Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Withholding

I just did my taxes and I have been thinking about withholding. We determine how much money should be taken out of each paycheck in order to pay our taxes. If you withhold a lot, then less money is taken out and you may have to pay taxes at the end of the year. If you withhold only a little or nothing, you may find that you receive a refund at the end of the year. I confess that I find it really exciting to get a chunk of money in the form of a refund. So, I usually choose zero withholding, even though I know that it would probably be more helpful to have a little extra money to add to my monthly budget.

But, what on earth does this have to do with pursuing love? Well, I have discovered that I often withhold when I feel afraid. That is to say, when I feel afraid, I sometimes choose to withhold myself, my feelings, and my thoughts from other people. When I fear loss, disappointment, hurt or sadness, it feels safer to disconnect myself from the situation. I think I'm hoping that this will protect my joy, my peace, and my security. I will receive them, like a tax refund, at the end of my painful situation if I withhold all of myself while I am going through it. Sometimes my withholding is so extreme that I avoid the situation all together. I don't go to a place where painful feelings may be triggered and I don't interact with people whose interactions may be provoking. Other times, I remain physically present, but I am usually absent emotionally. The real "me" remains hidden from reach for my protection. Or, so I think.

Unfortunately, I have realized that the "me" refund is never as big as I think it will be from my withholding. And, my eyes are beginning to be opened to the understanding that when I withhold myself, though I may successfully avoid some painful experiences, there is an even greater risk that I will miss out on receiving love from God and other people in the midst of those circumstances. In those moments that I have been able to imagine God taking my hand in His and walking me through a scary situation, I almost always find that I enjoy His nearness in a special way and that He facilitates tender connection with the other people involved. On those occasions where God has given me courage in the face of my fears and I have been able to tell the people around me how I am feeling and what I fear, I have experienced such compassion, gentleness and generosity from others. The love and joy I received from those encounters far surpassed any painful feelings that I experienced!

There is NO fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

I choose to withhold myself when I fear punishment through the experience of uncomfortable feelings. But, Praise God, there is no fear in love!

God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us… 1 John 4:16-17

I don't want to withhold myself anymore because of fear. I want love to be perfected within me. So, I'm choosing to abide in God and in His love. Please God, cast out all my fears and help me to stop withholding.