“Fear never gives birth to love…”
…says Henri Nouwen in his book “Lifesigns – Intimacy, Fecundity and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective”. His reflections are based on Jesus’ words in John 15 and invite the reader to move from living in a constant state of fear to living in ‘the house of love’. He writes,
“A huge network of anxious questions surrounds us and begins to guide many, if not most of our daily decisions…..Fearful questions never lead to love-filled answers….Fear engenders fear….Fear never gives birth to love…Without fully realizing it, we become anxious, nervous, worrying people caught in the questions of survival…and we tend to dismiss words spoken from the house of love as unrealistic, romantic, sentimental, pious, or just useless.”
In Nouwen’s view Intimacy, Fecundity (fruitfulness) and Ecstasy (joy) are signs of a life that is rooted in and guided by God’s love that casts out all fear. This love is life-giving. In contrast a life in the ‘house of fear’ leads to pseudo-intimacy that is nothing more than a struggle between either being too close or too distant to each other. Likewise, a fruitful life (fecundity) isn’t possible because it is hindered either by sterility (non-action) or anxious productivity. Lastly, ecstasy is obstructed by clinging to dull routine or persisting in a paralyzing rootlessness.
Love moves us away from these fears. Nouwen writes,
“To be ecstatic literally means to be outside of a static place. Thus, those who live ecstatic lives live always moving away from rigidly fixed situations and exploring new, unmapped dimensions of reality. Here we see the essence of joy. Joy is always new. Whereas there can be old pain, old grief, and old sorrow, there can be no old joy. Old joy is not joy. Joy is always connected with movement, renewal, rebirth, change — in short, with life.”
This book is a source of inspiration for our relationships – with God and with each other – and for our ministries. It creates a desire to explore and live a life in ‘the house of love’, a fruitful life of change and growth.