I decided a little while ago that I wanted to write a letter to God, and share some of it with people too. After I decided this, I started reliving a lot of old stories. I thought that if I revived every old experience, I would be able to see how I’ve changed or see how gracious God’s been with me by using my past to craft something new and exciting. But instead I found myself apathetic towards spending much time writing and seemed to have spiraled myself back into shame for things I received forgiveness for a long time ago. This idea that I could relive experiences to encourage or relate to other people ended up turning into this somewhat depressing “I-can’t-believe-I-actually-did-that” mantra for a solid week. Just a few nights ago I talked about a time when I did something pretty stupid. As I went on, I found that I was just more sad than I was thankful that I’m not there anymore, and it was fairly annoying. Trying to defend or rationalize decisions is exhausting, mostly because it’s not something I can really do. And also because I don’t like to consider how many ways one person can choose to live, or revisiting the times when I believe I chose the wrong way. At least not the best way.
When I thought about my sometimes erratic faith and course of choices, I thought that I do not fear God enough. I mean I recognize God is far more vast, multifaceted, and large in every sense of the word, than I understand. But I don’t really meditate on that much, I guess. Maybe it’s because I can’t quite understand, or maybe it’s because I don’t want to feel bad about anything in my life, or maybe (and this is the most likely) it’s because I’m just lazy and it’s hard spending all this time learning about Jesus and reading and talking to him and sharing all my feelings that are ugly or sad or great or angry or stupid. I mean it’s a big commitment when you think about it.
I imagine it’s really hard, impossible actually, for us to properly fear God, when we cannot wholly understand Him. That’s part of my excuse anyway. The other is that I don’t usually like hearing about the “fear of God” because it’s foreign to think of a fear that I don’t hate or that doesn’t paralyze me.
When I was in the second grade, I created “Bemix” with my best friend, Kathryn, who was a being of some sort that lived in our houses. We created him so that we would always have a game to play. We climbed around our attics and made up stories about how he followed us around. Once she spilled red nail polish in the sink and we made up a story about how it was ghost blood. (Which, I mean, come on. I had seen Casper. I knew enough about ghosts to know they cannot bleed.) But after a while I ended up legitimately living in fear to some extent. Of course, I didn’t actually believe a ghost named Bemix followed me around or lived under my bed eating Oreos with one hand, punching my mattress with the other, but telling myself I was afraid all day made me actually afraid at night. I accidentally screwed myself over; I couldn’t sleep well for months. There was nothing tangible I could fear, and I couldn’t provide a reasonable answer as to what exactly it was that I dreaded. I suppose I was just afraid of being afraid, and I hated it. I know that this is not the type of fear we have for God. The two aren’t even comparable. I wouldn’t wrap my knuckles around the top of my mattress, hang my head upside down, and talk to Bemix about how my day is going, or ask him about love and patience. Mostly because he would just cackle and sputter cookie crumbs at me. But also because I had a worry and panic type of fear for him, and that didn’t seem appropriate for someone who saved me, loves me, provides for me, and listens to me. I couldn’t compare Jesus to Bemix, even though I was supposed to be afraid of both. The type of fear I had when I was younger isn’t the same as reverence or wonder at a Being that I don’t really understand, but I had to break apart fear to see its forms and to understand that. I think if I considered rightful veneration or fear more often, I probably wouldn’t do a lot of the things that I do. I wouldn’t have to rationalize so many things. In Job, it says that fear of the Lord is a beginning step to wisdom and that makes a lot of sense to me.
I have a friend named Donald Miller. He doesn’t know we’re friends yet, but I’m confident we would be if the situation ever arose in which we were toasting marshmallows together and talking about life. Anyway, he says that he fears God because “He is so other.” Impossible to grasp, and in many ways unknown. I buy that that may be reason enough for some fear. Then I considered that maybe the fact that He is so “other” is also why it takes me an extra minute to accept the newness He gives me. Whenever I’m told that I’m not only forgiven, but the things I’ve done are forgotten, as if they’ve never happened, I have no immediate reaction. Because this idea is the most exotic part to me. Like He’s lying to sound like a better guy. Even when I forgive someone, I can’t forget what has happened. Not because I’m bitter, but because I’m incapable of forgetting. If I forgot everything once I was over it, someone would furrow their brow and call some fancy doctor who would ask me if I sleep walk or drink too much. So when I sat down to think about all the things I’ve learned from my mistakes or “ehh, why did I do that” moments, I was annoyed. Because they still felt somewhat fresh and relevant, because I hadn’t forgotten them. I couldn’t separate the bad from the good aspects of these moments, and I guess I wished I could have. But then I realized it. If I HAD forgotten or could see only the good, maybe I’d do the same thing all over again. And I’d just be running in one big circle, and then it all just gets boring and stupid. Understanding that we’re not meant to forget things seemed to reiterate how different He is really is from me. And it’s kind of scary because I don’t understand. But it also feels really good.