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Opening up to love.

I am not a particularly fearful person. I am not afraid of the dark. I am not afraid of dogs, not even big ones. I have never been afraid of blood and hardly--except for the first time--of plunging my lancet through a patient's skin so I could perform the surgery that seemed necessary. Nor was I afraid of venturing, by myself, to another continent, or of living and sleeping alone without security bars in a house in South Africa.

But this last year has made me recognize that I have other fears, which are no less important and probably much more fundamental. Fundamental because they block the establishment of real human relationships. They erect barriers between me and the people around me which are hard to Cross. They have made it difficult for me to feel close to my family or to my colleagues, to be part of a group, of my class at school, of society in my region.

Like many of us in Europe--perhaps because of our `enlightened' education or feelings of superiority or pride--I have been afraid of revealing my deepest feelings. Until recently, it was impossible for me to admit, even deep down, how much I need both to be able to give love to someone else and to dare to receive it; how much I need to take the risk of stepping out on this fragile wind- and storm-tossed bridge, where the thin ropes could break and throw me into the void and the unknown.

This fear--which comes, almost literally, from my guts, and has the power to freeze me--is beginning to melt, little by little. It has taken years of the African sun and warmth to start the thaw. It has taken years for me to dare to use my talents, but also to stop trying to hide my mistakes, my flaws or my inadequacies. And bit by bit, the Almighty Creator has shown me how to unpeel the protective spines around the artichoke of my heart, the spines of taboos, rules and judgements. They have fallen away as my encounter with my African friends has become deeper and deeper, as I learn to love them by seeking to accompany them through their journey of liberation. And as I have slowly begun to understand--after many years--the destructive effect of apartheid and our Western `knowing best'. And as I begin to let myself really cry out at their sufferings, like those in Rwanda, to lie awake because my friend who has been tortured cannot sleep or because he is poor and destitute.

And suddenly, I am beginning to understand a little more of Jesus's love for the lepers, ostracized by society as Aids victims are today, and for the adulterous woman, the rich young man and the hardworking fishermen.

And I am in the process of discovering the great unconditional love of God, whom I can trust without condition; the love which lets us go because of his infinite respect for us. I must love those who are dear to me in such a way that they feel that they are also completely free, just as God, the Lord of the Universe, of heaven and of earth, leaves me free. In this love, there is suffering and joy, but fear no longer has the victory and cannot paralyse me any more.
COPYRIGHT 2001 For A Change
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Garin, Christiane
Publication:For A Change
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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