Friday, January 15, 2010

a graceful God.

I think somehow, all the thoughts that are floating around in my head connect.

Where are Jordan and I meant to be? Do we need to have answers now, or is waiting okay?

Does our God want us to live in fear of Him, or in love with Him?

Is there such thing as a wrong decision? A bad choice?

Does my God punish people with earthquakes (a la Pat Robertson) or does He love people with healing?

I think, deep down, I know the answers to these questions. But lately, I've been struggling with the why.

It comes with being married to a logical law student, I suppose. When we get into spiritual discussions, I am the strong-headed one. I know exactly what I think, and I don't intend to change. Jordan, though, ever the lawyer, approaches things a little bit differently. He wants to examine, to analyze.

Is one of us right, and the other wrong?

I believe in a God of love.

That is all I know.

We teach the middle school kids at church, and our latest study has us reading Hinds Feet on High Places (which I highly recommend, by the way). Do you know it? In the allegory, Much-Afraid is literally crippled by her fear. She can't be with the Shepherd up on the High Places until she learns to leave behind the fear that entangles her. 

The kids we teach are interesting. Not always well-behaved, I'm not sure anything we say is getting through. I forget--silly me-- that God can always get through.

And last night, as we opened up about our fears (Jordan: that he will never make the right choice; me: that I won't be where God wants me, won't be able to use the gifts I've been given), my heart was broken. One after one, these precious children of God said to us: "I'm scared I'm going to hell."


These beautiful, sometimes slightly disrespectful, probably very misunderstood children, were fearful of their salvation. These redeemed souls weren't sure they were "good enough." (Their words, not mine.) I wanted to cry.

We drew pictures of our fears. They were sobering, frightful pictures. And I made them tear them up.

Because I am a firm believer in 1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear.

We ripped those fears to pieces and threw them in the garbage, because I truly believe that's what God wants us to do.

The kids were confused. "I thought God commanded us to fear Him!" one pointed out.

"There's a difference between being terrified of God and being respectful of His power," I said. "God wants us to have the freedom that comes with loving Him. He wants us to obey Him out of love, not fear."

One boy looked shocked. "But without rules, I'm afraid I'd do the wrong thing." A girl nodded. "I'm afraid I'm going to mess up."

These are redeemed children of God, and they are crippled by fear. I'm afraid they have this image of God sitting high up in the clouds, looking down at them, ready to strike with a lightening bolt at the first sign of error. (Which, I hate to break it to them, but if we served a God like that, they--and me and Jordan, for that matter-- would have been struck a long time ago.)

Ironically, as we were trying to convince these children that obedience out of love surpasses obedience out of fear (am I right? challenge me if I'm not), Pat Robertson was making his now-infamous comments on national television. I won't repeat them here. You can Google them if necessary.

The point is, Pat Robertson reminded me of these kids.

Limiting our God to someone who works on this table of punishments and rewards. As if He hands out earthquakes and Hell like spankings and gold stars.

As if His deep and compassionate love for people plays no role in how He runs this spinning sphere.

When it does.

Oh, does it!

Before we left for class that night, Jordan and I got into what I like to call a discussion. Some would call it an argument, and although I believe many times arguments should remain private, I hope Jordan won't mind my using our little discussion as a parallel lesson here.

We were arguing/discussing our future.

We've both got applications out everywhere: Jordan for clerkships, me for grad school. So far, he's only had one offer.

And so we talked. About whether or not a decision needed to be made. If we should wait or jump.

We both have reasons for thinking what we think, some of them right, some of them wrong.

But as I sit here thinking about it, I realize there is one thing connecting all this:

those kids

that man

our future.

It's fear.

Jordan, forever fearful of a misstep that will cost him... what? His salvation? His soul? God's love?

Me, fearful about gifts that will go unused... why? Because God can't use me wherever He wants me? Because I'm afraid of losing control?

Those middle schoolers, afraid of an angry Father punishing His children.

Pat Robertson, afraid of what might happen if he and the theology he's lived by for years is wrong.

We are oh-so-fearful

Of an oh-so-graceful God.

Who has the power to cause earthquakes and move mountains.

The power to kill us all right now.

But who doesn't.

Because He killed His Son instead.

So that we wouldn't be afraid.

Of messing up. Of missing a step. Of missing out.

I think His answer is, and always has been, love.


Betsy said...

Annie, this is a beautiful post. I couldn't have said it better myself.

jenna said...

Such powerful words.
Thank you for so eloquently reminding us of these truths.

Jessica said...

i love this post. i am too often paralyzed by fear. i want to overcome that and cling to these truths you've stated. i'm still learning. i've reached a point where i'm ready to lock myself in a room with god, so to speak, and work our relationship out. i've not been his friend for a while, but rather, i've used the fact that i know him as a tool to maintain a certain image with others. i'm done with that. i haven't really known him for a long time. i'm over calling him a friend and not living like it's the truth. thank you for this post. it was EXACTLY the encouragement i needed.

Lindsey said...

I miss you. This is so powerful. And so right. I needed to hear this. Thank you.