Sometimes I can be such a coward.
Recently I was out shopping and in the distance I saw someone—someone with whom I have a painful history.
We used to be friends. BFFs to be more exact. Well, maybe just BFs because something happened and the relationship went south. I tried the best I knew how to fix it, but it only continued to deteriorate. I believe that she would say that she tried too but to no avail. Eventually we parted ways. I have rarely seen her since, and we have not spoken in a long time. I still grieve that reality.
But the other day, when I saw her, I knew that if I kept walking in the direction I was going our paths would bring us face to face. At the thought of that, something rose up in me, and it wasn’t good. It was fear and I gave way to it.
Yep, I turned and went another direction. I avoided, no fled, any possible interaction. I didn’t stop, I didn’t pray. I hightailed it out of there in fear.
What was I afraid of? That feeling of weird awkwardness and possible rejection. She might not want to see or talk to me. “I’m doing us both a favor,” I rationalized, as though I knew her thoughts and feelings. I don’t know exactly why, but I do know that I let that fear take charge.
A few minutes later the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sad failure to act out of the truth of who I am. I let insecurity take over and the result was failure to love. I could have kept going toward her, I could have been warm and spoken kindly. It probably would have been awkward, but so what. It might have been healing.
I was a coward in that moment, but that’s not who I want to be.
And by God’s grace it is not who I am.
I have resolved to turn from this self-centered fear and be willing to put myself in places that may be risky, might feel awkward or difficult. I must be willing to put myself in places where I could get hurt and where things might not turn out as I would like.
It is shocking to realize that the Bible teaches in Revelation 21:8 that among the first group of persons to be thrown into the lake of fire are the cowardly.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
Why cowards? Because unrepentant cowards never love at all. Cowards let fear rule and therefore live in self-centered self-protection. You see love, real love, requires the courage to risk, and cowards never risk their own comfort. Real love requires the willingness to suffer, and cowards never suffer if they can avoid it.
I am so grateful that Jesus wasn’t a coward. And because He wasn’t, I have the gift of forgiveness for my cowardice and the means to become a woman of courage and love.
Someday I will be fearless, but for now I am in the battle against the fear that wants to control me and keep me from living a life of love. By His grace alone will I be able to move against the fear and offer love, even to those who might be my enemies. I pray for more progress to that end.