Love and fear

love and fear

When we explore the historic writings of the Church, we often find veins of gold that enrich our spiritual life.

Usually, the gold is in a simple statement and sometimes it is quite ancient. Always it is right for the moment we discover it.

This is the way God works.

I still cherish a vein of gold from a wise desert Abba of the third century. It is a truth so simple I had not considered it.

He wrote, “We are part angel and part animal”.

When I read that, my heart laughed. Of course! Angel and animal!  It is the tension between the two states that effects growth.

For all of us who struggle with our animal nature, it is a blessing to contemplate that this is necessary for the development of the angel self which is our beautiful soul.

It seems trite to remind ourselves that our primal animal instinct is for survival. So much of our behaviour, socially good or bad, is linked to self-protection.

Aggression, procreation, war, patriotism, greed, law and order, anger, justice, injustice, reward, revenge – all of this and much more can be traced back to our primal instinct for survival.

All exist in some form in what we call the animal kingdom.

I am part of that animal kingdom.

But the ancient Desert Father was right.

There is more to our make-up.

In you, in me, in every human being on this planet, there is a spark of God we call a soul.

It has a gentle voice, and it grows in conversation with our animal self.

While the animal voice tends to be loud and fear-based, the angel voice is soft and about love.

We live with this inner dialogue.

Daily we ask ourselves, is this action or reaction coming from fear or from love.

This sounds simple, almost childishly so.

It’s what Jesus talked about when the mothers of Salam brought their children to him. Remember that reading?

The disciples tried to send the children away, but Jesus said, “Forbid them not, for of such in the Kingdom of Heaven”.

Later,  he said, “Except you become as little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven”.

I notice the word “become”.

Jesus did not tell his disciples to remain as children.

“Becoming” is a long growth journey of tension between animal and angel, between the selfish instinct and the unselfish inclination, between fear and love.

The stages of spiritual growth can seem complex.

Scripture gives us many parables about spiritual growth. The mustard seed. The yeast in the bread. The story of the talents.

My favourite image comes from that Desert Father whose name I have forgotten.

Every person I see is a human-animal carrying a sacred presence.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all living tabernacles.

  • Joy Cowley


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