“Love is what we are born with, fear is what we learn.” I still remember the ease that came over me when I read those lines in Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return To Love.
All these years, I'd been under the impression that love was something that I was supposed to obtain or earn with a certain degree of worthiness, something that came from someone else. It had never occurred to me that love was already a part of me, that all I had to do was embrace it.
“The spiritual journey,” Williamson explains, “is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.” So there I sat, frustrated and despaired, as I came to the realization that I had to unlearn the system that had been running my life.
Naturally, anxiety set in. I wondered, “How do you unlearn fear?” So I sat down to simplify. “I am afraid. Afraid of what? Unlearning. What if I can’t stop?” And then it dawned on me. “You start with today.” And with that very fear that seemed to be bubbling, I did the unthinkable. I invited love into this space of my heart. Instead of fidgeting for hours and looking for answers and comforting distractions, I kneeled down to pray and asked God to help me.
In the year since I first read that book, I have learned a great deal about fear and love. It has become very clear to me that the default setting in my heart was—and still is—fear. Practicing love was actually much more difficult than I have ever anticipated. It meant being vulnerable. At times, it meant being misunderstood, biting one’s tongue, and letting things go when the mind isn’t done analyzing.
Despite this struggle, I have learned to nurse my wounds with love and I’ve found they actually close. Slowly, I have invited patience and appreciation where fear and anxiety used to reign. Sometimes I figured it out, sometimes it has gotten the best of me. Over time, the idea of love became less and less absurd.
To invite love into situations makes me uncomfortable, but it has renewed my spirit and life. I am not great at staying there very long, but God’s love has offered me presence, peace, and appreciation beyond my expectations.
What is the default setting of your heart? Ask God to help you make the shift from fear to love.