Recently, a very good man, a Bishop in the Old Catholic church, wrote to me about his concern that I live in fear of God rather than in the light of God’s infinite love and mercy. His message made me realize that I had been, up to that point, too vague about how to fear God. I wrote him:
Thank you. Your words are comforting, though I don’t have much fear of God, except the kind of fear one naturally has toward something of incomprehensible greatness. Standing before God must be like standing before the Grand Canyon but on a larger scale–a healthy fear, not at some malicious intent of the Canyon, but of my inconsequence to its existence, majesty, and enormity. Or like the first time, at 17, I drove a car solo from my house to White Castle. The liberation of a 409 horse-power conveyance and the fear of what that power, trusted into my hands and mind, could do. I loved that car, but I feared it, too, with the fear that drew me into its wide bench seats again and again.
Christ spoke of the meaninglessness of loving those who love you, how much weaker that it is than loving one’s enemies. Likewise, it seems that trusting something that is not in some way fearsome is of little purpose. As with the great Aslan in Narnia, the children’s trust in him earned benefits that could never have come from trusting the inoccuous but kind beavers. The kids feared not what the lion would do to them, but would they could not do without the lion.
I do trust God; I do not trust myself. Chesterton wrote about how annoyed he became when a fellow said, “You why that man will succeed? Because he believes in himself!” Poppycock, said Chesterton. Every drooling nut in Bedlam believes in himself–some believe themselves to be Napoleon more confidently than Napoleon himself.
The times in my life when I have trusted myself were the times I pleased God the least. They were times of high income, swooning, gorgeous women, great clothes, and some measure of fame. But the first shall be last, and I have moved to the end of the line, not by God’s will, but by my own actions and neglects. That’s why my e-mail signature quotes the profound statement of C. S. Lewis; God told me, “All right then, have it your way.”
I think the fear you speak of is another kind: It’s when you realize that God has cut you loose, left you to your own devices. Man’s devices, at least this man’s, are dangerous things. It’s when a creature has wandered away from the saving graces of the Almighty and the devil turns on him and says, “Do you feel free now? Untethered from Him? Free to indulge the senses and curiosities He gave you only to deny their satisfaction?
That’s when the line from the Finale in Pippin comes to mind:
I’M NOT A RIVER OR A GIANT BIRD
THAT SOARS TO THE SEA
AND IF I’M NEVER TIED TO ANYTHING
I’LL NEVER BE FREE
I know that I am not good enough to earn salvation, but God’s infinite love and mercy will save me, have saved me, so long as I allow Him, in spite of my dangerous free will, to live in me and work through me. Sometimes I think that the Grand Canyon represents, not God, but the enormity of my own freedom which He has given. Imagine how free one would feel sailing through the air above the Canyon’s unforgiving floor. But that freedom is temporary, and eternity, an eternity I chose among all others, awaits me at the bottom. As I said, I fear myself, but I thank God for the freedom to do fearful things.
You are ever in prayers, and I ask you not to fret over my worries.
Showing no fear, respect, or love of God, the ACLU wants to end “Choose Life” license plates. (What Attitude Problem?)
MereComments, always a must-read, has more on the depravity of the ACLU.
Captain’s Quarters has more on religious intolerance in New York. As I’ve written before, these people don’t disbelieve in God, the hate Him and fear Him in the bad way–they the criminal hates the police or the plagiarist hates the researcher.