the opposite of love is _________

What is the opposite of love?  

I asked the internet, and it had a whole bunch of answers.

The opposite of love is hate.

The opposite of love is abandonment.

The opposite of love is sadness.

The opposite of love is indifference. (This one has a famous quote AND a cool song.)

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.  The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."  Elie Wiesel

But, even though I love Elie Wiesel and the Lumineers, I've been thinking lately that, in my life anyway, the opposite of love is fear.  

I have a verse for that:

"There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love."  I John 4:18

And fear, as I've experienced it, gets lived out as control.  

command control manipulate

dominate rule run oversee

govern handle lead manage

discipline domineer subjugate


shut down avoid stonewall

Wherever I find control--mine or someone else's--I'm living in fear, not yet made perfect in Love.

I know this:  all the ways I've been messed up about Love vs. fear/power/control are also ways I've been messed up about God.  There's no separating my psychological mess from my spiritual mess, because my whole life experience has taken place within the world of conservative evangelical Christianity.

And I'll just be really honest with you:  I've been super messed up about the Bible.

As I look back, I see a huge need for control around the Bible itself in the churches I grew up in.  A need to understand it all perfectly, to pick it apart perfectly, to obey it perfectly.  To have the perfect quiet time which would then cause you to have the perfect day and string them all together, voila, perfect life.

There was a lot of emphasis on the actual words of Scripture.  Lots of going back to original languages and trying to parse out the meanings of individual words.  From there, we got "What The Bible Clearly Says" about rules and righteous living so we could keep ourselves separate from "the world" while voting the way Dr. Dobson told us to.  

That was all very fear-filled to me, that need for perfection and control, and that fear was all tangled up with the Bible.

So, I fell apart back in 2003.  And as I recovered, I didn't know what to do with the Bible any more.  It felt like "What The Bible Clearly Says" had been used to lead me to the gates of hell.  I tried and tried and tried to know all the rules, keep all the rules, and be as righteous as humanly possible and in the end it was just WRONG. 

After leaving that road to nowhere, I had this relationship with God that was about Love, and I knew that was true.  Bible verses that fit with Love, I could deal with.  Bible verses that didn't, I just put them in the too-hard basket and left them there. 

When I was writing As Soon As I Fell, Katrina (my editor) asked me, "Where are the Scriptures that helped you get well?"  And honestly, there weren't a bunch. I didn't get well by reading the Bible.  (What a great thing for a career Bible translator to say, right?)  

I got well by Love.

I could read Catholic mystics and Anne Lamott, and if they quoted Bible verses, fine.  Otherwise, I just had Love and good boundaries.  Which felt kind of unspiritual.  But not.  Because it was the best spiritual experience of my life.  Without Bible verses, mostly.  Which seemed just not okay.

I tried going to Bible studies for a while.  I tried Bible Study Fellowship and I hated it.  I couldn't even deal with Beth Moore.  I thought that I was over Bible study forever.

And then 2014 happened.  I was drowning and desperate and I heard about this Wine, Women and Jesus Bible study and I thought, "If they meet in a wine bar, maybe they will be okay."  So I went. 

I got my friend Christie to go with me, because I needed to know that Love was there with skin on, in case things went badly.  

Jackie, who leads the study, told me later that when I came to Wine, Women and Jesus, I had this big sign on my head that said, "Don't talk to me."  I think I was partly just traumatized by 2014 and partly terrified of being retraumatized by the Bible.

And then Jackie preached this sermon about Mary and Martha.  And she said that Mary sat at the feet of Jesus like the Apostle Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel.  Mary was getting a seminary education, like true disciples did, back in the day.  

The "better way," said Jackie, is about having all the freedom in the world, to be who God made you to be, regardless of whether you're Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.  

Straight out of a story that had always, always, always been interpreted to me this way:  while you're doing all the household chores, pile on a meaningful quiet time as well.  You're not reading your Bible???  Bad, bad you.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  You're not doing "the better way."

And I swear, it broke something open inside of me about the Bible, that night.  

That maybe there's treasure here, after all.  

Maybe there's freedom here, after all.  

Maybe there's light and life and hope here, after all.

I think what's been happening to me over time is a little bit like what Jesus says in Matthew 13:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is small than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

It's as if this tiny little seed of Love got planted, years and years ago, back in the Solomon Islands, when that retreat speaker said, "God delights in you."  

That minuscule seed, that one little idea--Love--growing and growing in the dark for so long, now seems like it's starting to shelter my life, until maybe even the Bible is a safe place for me now.  

I can see it starting to happen, if the Bible is not about:

command control manipulate

dominate rule run oversee

govern handle lead manage

discipline domineer subjugate


shut down avoid stonewall.

And if all the people who've used it that way are just people using it that way, because they are afraid of punishment.

Which I totally understand, because I've been done and got the t-shirt on that.

But what if there really is a better way?  What if there really is Love, even in the Bible?

Last time, I wrote about becoming like a child.

Fear says, "Don't do it! You'll be powerless!"

Love says, "You're Beloved."

That's such a game-changer for me, and it makes me wonder:

What if all the things that seem like a burden in the Bible, are a burden because I've looked at them through fear?

And what happens if I look through Love, instead?

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