September 2, 2013

Fear Trumps Love Every Time
(But It Doesn't Have To!)

Take-aways are really important to me. Whenever I go to a conference I take a plethora of notes. Gleaning whatever I can is of utmost importance and formal teaching times are not my only opportunity for takeaways. I try to make a habit of learning something from every conversation. 

Photo Credit: Renett Stowe, Flickr
Talking with the Lord, sessions with my therapist, and conversations with friends have provided me with a plethora of takeaways in regard to adoption and my journey with my first mother.

Bonnie Zello Martin is a long time friend who is also a licensed therapist I’ve interviewed here on the blog.  We met decades ago when we were both students at Valley Forge Christian College, and she's my friend,  not my therapist. But it's very comforting that in my friendship with her, all the explanations of significant loss, trauma and pain present in adoption are unnecessary. She counsels many people on these issues and fully understands. The empathy and insight she provides as a friend is such a comfort.

Bonnie was so kind as to invite me to get away with her during my current leave of absence. We enjoyed everything from laughing profusely to enjoying delicious meals, and even went fishing together.

I caught this bass!

Amidst all the fun, I shared with her my confusion over the combination of my first mother's love for me yet her refusal to give me what I needed most, and particularly  her treatment of me the last six months. I have asked myself hundreds, possibly thousands of times,  how this dual existence is possible. How could she refuse to give me that which had the power to immediately remove a lot of pain, just by the sharing of two words? And why did she do it in such a hurtful manner?

As a mother myself, it completely defies explanation. I've mulled so many things over in my mind the last few months, like asking myself what I'd honestly do if my kids asked something of me that I didn't want to do. I'd put my worst moment on a movie screen for the world to see, if it meant doing so would remove my children's pain. I'd throw myself in front of a train if I had to, for them.

And yet, my first mom couldn't give me two words.
Two words that I'm the co-owner of.
Two words, stolen.

Two words that weren't ever hers to keep.  

So she stole two words from me, not just any two words, but ones that go to the core of my earthly identity.  And if stealing wasn't enough, there was verbal assault and battery involved.

And so now, the recovery.
Still recovering and still searching for the two words.

As I was sharing my thoughts about this, Bonnie turned to me and said, “Deanna, it’s because fear trumps love every time.”

Ummmm it does?  I always thought love wins… 

No, it doesn’t always win, unless a person addresses their fears and moves beyond them. Fear is always stronger than love, unless you face it and overcome it.

So it’s entirely possible my mother loved me deeply, yet did this?

Yes, it’s just that her fears were stronger than her love. Her fears overpowered. Fear always wins unless someone determines to overcome their fear.

This was revealing to me.

My first mom struggled with fear, about so many things. 

I quickly made a list  of all the things I knew she was afraid of. 
Small things, big things. 

One thing that immediately came to mind was that she never flew anywhere.  
She was too afraid.

We moved to Florida in 2002 and she and Tom made the trip by car to come and visit us. But when they grew older and making a long trip by car became difficult, flying was not an option, because of her fears.

Just a few days after her death, Tom softly said, "I can get on a plane and fly to come see you, now."  

Photo Credit: Lachlan Hardy, Flickr
Much of the time she was worried, anxious and afraid of something.
Always something. 

"The secret" was something she was exceedingly worried about. 

Bonnie says that in the last six months, I became the embodiment of the secret. 
The secret overshadowed everything for her.
She lashed out because fear trumped love.

Yes, this explains a lot and for that I am grateful, though it doesn't make it hurt less it just gives me a window of understanding into what I was dealing with.

I'm still grieving. 
And that's to be expected.

 Coming near Judy again after our falling out in February meant I had to interrupt the recovery process I was going through when she was diagnosed with cancer. 

I wasn't ready to come near again, but I knew I needed to.
For her sake and mine.
Though I wasn't ready yet, I knew I would regret not coming near, if she passed away. 

It was always a given that I would have to return to the recovery process and pick up where I left off before it was interrupted.  Because moving forward is never a possibility if you don't face the reality of a trauma or loss and address it properly. I now have the added loss of her passing away, to process.

 Sometimes we learn from others, whether our parents, teachers or others, what TO do. And sometimes we learn what not to do. 

The Take-aways:

1) Fear can overcome love in our relationships. 

I know now why it was possible for my first mother to  love me, yet not give me what I needed most.  She definitely loved me, yet her fear was greater. And she never overcame it. As far as it depended on her --  right up until her last breath, fear won. 

2) Fear can choke out the joy from our lives.

Fear held my first mom captive and prevented her from experiencing so much freedom. Imagine the liberty that would have been hers if she would have only let go. She never allowed herself to look beyond to envision this life without secrets, and unfortunately she never experienced it.

3) Fear can destroy our very lives. 

It can stop us from doing what matters most in everything – our personal relationships, our career, and everything else that touches our life.  

Photo credit: pasotraspaso, Flickr
The Bottom Line

Notice in each of these three things, I said, "Fear CAN." 
That means it can, but it doesn't have to.

Fear doesn’t have to trump love! 
I don’t have to let fear trump love in my life.
I WILL choose love every time.
I WILL make sure love wins.

The bible says that perfect love casts out all fear.  (I John 4:18)

When we love someone perfectly, as God would have us love them, we do whatever it takes to overcome fear and let love win instead of fear. 

The biggest takeaway for me?

I’m determined to never let fear win – in my marriage, with my children, with family and friends, with pastoring, with dreaming and anything else in life…LOVE is going to win.

As far as it depends on me, love will win.