She’s a good girl, loves her mama

Loves Jesus, and America, too

She’s a good girl, who’s crazy ’bout Elvis

Loves horses, and her boyfriend too

Tom Petty, “Free Fallin'”

Be not afraid

I go before you always

Come follow me

And I will give you rest

Bob Dufford, SJ, “Be Not Afraid”

As a student of other languages, I have noticed that the English language has two major weaknesses, in my opinion.

The first is that English has only one word for love. We love our family, friends, and pizza. We love God and our pets, chocolate, and entertainment. Greek, however, has nine words for love that I could find: eros, or romantic love; agape, or altruistic love; charity, or brotherly love; storge, or familial love, as parents to children; philautia, or self-love; xenia, or hospitality; ludus, or playful love (think dating); and pragma, or compatibility. There’s even a word for a type of false love: mania, the kind that stalkers exhibit.

The other weakness I perceive in my native language is how we say we are what we feel: “I am cold. I am hungry. I am angry.” According to my expert sources, we are not actually what we feel. For example, I am not anger personified, I simply feel the emotion called anger. I am not what I feel. When I act from anger, decide from anger, then it’s fair to say that I am being angry, but I’m still not the personification of anger.

“Be not afraid.” How many times is that phrase used in Scripture?! (365, if you’re curious, once for every day of the year)

God tells us to be not afraid. I don’t think He ever said not to feel fear. He said not to be fearful, as in not to decide from a place of fear, not to act from a place of fear, and not to personify fear. Be not afraid.

Be courageous. Be strong and resilient, even in the face of what causes us to feel afraid.

Courage is something I’ve seen defined in literature many times as doing a thing anyway, despite feeling afraid. Courage requires trust, and trust requires courage. They’re interdependent, like spouses.

I trust my husband not to let me fall, so I have the courage to climb a ladder he’s steadying for me, despite my absolute terror of heights. He trusts me to clean up after I cook, despite his territorial nature regarding his kitchen. If you know a territorial cook, that’s a big deal.

Because of the degree of trust that I have in my wonderful husband, I can climb a ladder high enough to get into the attic. On my own, two rungs are my limit. Without him, I can manage only a step stool, if I can hold on to something steady nearby.

God is stronger and more reliable than any human spouse. Think how high we can climb with God holding the ladder! He will not let us fall willy-nilly. He cares. He loves us with a real, enduring love – agape, not philia, mania, or ludus. Agape, not philautia like Narcissus in Greek mythology. Agape: altruistic, self-giving, enduring love.

Asking God to hold the ladder of our lives, we can climb high without being afraid. We may feel terror, and fear, and any number of strong emotions, but we can trust Him that we won’t need to embody them. We can instead embody trust, courage, and love.

He does.

This post was written by contributor Delsonora.