Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Fear. (For My Family: In Search of Wisdom.)

Photo Credit: Savage Chickens
Everyone is afraid of something, right?

Spiders, burglars, stock market crashes, aliens, terrorists, politicians and all sorts of other random things keep many of us awake at night (or at least they should, according to some newspapers).

Not me.
I will not fear such things.

The only fear I have, the only fear I need, is the fear of God. He is powerful. He is just. He is everywhere. He is the beginning and the end. He is the creator of life. And as such I fear Him. He is God, after all. If I didn't fear Him, He wouldn't be my God, the other stuff would be, in His place.

I believe He is loving. I believe He is good. I believe He is compassionate and merciful. But I also believe there is good reason to fear Him. And it has nothing to do with thinking He may be some kind of unpredictable monster.

Lately I've been reading through the book of Proverbs, trying to uncover some gem of wisdom relating to parenthood, something that would underpin my days of stumbling awkwardly from one mistake to the next. I've become desperate in recent days and weeks, particularly since homeschooling James, to improve my mum-skills, to be the best parent I can be. I've wanted to do this job since I was a little girl playing with my dolls, and yet it leaves me feeling more inadequate and ill-equipped than anything I have ever attempted in my life before.

(Sounds dramatic - feels true!)

I should be enjoying this. I should be good at it. I believe God wants me to parent with knowledge and understanding, and not blindly, with compassion and kindness instead of automatic reaction. I want to be a good mum. I want to be better. And for that, I need to know what I should and shouldn't be doing. I need to be aware of how I can bless my children. I need to understand their personalities, their strengths and their needs.

I need wisdom.

Throughout the first few chapters of Proverbs, we read the words of a father teaching his son about life. He pleads with his child to seek knowledge and understanding. It is as worth searching for as precious silver, he says.  He tells him that the starting point should be the fear of God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." It is the very foundation upon which wisdom is to be laid.

What is this fear of God? Are we really to be afraid of Him?

Some people play down this concept of fear. They explain it away by downgrading it to 'awe'. A sort of breathless wonder, or extreme regard for something we love but don't quite understand. The trouble is, the word 'awesome' is applied to so many things these days (waves, hair styles, hot dogs) it's hardly fit for talking about how we should feel about God.

I feel there is another way to understand this call to fear God. I think that we humans are naturally fearful, and that God knows it. And so He gives us the option: we can choose to fear Him (as we are also called to love Him) or we can choose to fear the world's violent, unpredictable evils. I believe that the fear of God is in direct opposition to the fear of man. One cancels out the other. When you truly fear Him, you begin to understand Him, He honours you with His wisdom, and we see that the world can do nothing to us that God cannot deal with.

What does Jesus say? He tells his disciples not to be afraid: "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world" and also tells them to "fear the one who has the power to destroy both soul and body". Is it possible that the two are connected? Could it be that as you fear God, the fear of man leaves your heart? I think we need to hold this fear within the context of our knowledge of God's character as shown to us in Jesus - his compassion, his relationship, his mercy and his healing. But I think we need to hold it all the same.

Proverbs 14:26 says "Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress. And for their children it will be a refuge." A refuge. A place of safety. A place to run to in times of trouble. In fearful days, we can feel safe in the knowledge that the only one we need fear is God. We fear God because He is truly awesome, we love Him because He is truly good, and because of this we are afraid of nothing.

And so my search for wisdom continues. For now I feel like I am starting in the right place.

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