There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection] (1 John 4:18 – Amplified).
We learn from observation, association, and influence. Our belief system, the way we think and deal with life, is entrenched within us from our early years. Our patterns of response to others are generally set by how things were in our home life as children.
That’s why God admonished the Israelites to train their children in His ways at a young age. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Children learn by what they see, hear, and experience. Again, it’s observation, association, and influence.
Many of us are conditioned away from closeness. We are conditioned to hide our true selves, and live behind walls of self-protection. If a child is raised in an atmosphere of harshness and criticism, then the child quickly learns what to do to keep the harsh, critical responses at a minimum. And generally speaking, we tend to think and feel about God the way we think and feel about our parents, particularly our father.
So when I speak of opening up to others in close relationship, many shy away due to conditioning in their earlier years that produces fear of closeness and causes them to erect walls of self-protection. And unconscious walls are up when they seek to fellowship with the Lord. Many folk have told me that they know God loves them because the Word says He does, but they don’t feel an emotional connection to Him at all. This is a result of conditioning.
So lack of closeness with others and with God has to be overcome by reconditioning. As you force yourself into the presence of God at first without feeling and acknowledge verbally your love for Him, your emotions and feelings will slowly change.
As you force yourself into closer relationships with others and slowly let the walls of self-protection down, you learn to open your heart life to others and live a life free from the fear of relationship.
When I was very young, my father brought a pet beagle home. I was excited about having a new dog around, but was quickly disappointed when “Snoopy” ran from me as I approached him to pet him. Snoopy just would not accept any close human contact. My dad told me that he had probably been abused by the previous owner.
I decided that I would not have a dog that I couldn’t pet, so I took on the task of reconditioning Snoopy to accept my affection. Each day I would place Snoopy’s food bowl and water in a center section of our back yard and then run around to the other side of the house where his sharp beagle nose couldn’t pick up my scent. Snoopy would not eat until there was no one around.
As I barely peaked around the corner of the house, I could see Snoopy cautiously sneak out of hiding and walk to the food bowl and begin to eat. If I caught Snoopy’s eye as I peeked around the corner, he would run away. Day after day, I sat the food bowl in the yard and ran to the front yard of the house. After several days I was able by reconditioning to actually walk up to the food bowl and pet Snoopy as he ate. But it took days of Snoopy becoming aware that I would not hurt him, and that contact with me would be soothing.
We all have some measure of “Snoopy” in us. Fear conditions us away from closeness with God and others. The only way to overcome this fear is by reconditioning. And there is no way to overcome the fear of relationship and take the walls of self-protection down except by risking the closeness of relationship. Remember, it’s truth, relationships, and time that bring personal change to us.
The results of peace, openness, and freedom from fear are well worth the risk! Let the process of reconditioning start in you today!