Is our world shrinking or expanding?

Fear shrinks our world.
Love expands it.

But not exactly in a mirroring way. Fear makes us shrink our world by closing off options. We can’t go there/say that/do this/meet them because of a dread of “What if?” When we can’t face down the “What if’s”, they multiply, closing doors of opportunity until we lock ourselves up in a safe room, sometimes literally but usually figuratively.

The mirror to that fear is a mix of curiosity and courage. Curiosity can turn “What if?” from a door-closer to an invitation, from fear to hope. And courage is the fuel to prove that the fears of “What if” weren’t realistic anyway.

Love expands your world in a different way. The fear/curiosity axis is still, primarily, self-centered. Love expands our world by expanding our heart. When love nudges us to care about someone that we didn’t before, it expands our world to include their wants and dreams and hopes and, well, fears.

Because while most of our fears are Rooseveltian, far more powerful than the thing behind the fear, a few are well-grounded. And while I may not personally be at risk of attack from deadly weapons, there are folks who are. If I allow myself to love them (as, by the way, God does), I have to take a measure of their fear into my heart too. Those of us with kids know what it is like to have our hearts walk around in another body. God has to deal with that all the freaking time, all over the world, because that’s the downside of love’s expanded world.

So a lot of people who couldn’t find Ukraine on a map now have fallen in love with the Ukrainian people and fear for their safety. That is, I think, a progression toward being what God hopes of us. Glory to Ukraine.

Let us also stay open to loving and fearing for those in Syria, and Yemen, and a whole bunch of other places, too. They too go to sleep wondering if tomorrow will bring lethal violence or starvation. They too would benefit from our love-expanding care. (We too would benefit from having our hearts stretched to see their courage.)

This Lent, may God stretch all our hearts and our worlds just a little bit more.

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