into the fear in order to find our true identity. Love can only be found when our tough exterior is cracked open.
“Up is nowhere special at all, but hidden inside of down. Up is dangerous for the soul, while down is communal and comforting.” ~ Richard Rohr
The descent into fear is well chronicled in religion, mythology, and tales handed down to us over the millennia. The Bible story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale, Luke Skywalker and friends caught in the bowels of a garbage compactor, Jesus’ forty-day desert experience, and Muhammad’s revelation in the cave Hira, all reveal the necessity of facing our greatest fears by entering into the depths of innermost being. The result is a mystic transformation. This is what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. So, being bold enough to descend into fear leads us to the tunnel of liberation. This is authentic courage. It is not made up of violence and retaliation. It is an embrace of our true selves and hence, a full embrace of infinite love. In what seems to be brokenness we experience wholeness…and we find God.