Perfect love casts out fear
– Ancient Middle Eastern Spiritual Text
I used to be afraid.
Who am I kidding? I am still afraid.
I am afraid of death. Less so recently. But sometimes I get panic attacks thinking about the fact that I will be dead one day. And what if there is nothing?
I am afraid of turning 50 and looking back, realising I’ve wasted my life. That scares me a lot.
I am afraid of commitment. This idea that somehow committing to something will mean losing time… Time, why this obsession with time? The fear of not spending time in the right way, to the point that I resent it when I have to give it up for something I don’t enjoy.
Fear can be a driver, and a reckless one at that. I am running out of time… On repeat.
It makes me think of an Anne Dillard quotation:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives
Because sometimes clichéd advice is a cliché for a reason. It’s true.
You can’t find happiness by chasing after it. Being so worried about losing time will in fact cause you to be miserable all of the time and lose it all.
Do you remember those songs? Those wannabe punk rock songs that talk about how we’re all forced to go to school, then go to university and get a real job and then have a family and grow old and die? Yeah, whoever wrote those songs was an idiot.
Recently I had to give up. You see, I’ve been running; For a long time I’ve been running from my fears. Running from responsibility. Running from growing up.
But in light of recent events, I had to stop running and let the wave catch me.
But something strange happened. When the waters engulfed me, I hung in space, still and quiet. And I could breathe.
I have always been terrified of working 9 to 5. I envisioned sitting behind a desk, miserable and longing for adventure. Motivational posters on Facebook scream at me this idea that if your life isn’t maniacally exciting, then you are missing out big time buddy!
“Follow your dreams!”
“The only thing standing in your way is you!”
“Don’t let anyone tell you, ‘You can’t do it’”
You know what Facebook motivational posters? Shut the front door.
I recently started a new job. My first real job actually. Before this I was a “freelancer” aka. Unemployed.
I wake up in the morning. I have breakfast. I go to the office. I sit in front of my computer, surfing Facebook and doing a bit of work in between. And you know what? I am loving it.
When I was “free”, doing as I pleased, waking up at 10am and living off takeaways despite not having the money for it, I hardly had time to do anything I enjoyed. Because every moment spent doing something I enjoyed like reading, or playing guitar or writing was accompanied by an underlying sense of guilt that I wasn’t trying to find work.
Now at 5pm I close my laptop, walk out the door and leave work at work. I get home, I kick back, play some guitar, write a blog and climb into bed and do it all again the next day.
I have more freedom since I have succumbed to what I envisioned as the worst, most restricting fate imaginable. Life, I see what you did there.
And perhaps this is premature but I feel the trickle of a fresh stream in my soul, bringing the coolness of peace.
There is still pain, and fear but I don’t want to run anymore. I can’t live if I run from life.
And trying to pursue a fantasy of what my life should be will only lead me to self-destruction.
Life is a river and sometimes you need to let it sweep you away. How could I have known when I landed at Heathrow Airport on the 8th of August 2013, believing I was living the dream, that I would be back in Cape Town 7 months later working a desk job? I would have laughed in your face if you told me that. But to be honest, right now, I feel I am where I am meant to be.
When the time is right my adventure will come, once I stop pursuing it. It’s not about putting up with my day to day life until I finally get that opportunity to travel or get my dream job, it’s about learning to savour where I am now.
And as for perfect love, perhaps it has something to do with trust. Relinquishing control. Because you can only love if you can trust. And God is the only Being who cannot let you down. But God will never force you to trust Him, or even to do what He wants you to do.
Sometimes you have to fall down so that He can pick you up again and put you where He wants you. True freedom comes through surrender and so perhaps we find ourselves where we thought we would be most lost.
You just have to stop running.