One Sentence To Set You Free from Fear

Have you ever had your world turned upside down by a single sentence? Have you ever felt someone else’s words unlock a caged place within your heart and set you free from fear?

If so, then this story is for you.

It begins with me spending a month in a residential rehab called The Clearing.

I am here for work – I’m a copywriter on The Clearing’s team, writing ebooks and essays – but I am also here for my own healing.

(They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said yes.)

On this particular day in workshop, we are learning about self-forgiveness. We are offering ourselves compassion for our judgments against ourselves and others.

Then The Clearing’s co-founder and CEO Joe Koelzer tells us, almost offhandedly, “Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to worry about asking God for forgiveness.

At this, I cannot help but raise my hand and say, “Wait … you don’t?”

The Clearing

Sunset at The Clearing, Summer 2016

There is incredulity in my voice, because Joe is speaking a language I don’t understand. The thought of not asking God for forgiveness feels utterly foreign to me.

After all, my childhood God was a God of judgment. While I met some wonderful people in my church growing up, I also absorbed a lot of ideas about working hard to be saved and not ending up in the Lake of Fire.

And while I’ve let go of some spiritual baggage, the child within me still fears not measuring up.

How many times have I prayed for forgiveness over the years? How many times have I begged the God of my understanding to please, please forgive my many mistakes and failings?

“No,” Joe says. “And I’ll tell you why not. As we’ve discussed before, here we believe that God is unconditional love.”

I nod. That much I can follow; that much feels familiar.

Joe continues, “Well, think about it. A lot of people talk about God’s unconditional love … except if you do X, Y, and Z. But that’s not actually unconditional love. By definition, there is no judgment in it.

God doesn’t need to forgive you because God never judged you.”

My eyes are deer-in-the-headlights-wide.

Joe gives me a kind smile and concludes, gently, “You were the one that judged you. But God never did.”

***

It’s hard to describe precisely how hard this hits me. God doesn’t need to forgive you because God never judged you.

It’s as though I have spent years in a dark room and someone has flipped on the lights. I am blinded, yet I am also seeing clearly.

Joe’s words conflict with religious doctrines that I’ve believed for most of my life. But they also cause a powerful, ring-true resonance within me. They align with every felt experience of the Divine that I’ve ever had.

My mind is incredulous – How can this possibly be? – but my heart is beating out steady affirmation: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Soon there will be tears in my eyes, but for now I am too shocked to cry. When I do find my voice, I say, “Wait. Wait. Stop the bus. Really?”

***

For the rest of the session my fellow Participants will make (good-natured) fun of me for my reaction, and I will not mind.

Instead, I will feel old knots of fear falling away. I will think about the recorded words of Jesus in the Gospel of John: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

And as the weeks and months pass, this simple, freeing truth will return to me again and again …

God never judged me. God never judged you. There was always only love.

***

I love my friend and mentor Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book Only Love Today because every time I hold it in my hands, I remember.

I remember that day at The Clearing when my own vision cleared. And I remember that every day, every moment, is another chance to choose.

only love today

“Today I will choose love. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response . . . my gut instinct . . . my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.” – Rachel Macy Stafford

choose love

Rachel is an amazing friend and a wholehearted writer, and I can’t wait to welcome her to our You Need to Read video interview series soon! But for now, I wanted to post and let you know about her book launch.

Only Love Today releases Tuesday, March 7, so there’s still a little time to receive the pre-order bonus gifts: coloring pages, downloadable prints, a phone screen, and bookmarks.

Only Love Today

Note that I’m not an affiliate for the book, just a friend and a fan, as is Bootsie the cat. So what are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy!

Only Love Today with cat

 

***

Liked this post? Receive your free Perfectionist Recovery Toolkit, featuring Getting Real & Letting Go: A Collection of Quotes for Recovering Perfectionists, the 5 Day Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Real Email Challenge, & more!

You’ll also get posts via email & Your Weekend Wish, a fun weekly missive for subscribers only.

Enter Your Email

Solemn No Spam Vow: I promise never to share your email with anyone else.

7 thoughts on “One Sentence To Set You Free from Fear

  1. Ahhh … that feeling when the truth hits you, and you know it in your bones. Thanks for this beautifully written post, Caroline. It made me think about those days when I am extra-hard on myself and it doesn’t even occur to me that I can just … NOT be hard on myself (because no one is judging me but me!). P.S. I love the picture of Bootsie. 🙂

    • Jill, thank you for your kind words of affirmation! And what a great tie-in to your daily experience. Reminds me of another one of my favorite (paraphrased) lines from rehab: “The issue isn’t the issue; the issue is how you are with yourself as you go through the issue.”

      And thank you! I couldn’t resist a shot of Bootsie with the book … she photo-bombed my picture of Rachel’s second book, Hands Free Life, so now whenever Rachel launches a new book it’s a great excuse to take (yet another) cat picture. 🙂

  2. Renee says:

    Wow, can you see my deer-in-the-headlights look from there, too? I love that quote! I grew up believing that you had to ask for forgiveness for every little infraction, including perfectly normal, human emotions. It hasn’t been until relatively recently that I’ve begun to let myself off the hook for being human and not beating myself up over mistakes, especially since I don’t maliciously set out to hurt people. As much as possible I make amends and ask for forgiveness from those I hurt, and do my best to ensure that the mistake doesn’t repeat, as I believe that most of us do.

    We’re none of us perfect and I choose to believe that our creator(s) are benevolent and knew what they were doing when humanity was created, and, that our imperfections are the point of us being here. I believe that we all voluntarily came here to learn something in order to advance our souls, and to contribute to humanity as a whole.

    Sometimes we’re the comic relief for those around us as we learn our lessons. Sometimes, on our (fortunately) more rare, and far less-than-glorious days, we’re the poster-child of illustrating the extreme version of what not to do, or how not to handle something. But, probably far more often than we realize, we are the inspiration for a fellow traveler as we stumble and bumble along, taking in stride the lessons we learn as we strive to do the right thing. Believing that God/Source/Universe, or whatever you wish to call it, is firmly in our corner, certainly lightens the load.

    Thanks for that quote, and for the quote from your friend’s book. Very timely, indeed, and I look forward to hearing your interview with her.

    • Renee, thank you so much for this graceful, insightful comment. It is always a joy to hear from you. Your words remind me of this quote from Richard Rohr, which leads the chapter in my book draft that I’m working on right now.

      “In a Navajo rug there is always an imperfection woven into the corner. And interestingly enough, it’s where ‘the Spirit moves in and out of the rug.’ … Perfection is not the elimination of imperfection … Perfection, rather, is the ability to incorporate imperfection … That’s how the Spirit moves in or out of our lives.”

Comments are closed.