A Safe and Comfortable God?
by Sheila Pritchard
Sometimes I wonder if we are in danger of domesticating God; taming God into a manageable loving companion who has already done everything for us in Jesus so we are free to sit back comfortably knowing that all will be well in the end.
Of course there's wonderful truth in that picture of God. God's character is one of amazing, unconditional love. God does want to be our constant companion. In his life, death and resurrection Jesus has done for us what we could never do and he does want us to be secure and rest in that. So it's true, God is like this. But is it the whole truth? I don't think so.
What about the wild, unpredictable, breathtaking God who thunders out of the darkness on quaking mountains?1 What about the God who tells people to walk into the middle of the sea or traipse round city walls with musical instruments instead of weapons?2
What about the Spirit who descends like flames of fire on the heads of timid disciples and sends them out to reckless exploits in a hostile world?5 Have you been in touch with this God recently?
I suspect we have hardly begun to touch the edges of this Mystery, this wonder-full, awe-full, majestic being we call God. I don't want a comfortable God who is little more than my security blanket. I want a God who sweeps me off my feet and has me alert with all my senses tingling with that strange mixture of awe and excitement which is the fear of God. If the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom6 I want to discover what that means.
In contemporary language 'fear' usually describes a negative emotion we want to avoid. Being afraid makes us hold back, run away, close down, narrow our world into the safest margins we can. If we equate the fear of God with being afraid of God I think we've missed the path to wisdom.
Psychologists tells us that fear and excitement are part of the same continuum. Energy is generated for action. Sometimes it is for appropriately self protective action and sometimes for leaping forward into new experiences.
You've probably experienced the mix of fearful excitement: standing on the high diving board, pushing off on skis down a snowy mountainside, making a risky life choice and not knowing where it will lead . . . . Adrenaline is pumping, the senses are alert, emotions are heightened. The line between fear, excitement and awe is hard to find.
At this point 'fear' blends into exhilaration, taking us forward into the unknown with an abandonment that is the opposite of self protection. Maybe this gives us a clue as to what the fear of God may be like.
No one puts it better than CS Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In this allegorical story Aslan represents Jesus. Mr and Mrs Beaver are explaining to the children who Aslan is:
I believe we can dare to meet the wild, exhilarating God who "isn't safe" when we know that he's good, he's loving, he's the King. Then we can come with knees knocking and hands outstretched whispering: "Yes! Wherever you take me - yes!"