Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Driving Fear

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." -Proverbs 9:10a

This is the first of a short series of blog posts (inspired by my friend Andy Brasfield) about what I've learned over the years about the fear of the Lord, and driving in general.

When I was young, I kept hearing about how the Bible says we're supposed to fear God. Then other times angels told people not to be afraid. Other verses are very clear about how God loves us, and He wants to be our best friend. When we choose to follow God, we are free as never before. How are we supposed to be afraid of our best friend and liberator...and if He inspires fear, is He really a friend and liberator in the first place? This dichotomy has led, in my opinion, to a misunderstanding of God's nature, especially in American circles, where our culture frowns on fear and encourages friendship. We are taught that God is our friend, and we have nothing to fear. Then we see verses like 1 John 4:18, which says that "perfect love drives out fear." When we look at the verses about the fear of God, we get confused, and we often decide the word must be mistranslated. Maybe it means awe, or something else. It wasn't until I started taking driver's ed when something sunk in for me. I submit that fear means fear. Sheer, abject terror.

While learning to drive, my dad (who taught me) was very clear about the dangers of driving. He impressed upon me that a car can be a weapon, and it is vitally important to be careful, to drive defensively, to do everything possible to stay within the law and avoid getting in an accident. The point was further emphasized when he had me go to a day class taught by a professional instructor. After I got to the class, I found out that it was mainly for people who had been ordered by the courts to attend. The icebreaker for the class was for us to go around and answer the "Why are you here?" question. Everyone but me had broken the law, had DUIs, etc. I was the only one who hadn't yet obtained a license. The more I learned, the more the parallel dawned on me regarding the fear of the Lord.

Driving, and serving the Lord, are incredibly liberating. Once I got my driver's license, it was like a huge load was lifted off of me. I no longer had to depend on people giving me rides everywhere I needed to go.

Driving, and serving the Lord, are incredibly terrifying. I have been in enough accidents (more on that in a future post) to know that if I do anything out of line while driving (or someone else on the road does), I am taking my life, and the life of any passengers, in my hands.

In the same way, serving the Lord makes me free. On numerous occasions, He has given me an incredible sense of peace, and I would not trade this life for anything. I have seen Him do miracles in my life - not the least of which was how He miraculously healed my eyes from an incurable disease.

However, the Bible tells over and over about how, while God loves us deeply, our sins can drive Him to extreme measures to get our attention. Over and over in the Bible, God sent plagues, storms, diseases, opened the ground and swallowed people. Even today, He sometimes allows us to suffer the consequences of our sins to teach us to follow Him. He will allow us to get sick, sometimes even die, from choosing to abuse our bodies (by drugs, cigarettes, overeating [I'm guilty on that count], etc.). If we choose to speed, run a red light, fail to watch carefully while driving, we can get into a wreck that can cause serious repercussions.

On the other hand, we shouldn't be so terrified of driving, or of God, that we do nothing. If we go to that extreme, that can also have serious repercussions.

Yes, driving is incredibly freeing, and I love that...but I also balance it with a healthy fear of getting in an accident. That fear keeps me from making stupid mistakes while driving. It should be the same with God...and even more so. I love Him more than I can express, but I also fear Him. The problem is, I don't fear Him enough. If I love and fear driving more than I love and fear God, I need to get my priorities straight.

One thing that has stuck with me from a devotional I read years ago is the saying "If you fear God, you have nothing else to fear."

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