I don’t even know how it started; I was hiking up Sawnee Mountain, on the Indian Seats trail, and suddenly found myself in another one of my imaginary conversations with the apostle Paul.
Sara: This part is a little more strenuous than I remember. Kind of like my life right now.
Paul: Yeah, what’s up with you these days?
Sara: I don’t know. Can I ask you something?
Sara: The flesh thorn. Can’t you just tell me what it is?
Sara: Panic disorder feels like a thorn in my flesh. Was that it?
Paul: Sara, I was intentionally vague about that. That way, my struggle is more relatable across the board. For you, it might have been anxiety, for someone else an illness. Part of the whole me becoming all things to all people concept.
Sara: That makes sense. But what am I supposed to do?
Paul: You’re supposed to trust.
A little later, after some mountain top reading and prayer:
Sara: I had an epiphany.
Paul: Let’s hear it.
Sara: I’ve read and heard fear and love used in contrast to each other lots of times. I don’t know why it took so long for it to sink in, that love is the opposite of fear. The opposite of love is fear, not hate. Fear comes first. Then blame, then other things that eventually lead to bitterness and hate. Fear comes first.
Paul: Yes. And?
Sara: And God never left me.
Paul: Of course not.
Sara: It felt like that sometimes though.
Paul: I know.
Sara: Now I know why. You have to choose one or the other, you can’t have fear and be fully loved. When I was little, I knew my family loved me, but because of different things happening in my world, I grabbed on to fear and God’s love – the kind of love you know is guiding you – never felt like a guide back then; more of like this elusive concept that other people had found a way to tap into. So I became nervous and my teachers were always getting mad at me for bouncing my legs or blinking too much. Half the time I didn’t even know I was doing it. All of my fears morphed into one big one that took up all my life space – there wasn’t any room left for to receive or respond to love.
Paul: Fear will eat you from the inside out. I get it. And, I had like, compound fears on each end of a cathartic experience.
Sara: What do you mean?
Paul: At first I was afraid
Sara: You were petrified?
Paul: At first, I was afraid of what Christianity would do to my faith, my tradition.
Sara: I know, right? That’s what I’ve been saying! In a sermon, I was like “he was super educated and knew the Hebrew scriptures forward and backward by heart! He maybe knew better but his fear consumed and clouded everything.”
Paul: Exactly. And then, I had the fear that I wouldn’t be accepted after my conversion.
Sara: But your were, and then you showed us the most excellent way of life: love.
Paul: I’m glad you had this time today, and this revelation. You should read Julian of Norwich’s Revelation of Love.
Sara: It’s in my queue.
Paul. Good. Sara, you’re gonna be ok.
Sara: Yep. I am.