It's hard to explain how it felt...
Spring break was exactly what I wanted for a break, a chance to calm my heart, be refreshed, and experience peace and joy.
First week of work had me experiencing all the things from the previous year all compressed together.
That's a lot to process.
Over the course of the week, I had many things to learn and experience. It's good to know that even the teacher is still a student. ;-)
The first point I pondered was about the meaning of fear. You know how we are often told in the Bible, "Do not be afraid," and even more confusing "Fear the LORD your God."
As a kid I always wondered about that. Why should I have to fear God? Isn't He supposed to be good? So if I love Him, why should I fear Him?
Out of curiosity I looked up fear in my handy dandy electronic dictionary (a must for living in Japan!). It was kind of lacking, so I decided to look it up on the internet instead. Here is what I found:
1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. Synonyms: foreboding, apprehension, consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm. Antonyms: courage, security, calm, intrepidity.
2. a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights. Synonyms: phobia, aversion; bête noire, bogy, bogey, bugbear. Antonyms: liking, fondness, penchant, predilection.
3. concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone's safety.
4. reverential awe, especially toward God: the fear of God. Synonyms: awe, respect, reverence, veneration.
5. something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; something a person is afraid of: Cancer is a common fear.
verb (used with object)
7. to regard with fear; be afraid of. Synonyms: apprehend, dread.
8. to have reverential awe of. Synonyms: revere, venerate, honor.
9. to consider or anticipate (something unpleasant) with a feeling of dread or alarm: It's about to snow again, I fear.
10. Archaic . to experience fear in (oneself): I fear me he will ne'er forgive us.
verb (used without object)Idioms
11. to have fear; be afraid: I'll go with you, so do not fear!
12. to feel apprehensive or uneasy (usually followed by for ): In this time of economic instability, I fear for my children's future.
13. for fear of / that, in order to prevent or avoid the risk of: She is afraid to say anything for fear of the consequences.
14. put the fear of God in / into, to cause to be greatly afraid.
“What we, following the Scriptures, call the fear of God, is not terror or dread, but an awe that holds God in reverence.”(It even came with citations! cool!)
—Martin Luther, The communion of the Christian with God: Described on the basis of Luther's statements, by Wilhelm Herrmann, transl. by J. Sandys Stanyon, revised by R. W. Stewart (1906)
I had been told before that it does mean honor, but even though I know this, it still didn't always make sense.
But thing I was thinking this week...
I'm not really someone who fears many things. Sure I get a scare when I'm in a dangerous situation. I mean, I react if there was a near miss with a car. I'm not a big fan of cockroaches and I have a nagging fear of being single forever. But a lot of the things that other people are afraid of, I'm not. Well, physical things. More than the fear of being single forever is possibly my fear of intimacy. Fear of relationships. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of failure. These kinds of fears I have in spades. And they haunt me. Oh how they haunt me.
And somewhere in the midst of thinking about my fears, I realized something... When you fear something, you give it power over you. You have given it the power to change, shape and sometimes even define your life. The more you fear something, the more power it has over you. This seems to me to be the conjoined twin of idolatry. Fear gives power.
Actually, when you think about it, it's not so much of a surprise. I mean look how often it shows up in the epic stories. The hero must always battle fear before he/she can prevail.
So fear is the second cousin of idolatry. This could be a good reason why God kept telling us not to do it.
But as I was thinking about it more, it dawned on me... Fear is not just an emotion that we have to battle with: it's at the core of our sin!
If, when we fear something, we give it power over us, we have not honored God. In fact, we are not trusting God. Remember: fear means that we are anticipating something bad. So we give power to something else, because we doubt that God a) is strong enough to save us, b) is good enough to save us or c) cares enough to save us.
We don't trust God.
So we fear.
Isn't this the first sin? Eve doubts God's goodness. She thinks that God might be holding out on her. When confronted with doubt, Eve gives fear power, and in her fear that God was keeping something from her, she took it herself. Her sin was not eating the fruit that God told her not to (yes the action is also sin, but I'm talking about the heart of things.) Her sin was not trusting God.
And this is the legacy left to us.
Our world has been invaded by fear.
When I fear that I will never get married, I accuse God of holding out on me. I don't trust His love for me and His words that everything is for my good. I accept that "my good" does not always equal my happiness. I am not trusting God with my life.
When I fear to love people, when I fear that they will hurt me, I am not trusting God to validate me, to comfort me and that His love will sustain me. I have given others the power over my happiness and sense of worth.
When I fear I will fail, I am not trusting that God can redeem all things and work through them for my good and the good of others. I have given myself the power over my destiny and the responsibility. I no longer look to God as my King and ruler, but as a judge on the sidelines with the power to raise or lower my score according to my performance.
When I fear pain, I allow it to rule me.
When I fear loneliness, I allow my actions to be dictated.
When I fear taking chances, I demonstrate that I do not trust God with my future.
When I fear, my heart builds up walls to lock myself up behind.
Fear is a prison.
So I guess the lesson I learned was: Fear gives power to the object of fear. It is almost the same as idolatry. So the only thing I should fear, should be God. God should be the sole object of my fear because fear is a form of respect or acknowledgement.
So now, for me, I can see that my fear is my sin. Giving up fear frees me to love and live life in true freedom. Perhaps this is the "life to the full" that Jesus promised, that has ever eluded me. I have held too much fear in my heart to allow life in.
So for now, I would like to calm my heart and mind, and stop expecting or giving power to the bad things and bad possibilities in life. If I trust God, mountains can be moved. God is more powerful than all these things. And God loves me. So me cowering in fear is just stupid and stubborn.