While preparing to teach a marriage conference years ago, Frank and I came across a powerful story. It illustrates an incredible truth about the difference between love and fear.
After a whirlwind courtship, Sarah agreed to marry Thomas. He was attentive to every detail of her life and watched over her in such a protective way. But soon after their wedding, Sarah began to notice subtle signs of a controlling nature in Thomas.
He wanted to know whom she talked with on the phone. He planned their weekends then told her what they would do. Before long, he even began to dictate what she should do during her free time.
Things slowly escalated until finally the lists began to appear. Sarah would arrive home from work and discover a to do list on the kitchen counter. “Please take care of this before I get home,” wrote Thomas.
At first, Sarah took them as suggestions and did her best to complete what she could. But Thomas’ displeasure over any items left undone soon turned to anger then rage. Sarah became fearful of not completing each and every item on the list. They became the taskmasters ruling her life. She feared Thomas and hated his lists.
Sarah became more proficient at anticipating and then completing the items he enumerated. But her love for Thomas dulled and she trudged through every day with a sense of duty rather than the delight she had once imagined.
After several years, Thomas died. The liberation Sarah felt knew no bounds. She was finally free from domination, mental abuse and from the dreaded lists. Fear was broken and her joy slowly began to return.
Sarah eventually married again. Her new husband, Jonathan, certainly wasn’t perfect but he had no need to control and their love for one another blossomed.
One Saturday afternoon Sarah sat absent-mindedly cleaning out an old purse. In the back zippered pocket she discovered a crumpled piece of paper. As she unfolded it her stomach lurched; it was a list written in Thomas’ distinctive handwriting.
Tears began to sting Sarah’s eyes as she read down through the old list. The yellowed piece of paper contained a to do list that perfectly matched all the things she had spent her Saturday doing. But instead of doing them out of fear or duty, she realized this time she had completed each item out of love. And her love for Jonathan made any type of list completely unnecessary.
We are told in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear.” (NIV) A truth well illustrated by Sarah’s poignant story.
Please remember today, our Heavenly Father is not at all like Thomas; although some characterize Him as such. There is no list of rules, no checklist of demands for us to follow. In fact, Jesus' disciples asked him one day, "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?"
(Funny isn't it? Human nature asks for a list we can check off in order to measure our "goodness." I guess these disciples wanted to skip to the front of the line by just obeying the single most important one.)
Jesus quickly responded, "Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. Then love your neighbor as you love yourself. Everything hangs on these two commands." (Matthew 22: 37-40 Sheri's Paraphrase)
Dear Friend, God is Love. It's just that simple. And Love drives out all fear. Don't you want to embrace the Heavenly Father who is able to drive out all fear from your life? The choice for love allows us to serve Him out of our well filled with bubbling, joyful waters; not out of the dry, dusty bank vault of fear.
Let me encourage you today, choose LOVE! It's a much better way to live.