Today’s Strong in the Broken guest post is by Jennifer Brogdon about finding the courage to love people in spite of her fears.
I do not recall fearing others the first half of my life.
It begins the first time I hear someone say this or that about me. It heightens when I notice others plot to vote against me in a school election. At its peak, I hear the booing as I walk up to receive an award and want to hide from the public (or people in general) forever. At the same time, loved ones’ verbal cut-downs continue throughout the years. This punch to the gut continues beating me up in every new relationship—not necessarily from anything the other person does but from the possibility of what they could do. I see the lady with the beautiful garden and the multitude of trinkets sitting on her porch each time I jog by and the woman in the brown house with white shutters who checks her mailbox during my stroll. As a Christian, I know I should not avoid people but rather love them. I am scared though. In this instance, I am scared of the frailest woman and what she may think of me.
To rightly love others, I must get over my fear of what they think of me.
I hear a couple explain the difficulty in building relationships with the people in their community across the world. They share how it takes years for the people to welcome you in a deep and meaningful way. This hits me. I think about the importance of staying in the same area for a long time because of this, but then it hits me harder as I ponder my impact on my own community. Over the last few years, the impact has been small.
On my next run around the neighborhood, I start to notice people, namely the elderly. I wonder who they are, what they believe, how they feel, and what they may need. Do they have faith convictions? Is their faith deeper because of their years? Are they lonely? Do they have loved ones who take care of them? Questions like these flood my mind, but then fears sprinkle in one by one—as they often do. I wonder what people would think of me if I went up to talk to them. I imagine a snarky response or being ignored. I fear their reaction to how I would approach them, when I would do it, and what I would say.
I’ve lived in this neighborhood for two and a half years and only know the neighbors to my left and my right. I believe the couple when they said relationships take time to build, especially in a different culture. How much more frightening is it to approach those who see you as a foreigner than the elderly woman who lights up with a youthful glow in seeing a young face speak to her? The boo-ers from my youth were people I knew for many years. I remember calling them my friends. The verbally abusive were the ones who knew me (or thought they did) the best. I shudder to bring many people close enough to where they could point fingers or stab me in the back.
But something deep compels me to love even if I don’t receive love in return. The One who fully loves me despite my failures to love him persuades me. Perfect love casts out fear, and his love proves perfect in my salvation and in my future hope. I fail at times. I keep jogging by the lady because the bullies of my past are all I see, like a horse with blinders. The two greatest commandments say to love God and then love your neighbor. To love my neighbor, God is the one I need in clear view!
Hiding from others displays zero love, for God is love and came down as the God-man. He came to seek and to save the lost with full knowledge he would bear the sins of man and endure the wrath of God. This love took everlasting death from me and gave me eternal life. If this reality does not encourage me to abide in Christ to fight my fear of others which enables me to love others as he loved me first, what will?
Jennifer Brogdon is a stay at home mom who ministers to students at Mississippi College during her free time. She enjoys running, reading, traveling, watching classic movies, and writing for Desiring God, True Woman, Servants of Grace, her own blog, and others. Jennifer and her husband Shane are members of Grace Community Church in Jackson and have a heart for the nations. You can find her on Twitter @brogdonjen or her blog https://www.
*image via Flickr