Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Importance of Fear

Bruce Feiler, who is neither Christian nor a practicing Jew, decided to read the first five books of the Old Testament as he traveled to the stories' historical locations in the Middle East. Among other things, he kept revisiting the impact of the geography in his understanding of events in the Bible. He offers the following perspective on the Desert in Walking The Bible: 
"The first lesson of the desert: By feeling uneasy and unsure, by fearing that you're out of your depth and therefore might falter, by feeling small, and alone, you begin - slowly, reluctantly, maybe even for the first time in your life - to consider turning somewhere else.... You eventually grow wary of the flat and easy, the commonplace and self-reliant. You begin to crave the depth, the height, the extremes. You begin to crave the fear."
I have experienced the "deserts" of my life - hard times in marriage, fears that came with a childhood diagnosis in my youngest son, my father's death, my DVT's, my recent heart attack. I like Mr. Feiler's description of his experience of the desert. It resonates. Those are the places where I was small, alone, and forced to turn to God in the midst of situation where I faltered. I find his assessment to be true: "When your god is self-reliance, and you let yourself down, there is nowhere else to turn."

As odd as it sounds, there is something to be said for the fear that is found in these places. Perhaps 'crave' is too strong of a word, but it's when the stakes are high that life matters in ways it does not when the way is flat and easy. There's a refinement of character that cannot happen in the safety of the common place. Often we don't realize how much ground we have covered until we look back. 

And then we begin to miss the fear again - not because we want to be afraid, but because those situations reminded us of that life is meaningful and important. I don't fear falling off my couch or stubbing my toe. I do fear falling off the roof, cutting more toes off in a lawn mower or having another heart attack. Why? Because the former are trivial, but the latter can potentially be profound. Fear reminds us of the parts of life that matter, and that is important in a culture where we are so distracted by triviality that the profound depth of life is too easily ignored. 

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