When I wrote “Waves and Shadows” I made two starkly opposing points. In Part 1 I suggested that God aims to get us standing on our own two feet. In Part 2 I suggested that God calls us to depend on him and on those he has put around us.
Having seemingly contradicted myself, I wanted to bring the two together here. Of course, at one level each of the messages helps avoid taking the other to extremes. Our call to live in a state of interdependence is not a call to retreat into a cosy enclave. Our call to get out and do God’s work is not a call to self-sufficiency. But there’s another unifying factor…
It’s a time of year that parents and teachers know well. This week our household will see no fewer than five Christmas plays and concerts. Fragments of songs are being merrily sung and scraped on the violin. Costumes are being prepared and tinsel cut up for stars and angels. Ah yes, angels…
As folk attend schools and churches over the coming weeks, they will hear the cute little angels echoing three words that many of us have heard so often that we will simply ignore them. Three words that echo the words of the angels two thousand years ago. And three words that reverberate through thousands more years of God’s relationship with people:
Do Not Fear
“Do not fear” is one of the most repeated phrases in the bible. Why? Of course, it might be because God likes us to have a constant warm, fuzzy, glowing feeling. But the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. With Mary, with the shepherds and with scores of others, God tells us not to fear just when he’s about to drop a bombshell. He tells us not to fear precisely when it’s about to get terrifying.
Shepherds, do not fear: I want you to abandon your posts.
Mary, do not fear: I want you to risk social disgrace, your marriage and your future.
And throughout the history of his people the message keeps repeating – Do not fear: defy your family. Do not fear: take on occupying forces. Do not fear, do not fear, do not fear…
And the only reason not to fear is that God has told us not to.
Society sells us a dream of safety. We, God’s Toddlers have largely bought into it. We believe the life worth fighting for is one where we’re safe, secure and risk free. God’s way is different. God’s way isn’t safe. By any normal measure it’s scary. Those who have read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe may remember Mr Beaver:
Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘course he’s not safe. But he’s good
So, to go back to the question of what standing on our own two feet and depending on others have in common, I’d suggest it’s that they’re both terrifying. For most of us, standing back on our own two feet after we’ve allowed God to pick us up is a terrifying prospect. It’s not safe. For most of us, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and depend on other people and on God is a terrifying prospect. It’s not safe.
God calls us to both with the reminder “Do not fear”. And to any number of daunting prospects, with the reminder “Do not fear”. Not because what lies ahead isn’t scary, but because it is, and he’s there regardless.
Angel photo (Original version) © Gardner Campbell
© Text 2013 Paul Brownnutt
Being God’s Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Today’s post is brought to you by all of the above Bible verses