How does one fear bravely? How do love and courage and fear dwell together? Can they?
This week I’m talking with author, Catherine McNiel about her new book Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for Our Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies. We recorded our conversation Friday on Lunch Time Live, during her book’s launch week. It was lovely to start with the simple things like Galentine’s Day and what we were contemplating for lunch.
We also got to some much more challenging topics. Catherine is an author, writer, editor, and speaker searching for the creative, redemptive work of God in our ordinary lives. She is no stranger to 3MMM, and she writes with hope of bringing together theology with real life, aiming to open eyes to God’s ongoing presence in our world. Loved our conversation!
Love should begin by doing no harm.
Today is Valentine’s day, a cultural celebration of love in its many forms. Love should begin with aiming to do no harm. I learned the following idea growing up in a Baptist church. Perfect love casts out all fear (I John 4:18). It’s a beautiful ideal. However, I also know from the experiences of friends and family that fear and love often dwell together in an uneasy relationship in human hearts and minds. This is due in part to reality that to love requires taking a risk. And risks have a way of evoking fear. So to lean into love, we must face our fears. To loosen the grip of fear on our hearts, we need courage.
Catherine and her new book have some things to get us thinking about fear and love and courage. I think you’ll enjoy listening in.
We are giving away a copy of Fearing Bravely along with the Pastoral Imagination Journal and a set of five Pandemic Permission Cards.
What do you need to do to be entered?
Subscribe to our weekly 3MMM email! And you’re in the drawing!
Undermining Love with Fear
There is another common cause for love and fear to live uneasily together. I know many people whose capacity for love was undermined by trusted caregivers early in their lives. Although the baseline of expectation is that adults are both loving and caring for the children in their lives, it does not always happen. Through unprocessed trauma, stress, and grief, caregivers and parents may pass on the harms that shaped them. Fear, dread, and shame becomes the basis of such relationships. And one result is that forming loving relationships, while possible, remains very challenging. These children grew up with a many adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
To overcome these harms and to become trusting and loving, risk-taking and courageous human beings, is a lifetime of work. And when a new crisis or personal loss shows up on one’s doorstep? The old ways of thinking and believing out of fear come roaring back.
Most days I can say with confidence that I love myself and I care for myself and I believe that I am loved and lovable. And then sometimes when I’m feeling unappreciated or the teaching evaluations have a harsh word, or another dream deflates, I can call the whole thing into question. And even if it’s temporary, the feelings of uncertainty and lack of trust fueled by fear is overwhelming. It’s like my feet go right out from under me.
Just such an extended moment came to pass about five years ago. A series of difficult and demoralizing events unfolded in a very short couple of months. I was really calling into question what I should be doing and where and how. i had to ask myself some hard questions. It was an incredibly uncomfortable place to be.
In her new book, Catherine McNiel explores what it means to live in such uncomfortable places and yet not be paralyzed by fear. She helps us to put fear in its rightful place and to find courage to live out of courage and love.
To be human is to be vulnerable. It is to experience the full range of emotions. And to it also means we live in the precarious place of navigating both love and fear, overwhelm and courage. I think you will find encouragement in Catherine McNiel’s new book to live creatively in that reality.
That moment five years ago when I found myself full of questions, self-doubt, even fear about what would come next did not end in paralysis. I stopped believing someone else would rescue me from that terrible state. And I took new risks to embrace love of myself and my work and my calling. Many amazing things came out at my risk taking. One of them is Three Minute Ministry Mentor. And I’m grateful to be in this place and time with you. Exploring what it is to learn and practice together is a beautiful thing.