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1 John 4:18 (New King James Version)

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

LOVE drives out fear. The verse above is one I have wrestled with since I first learned it in my 20’s. Often I come across principles in the word that I just cannot wrap my tiny mind around. So I ask God to help me to understand. After all it is our privilege to investigate a matter. He loves it when we come with our questions and struggles. Sometimes the Lord gives me insight right away.  Other times I must wait.  So I shelve my questions and move on in what little I do understand.  I have many discussions with God over the years on this one.  It would seem to me that courage should drive out fear, or power.  Certainly power should drive out fear.  I love God and am certain he loves me, but there are times when I have experienced fear’s grip around my heart for one reason or another.  Clearly I have not been made perfect in love.

Insight came a few months back when talking to a friend.  I don’t remember the comment I made but she said something along the lines of “You’re so confident.  You’ve always been like that.  That’s a gift.”  At the time I didn’t think much of it.  So I filed it away under “kind comments from a friend.”  About a month later, I found myself re-reading Tony Campolo’s It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Comin’.  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular.  I just wanted to read the words of a refreshingly down to earth, honest Christian, who writes with clarity, humor, and intelligence.  I just happened to turn to the following:

Charles H. Cooley, one of the most important modern social scientists and a dean of American sociology, developed the concept of the ‘looking-glass self.’ Anyone who has taken even an elementary course in sociology has been introduced to this primary concept of human understanding. Cooley’s postulate goes like this: a person’s self-concept is established by what (s)he thinks the most important persons in his/her life think of him/her.

For instance, if I believe that the most important person in my life thinks that I am the best-looking guy in town, it won’t be long before I begin to think that I am the best-looking guy in town. That may be hard for many of you to believe since I have a double chin and I am bald. But to all of you who are not bald, I say that they do not put marble tops on cheap furniture…It doesn’t make much difference if you and the rest of my audience do not think I am good-looking, because my wife does. And she is far more important to me than any of you or anybody else who reads this book. She influences what I think of myself more than what I think you think of me.

In our earliest years, our mothers are probably the most important people in our lives. Hence our self-concept and sense of personal worth is usually determined by what we think our mothers think of us.

Dr. Campolo goes on to detail two more demonstrations of the Looking Glass Principle. One is a fair basketball player who was made great by the confidence his college coach had in him. The other is a friend who belittles his wife by oggling young women on the beach in his wife’s presence.  Dr. Campolo continues by explaining that if Christ is the most important person in your life, then you should believe what he says about you above all.  That’s when it hit me.  I am confident.  But I am confident because the people who matter and have mattered most in my life think I am great!

I have been blessed with a mother who (even though we have clashed hard at times) believes that I am the best thing since sliced bread.  Even though my father was an absent father, an alcoholic, often unemployed, and (I would learn much later) mentally ill, whenever he was around, drunk or sober, he spent a great deal of time explaining to me how beautiful and smart I was.  I was born last and only girl into a blended family of 5 boys.  My brothers were very protective of and loving toward me.  For as long as I can remember I have at least one good friend who really likes me despite my many, many flaws.  Then I married a man, God bless him, who so exhibits the selfless love of Christ in our marriage that it puts me to shame most days.  I am confident because I have been loved into it.  Certainly I have had horrible, draining, vampire-like friendships with women who have virtually sucked all the life out of me.  I have dated some real LOSERS, one in particular who tore me down verbally to the point of misery.  I have been the outcast, the social retard, the nerd, in high school, college and beyond.  I have been locked out of the beautiful people club, gossiped about, and borne the weight of criticism and disapproval at work and in church.  Yet I have pressed on.  How?  Why?

I am utterly convinced that everything the bible says about who I am is true.  I believe that Jesus loved me enough to die a horrible death to spare me that same fate. I am certain that God created me, on purpose with a purpose.  I have been blessed enough to have people in my life who believe the same things and whose actions prove it.  I have been wise enough to part company with those who don’t.  This is not to say that I avoid constructive criticism. It is because I know that I am horribly flawed that I need a Savior to begin with.  My fallen nature demands the support and under-girding of authentic Christians who will hold me accountable when I act like a nut or a fool.  To do this walk right, I must have people who love God more than they love Sheeri, and who fear his wrath more than mine.  I need people who will see past my ugliness and patiently love me beautiful, just as the Lord continues to do daily.

When I say that I seek out people who mirror God’s love for me, I mean I surround myself with people who see my value.  They see me as the masterpiece God created me to be, and they expect me to behave as such.  They hold me to a higher standard and expect me to do the same for them.  The most important people in my life love my crusty butt.  So I am confident.  What is confidence, but inner security ?…or fearlessness? I finally got it.  The perfect love of Christ that I experience through the Holy Spirit, that is poured out in God’s word, and exhibited by the Christ-filled believers in my life, drives out all fear, leaving me whole and confident.  My friend was right, confidence is a gift.  But it is freely available to all of us.  Love truly is more powerful than fear.

Be blessed and have a great Friday, Family!

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