BOSTON — The other day i WAS feeling nervous. Someone I really admired had suggested by e-mail that we have lunch together. It was easy to agree to it over the computer. But afterward I panicked. Suppose I said the wrong thing? Dropped food on my shirt? Did something equally dumb?
In the past, feeling like this might have kept me from going through with the engagement; I'd have found an excuse to cancel, and that would have been that. But this time I asked God to help me go through with it.
This person and I were both God's children. Equal in His sight. That meant that I wasn't an inferior slob by any comparison. God loved me as much as He loved her. I thought about this. Not long after, I got another e-mail related to where we'd go for lunch. Her suggestion was so practical that somehow my feelings of inferiority just vanished in an instant. I knew it would be fun, and it was.
Sometimes the stakes are higher than just lunch. Getting past that initial fear, or feeling of shyness, is sometimes even more difficult. And there are occasions when a good time passes us by because we're too afraid to trust ourselves or others. I've made a lot of progress simply by remembering how God has made me and everyone else - uniquely good. Knowing this removes barriers, whether they are walls of inferiority or fear or pride. So this knowledge is really practical.
God is Love, and He loves all of us all the time. Confidence and eager anticipation are really much more natural to us than fear and dread, even if it doesn't always feel that way. In fact, God does not include fear. "There is no fear in love," says the Bible, "but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment" (I John 4:18). When we feel God's perfect love, we just can't be afraid, or even just a little uneasy.
One of the things that make it hard to interact with other people (especially if they seem better-looking, smarter, or superior in some other way) is that we think we won't be able to measure up to their standards and they will despise us. But when you're busy feeling God's love for you, that is less of a concern. And in this way it becomes a lot easier to feel at ease in social situations. In fact, really loving other people becomes natural because we are actually God's children, designed to love by the God who is Love.
There are figures throughout history who have taught the power of love. Christ Jesus was one of them. He set a wonderful example of how knowing your relationship to God makes a big difference. When Jesus was only 12, his family made an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a holy place and a big city for people from a small town. Then, somehow, his family left for home without him.
Finally realizing he was missing, they went back to Jerusalem. Was Jesus hiding somewhere and feeling afraid? Not exactly. He was in the temple, of all places, speaking to the most experienced teachers of the Jewish law - "both hearing them, and asking them questions" (Luke 2:46). Seen in the context of his entire life, this incident shows that Jesus' confidence stemmed directly from his understanding of the love God had for him. And that it was this understanding that would enable him to heal people later in life - even people with incurable diseases.
You may say, "I can't be as confident of receiving God's help as Jesus was!" But you do have the ability to understand what he taught - that God's love is something to trust in when you are with other people. Whether they are old acquaintances or new ones, it's right to feel safe and secure with them. And it's when we are willing to love that people see our own lovable nature more clearly.
"Love, redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light," says "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy. "Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God" (pg. 516). The willingness to love other people brings out our own beauty and light, not just theirs.
Ask God how to express His love in any given situation. See why you can set your fears aside. And watch wonderful things happen.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society