My son has grown up fast. Now he is almost two years old! The more I spend time with him and get to know him through all the changes and growth of his young life, the stronger and deeper my love grows for him. I’m sure many parents can relate to me. As days go by, you find your little ones surprise you in so many ways. They are intelligent, kind, and highly relational. The way they wave a sweet goodbye to a friend or a stranger with a smile, try to help you with house chores, make a choice of what they want to wear or eat, cheer you up with “bravo” when you finally park the car right in a tight spot… brings you a deep joy—-a kind of joy you’ve never experienced before. Their blooming life greatly enriches yours, stretches your capacity and makes you desire to be a better person for them, to love, protect and guide them in a life-giving way.
This is partially how I feel about my son these days. However, my desires don’t always agree with my reality. It’s undoubtedly a great desire to give the best to my son, to provide for him a life-giving home. But I have a challenge here. How?
When it comes to building our own family, many of us automatically refer to the way we were brought up by our parents, and the atmosphere of our original family. Many of us resemble that experience to our children. If you had a good experience in your upbringing, you can impart that inheritance to your children and continue the blessing. But what if some of us didn’t have a pleasant experience?
As I said, interacting with my son and seeing him grow every day, deep joy is what I often feel towards him. Yet it only describes part of my feeling. The other part of my feeling is actually, fear. It took a while for me to identify this fear. Just to give an example—The other day, my husband, my son and myself were on a bus, and my son was sitting with us on the seat for the first time, instead of sitting in his stroller. He was so excited, curious about everything on the bus and giggling the whole time. My husband took a selfie of us to capture the moment. I was happy; however, in my feeling of happiness, there was a touch a shadow which hindered me from fully engaging at the moment and owning the joy. That shadow was fear.
I noticed the pattern—- this kind of fear often came to me when I was experiencing a great time with my family.
After some pondering, praying, reading, and talking with my husband, I understood this fear had a lot to do with my upbringing. It had everything to do with my experiential knowledge of love.
I knew clearly in my head, from the Bible and my Christian faith that “love never ends”. Love should be consistent and lasting. However, it’s not something I’d experienced in my original family. Growing up, the version of love I experienced was inconsistent, changeable, and unpredictable. Long story short, my mom had an unstable mood. I could be experiencing a very happy family get-together in one moment, but an awful negative quarreling the next moment. In my experience, happiness and peace didn’t last long. It all depended on my mom’s mood.
So now, what was the fear in my own family life? Taking from my experience, I was afraid that the joyful moments of life would not last long, that my son would feel hurt and confused when the happy moments were gone, just like I did. This fear caused me to imagine the worst for our future and reacted to those imaginations negatively, which drifted me away even farther—- I was afraid that I couldn’t control my speech or behaviours, that I would be the one cause hurt to my son and my family, just like my mom…
Fear. Negativity. Enough.
What happen to “love never ends”? And, “the perfect love casts out fear”?
Since I’d decided to believe the scriptures are correct, the only logical explanation to my fear was that I’d believed in a lie. My negative experience of my childhood only enhanced this lie and made it sound even more convincing. This lie tells me, to live joyfully and consistently remain in love ( to love and to receive love) without drama is impossible, or at least is not the norm.
The neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf explains eloquently in her book Switch on Your Brain that what we believe can take on a physical existence as a positive or negative change in our cells. She said, “We are wired for love, which means all our mental circuitry is wired only for the positive, and we have a natural optimism bias wired into us. Our default mode is one of being designed to make good choices. So our bad choices and reactions were wired in by our choices, and therefore can be wired out.”
We are wired for love and optimism, which is the norm while negative thinking is not. Negative thinking is toxic and damages the landscape of our brain. We are not wired for fear or negativity.
This realization helped me to re-evaluate what I knew and learned unconsciously from my childhood. I realized that I could control my reactions to whatever happened or may happen in my life. I always have a choice, and I’m not and will never be a victim. The choice/ reaction I make will either positively shape my brain, physical health, and relationships or damage them. These truths make me feel so empowered. I asked God to help me to learn to dwell in love, to live out this “new norm”, to build a new default mode of hope and believing the best in my thinking.
The same day I came to this realization, I read this from my Bible: “Everyone who loves the Lord and delights in him… even if darkness overtakes them, sunrise-brilliance will come bursting through… their circumstances will never shake them… they will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, ever secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe until they all go down in defeat. ” (Psalm 112, The Passion Translation)
God has given you and me the spirit of power, love, and self-control ( 2 Tim 1:7). In His perfect love, there’s nothing to be afraid. Fear doesn’t make sense in the kingdom of God, and it’s illegal to us. The truth is, to live a joyful life and consistently remain in love without drama is not only possible but is the exact way we were designed to be. It is the norm. It is why the Bible proclaims loud and clear that “Love never ends.”