When was the last time you were afraid of God?

5 10 2009

Intro:

Continuing in my process through the God Encounters book – today, chapter 2.4

Questions:

  • What part of your life forgets to tremble?

I don’t tremble.  I haven’t trembled in years.  It’s not who I am.  I fix things – if something is scary, I fix it, subdue it, avoid it, or crush it.  I’m not saying this is the best way to handle things, it’s just what I’ve learned.  If I can’t fix it, I get a bigger hammer.

As I write that, I’m impressed to explore the suppress, subdue, and/or crush scenario.  Hmmm…

So, I suppose the answer is- in all aspects.

Whoa. Note to self: Need some work here.  This is a spiritual discipline that I not only need to work on, but I didn’t know it existed.

  • When was the last time you were afraid of God?  What caused your fear?

As mentioned in the book, maybe we’ve done such a good job rejecting Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, that we’ve forgotten that fear and trembling are OK.

However, I think I’m afraid now.  Afraid that God won’t live up to the promises I cling to.  Will He really take care of us?  Will He really shield us from persecution?  Will He really see us through this mess?

We only have enough money for two more house payments.  What happens God?  What happens next?  Did we hear you wrong?  Did we misunderstand?  What if our theology is wrong?  Will you still take care of us?

Over the past several months, since my Smiling Son was weaned, I’ve had the delightful opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with him.  It’s really been fun, exciting, rewarding, and meaningful.  There have been times where I can tell that he just adores me.  However, something happened recently.  Mommy and Darling Daughter went to an event and it was just the boys at home.  Suddenly, he got shy, timid, and maybe even a bit afraid of his Dad.

I was taken aback some.  He hadn’t acted that way with me ever.  Of course I adapted, but it was obvious that he was still quite attached to his Mommy and hadn’t quite developed that trust level with me yet.  It was as if he was looking at me, thinking, “Do you have what it takes to take care of me?  Do you know where the food and diapers are?  What if I start crying?  Will you be able to handle that?  Maybe you ought to call Mommy right now – just in case?  Maybe you ought to get her over here… um, now – just in case I start crying or something.”

So how did I handle this?  Well, a less secure parent might have been hurt and wounded to the core.  I could have taken it as an affront to my competence – or worse, as a doubting of my unconditional love of him.  But I didn’t.  I realized this was his issue, not mine.  I backed off and gave him some space.  I dialed up the fun quotient and turned on the attraction.  IOW, attraction, not promotion.  It had moderate success.  We didn’t end up with a wailing toddler begging for his Mommy – but he was sure glad when Mommy got home.

Where did I learn this? From watching others.

I’ve watched people who seemingly adore children or pets.  They walk in the door and immediately they want said children to snuggle with them.  But, um, those said children don’t know this stranger.  They have no relationship – no trust.  The kids hang back in apparent shyness.  My mother was one of those people – loved kids and was dying to snuggle with them.  Kids avoided her.

What I do is basically ignore the kids.  Say hi, smile gently, but don’t try to touch them (handshake, high-5, etc) – just focus on the tasks at hand, or the adults I came to see.  Before too long, the kids are my friend.  Same with pets – but for different reasons.  I’m not naturally drawn to other people’s dogs (especially yappy, little dogs) – or cats.  But by ignoring them, pretty soon all cats end up in my lap. (sigh)

Since that experience with my Smiling Son, we have continued to grow our relationship.  In fact when I ran a quick errand to the store Friday afternoon, he caught my attention, thumped his chest and said, “Me? Me?”  He desperately wanted to go with me – and we had a great time together.

So, here’s how I see it.

I’m hanging back, wondering: “Are you up for this God?  Do you know where the food is?  What if I start crying?  Will you know what I need?  What if I misbehave, are you going to whack me?”  Where’s this going?  Is Mommy ever coming back?  No one consulted me on this change?  I’m not so sure I can really trust you…

Is it possible that God has adopted an attraction model also?  Is He just waiting for me to come to Him?

I think so.  I believe I don’t need to be afraid.

Before my kids could talk – and long before they could even begin to express why they were crying – they still had needs.  As a parent Dad (Mom’s have an intuitive skill/knowledge – they just know.  I always skipped the 20 questions and just asked the Mom – it was quicker), it is our job to play 20 questions and figure out why they’re crying.  But here’s the deal – just because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, that didn’t mean that I abandoned my kids.  Even if I didn’t understand their pleas, I didn’t leave them to their own devices.

But also, children never stop asking until they get what they need.  And in those early years, they get everything they ask for.  When they get older, they try to get more than they need – and we, as parents, use our judgement to determine whether they need it or not.  We look at the big picture, the little picture, the needs vs. wants, the treat vs. spoiling, the special occasion vs. routine, and so on, and so forth, et cetera, blah, blah, blah…

My conclusion on this. It is my “job” to ask.  It is God’s job to answer.  Sometimes I’m the one-year old and sometimes I’m the 13-year old.  Sometimes I cry and babble inconsolably – sometimes I throw a tantrum – and sometimes I want something that is not only unnecessary, but downright harmful.

If I really need it, He will give it to me.  If I don’t need it – He will think about it.  If it is harmful, he won’t let me have it.

  • What strikes profound reverence or awe in you? Explain.

Impossible answers to prayer always amaze me.  Either physically impossible, or psychic impossibilities.

10 years ago I was running out of money, soon to be married, and at a dead-end.  As I surrendered that, God showed up in the form of an email offering me a job.  All I could do is weep.

A year later, while going through the one-week church planter assessment process, I was at a crossroads in my life.  I had moved to Michigan to attend the seminary, but I wasn’t convicted that I was staying – so I didn’t unpack.  I attended church planting assessment and seminary orientation at the same time.  Towards the end of the week, while having some QT3 with God, I felt His presence.  It was intense, for it felt like He’d been silent for over nine months.  Since calling me into full-time ministry, I hadn’t really heard from Him.  But that day He showed up.

It was as if He had His hand on my shoulder and was saying, “I’ve been here the whole time.” I knew in that moment that I would be staying in the seminary and not doing a church plant anytime soon.  When the church planting assessment team sat down with me the next day to tell me the same thing, I just nodded my head knowingly.

It is these moments that inspire awe.

So here’s a self-devised question: Why can’t I anticipate that awe?  Why not act as if?  As if the answer has already been received – and start doing the awe thing already.

When my kids see me do something that would be impossible to them, they stand there, mouths agape, laughing, giggling, and begging me to do it again.  So, once again I toss the orange in the air and bounce it off my bicep and back into my hand.  Over and over, and they laugh.

  • How would you define the difference between the fear the disciples experienced and the fear being advocated in Deuteronomy 10?

The disciples were afraid, God asks us to revere Him.

  • In what ways can fearing and loving God happen simultaneously?  Can you love God and yet fear Him?  Explain.

Probably – or He wouldn’t have asked us to do it.

Questions like this reveal the superficiality of my faith.

Prayer:

Father God – take me to a deeper level – please.  Oh, you are?  Yeah, I was afraid of that…

Discussion:

Saturday night while cooking dinner, I put my iPod on random to play on the home stereo.  Whenever I do this, I pray that God will direct the music selections.  He always comes through.  The following song came on – it comes from the first Jars of Clay album that was pretty much my theme from 1995 to 1999.  This song, as I listened to it the other night, is a prayer I’ve been praying for several years.  The Lord is in the midst of answering this prayer.

Scary? YES!

Needed? Yes.

Trusting? I’m learning?

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