Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
The fear of [God] is the beginning of wisdom. – Psalm 111:10 (NRSVUE)
With utmost respect to the heavenly angels who make a name for themselves by careening into some unsuspecting person’s life and proclaiming, “Be not afraid”: it’s okay to be afraid. Those angels can keep their proclamations and see themselves to the door. We need a little fear in our lives.
If all we are told is to be brave and forget our fear, we might miss out on the opportunity to get to know it: what fear feels like, why it shows up when it does, and how we might use it. Fear is the threshold we have to cross to make our way to courage. It’s the signal our bodies send whenever we’re about to take a risk or do something new.
Whenever I publicly push back against the powers that be, whether with my words or with my body in the street, my muscles tense and I break out in a sweat. Right before I reveal my tender, vulnerable self to another person, my stomach starts flip-flopping and my pulse races. This is fear’s way of saying, “Pay attention! Something consequential is happening here!”
And when you feel afraid of God? Perhaps you’re being asked to follow a call so important it gives you the chills. Perhaps you should be on alert for what direction the Holy Spirit is moving in your midst. Perhaps you should lean into the dis-comforting mystery of the sacred instead of settling for your comfort zone where nothing startles, nothing alarms, and there’s nothing to be afraid of because nothing ever changes.
Womb-Full of Love, thank you for keeping faith with us. Amen.Dear God: I recognize you in my joy and in my grief. Give me the courage to find you in my fear.
Liz Miller serves as the pastor of Edgewood United Church (UCC) in East Lansing, Michigan.