One little phrase from David sums up this strange relationship we have with the love of God. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him. Love is only for the frightened. Camaraderie is reserved for those who are willing to be weak. Jesus can only be our homeboy if we are scared to death of him. Strange, this love of God.
Fear is something we take only as a negative emotion. We are taught to face our fear of darkness- in our house my brothers and I egged each other on to take walking laps around the house in the dead of night. We faced our fear of defeat when we stepped onto the field, the court, the ice or the Astroturf. We faced our fear of heights when we get on an airplane to fly to grandma’s. We faced our fear of rejection the first time we approached a member of the opposite sex and asked them to the dance.
When I learned to drive, the big test was taking my dad’s old little jeep-ish Ford Bronco II down through a canyon and up the other side. If we could handle that task, accounting for the clutch, the breaks, the gas and a thousand other variables, we were rewarded with the awesome responsibility of driving dad’s old truck. Those were good times, but I would use the word terrified to account for at least one emotion every day from the ages of sixteen to eighteen- even if I would never have copped to it at the time.
As the years between high school Casey and current Casey build one on top of another, I have realized that I was not alone in this fear. We were all afraid in high school just as much, if not more than when we walked slowly and resolutely around the house, braving the pitch-black night.
Somewhere along the way, however, a strange thing happens to each one of us. We stop being afraid. We have faced our fears and conquered them. Now, at last, we are successful at business, family, finances and life. We have arrived. The only trouble is that we would all have given the same answer when we were eighteen. In our arrogance, we banish the feeling of terror to a distant tower and wipe our memories of our weak former life of trembling.
Or am I alone in this?
In our defiance toward God and betrayal to ourselves, we have snubbed the very nose on our proverbial face. We are afraid- every bit as afraid as we were when we were children. We have all known how it feels to be powerless when a loved one sick. We have all felt the dread, from time to time, when the bills are due. And some of us know ourselves well enough to spend plenty of our energy stressing out about our own shortcomings. We are afraid of everything, it seems, but God himself. Is it any wonder that we have known so little of the love of God? His love requires fear and we are too petrified to own up to the presence of fear in our hearts. But here is the voice of the Lord, one more time, calling us to his side.
He calls us to fear. We would be completely nuts to see the sun rise tomorrow and refuse to tremble, just a bit, at the magnitude of the greater light that rules the day. We are such frail creatures, why are we ashamed of our inability to make and sustain our success in the eyes of others? What would our lives look like if, instead of fearing fear itself, we could place our fear in our Maker? The answer is nothing that we would predict.
As we take daily stock of ourselves in relation to the Almighty, a funny thing starts to happen. We start to admire him. We start to trust him. We start to feel his forgiveness. We start to see his plan- or at least that he has one! We start to admit that we have been lying to ourselves- we are afraid. Then we start to rest from our myriads of our reasons to be afraid.
All we can do for now is get started. The love of God will be growing in us till the day we die and only then will we be made perfect, complete, whole and ready to love and be loved. But we can sure get started on the journey.
And it is this Advent time of year that points us to the greatest display of friendship, fear and love we can ever know. Jesus makes himself man and calls us his friends. The Almighty stoops down low- really low- and gives us a fear to rest in.
Friendship is reserved for those who will fear the God who is for us. Let us be wise. Let us fear and so be loved.