by Kendra Perry
May I be a little personal? It’s risky here, in this space where we’re known for our ideas and where even personal stories have the blistering tendency to become platforms for discussion of capital I Issues. But I think I’d like to share a bit of my journey here, invite you into a space that isn’t all pulpit or classroom or forum but rather something more like living room or dining room. So here’s my welcome mat; please respect the space in the same way you would my home.
2012 was a good year for our family in many ways. We moved across the country to a wonderful new home and began a new life there. We began new jobs, renewed our connections with each other, and enjoyed the natural beauty surrounding us.
2012 was also a harrowing year in many ways. Extended disability, joblessness, and the aftermath of caregiving for a family member who died of cancer in our home in the waning hours of 2011 all took their financial and emotional toll. Plus, a cross-country move, no matter how wonderful and needed, is not the easiest undertaking.
For me, 2012 included a look at the depths of my soul. Of course, predictably, what I found there was not pretty. Frightening, in fact. Terrifying. Very much like looking at the cross and finding myself as one of the crucifiers (which of course we say and sing blithely all the time but rarely experience in any visceral way) and completely unable to stop myself.
And whether the bad brain chemistry of depression came first or the post-concussion syndrome, they both combined with the horrifying revelation of my worst self to send me to the hospital for several days. So little (yet so much, such important things) stood in the way of me being, quite literally, Judas: betrayer of my Lord, my brethren, and myself.
Here is what I have learned through the ups and downs of my 2012: too often, it is in the collisions of our fears and our accusations that we hurt one another. Satan truly is The Accuser (Revelation 12:10), and he is eager to help us accuse one another of what we most fear. He is eager to use our fears to drive us away from Christ and into the arms of…. well, anything else, really. It doesn’t particularly matter what.
The destinations are likely as varied as the people reading. If you are brutally honest with yourself, you know where you head when anxiety starts to gnaw at your heart. It might be to the gossipy conversation, the snarky superior comment, the refrigerator, the bottle of alcohol, the soothing interaction with that attractive person, the angry outburst, even work, or the activity at church that keeps you feeling more holy than the person next to you.
Here is another thing I learned in 2012 (am still learning): that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). I don’t need to search in those too-familiar haunts for the things that will squelch my fear — as if they ever really did, anyway. What I need is contact with Perfect Love.
And Who is Perfect Love? “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3). If we can get this piece right, we’ll be able to truly love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). "We love him because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
Here’s how Brennan Manning puts it in his book Abba’s Child:
Living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves. Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence. It is not merely a lofty thought, an inspiring idea, or one name among many. It is the name by which God knows us and the way He relates to us. (ch. 3)
Then, and only then, can we really fulfill all the commandments by loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). If we skip this step, the love we give our brothers and sisters is, too often, impoverished. Our version of love instead of His. Easy love, instead of deep. Love shot through with the jagged edges of our fears and accusations, on which we wound each other again.
But firmly rooted in our true identity, we will be able to reach out to others with love that is patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not self-seeking, does not delight in evil but rejoices (such rejoicing!) with the truth. Love that always, always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). We will be able to love with His heart.
Because of what I learned in 2012, and what I want to remind myself to keep learning daily, I have a word for 2013. It’s my first ever Word of the Year! My word is Beloved. I invite you to consider joining me in making it your word (or one of your words) for the year…… as in
I am beloved
You are beloved
He is beloved
She is beloved
We are beloved
They are beloved
And may His Perfect Love cast out those fears that separate us from each other and from Him.
In Jesus’ Name.