Fear of the Lord (& other lessons from July)

The past few weeks have held a lot of realizations and lessons. They’ve come from blogs I’ve read, conversations with my husband, and verses that have cut me deep to my core. I’ve solidified some through powerful talks with friends and mostly, really, through times of prayers. It’s those prayers that don’t happen while the candle is lit or while my Bible is open, though. The prayers are said and realizations have been made when I’m washing dishes or on the back of our motorbike. A lot came in full force last week when I stepped away from Facebook.

That was hard. It was harder than I expected and more beautiful too. It felt hard when I had six minutes of eternity to wait for an Uber and the boredom drove me to swipe for the app that I know was switched to “off.” I stopped. I knew there could be better, more important things to do in those six minutes. I prayed, but it was the fast prayer of an junkie who just wanted her fix back. I stuck with it in those minutes and also used my eyes to look at the world around me, to slow my heart down, to remember that every spare second does not need to be filled with input, words, images, distraction.

I felt it when I laid in bed, anxiety gripping my heart in the form of cultural confusion. I wanted to hide, to run away, to take my mind off of these uncomfortable feelings. As I lay in bed, eyes toward the ceiling and heart racing, I remembered that God is bigger than these emotions. He’s bigger than these fears and these bouts of anger. He is the one who can calm my heart to sleep and who beckons me to lay my anxiety on Him. I knew that the temporary fix I seek will not sooth my soul. It is toxic poison that feeds an addiction.

I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller. It’s one that he first spoke in 2003 and I first heard in 2013 and it finally reached my soul on a Sunday afternoon this July. Jesus came to live the perfect life so we don’t have to. He came to die the perfect death so that we wouldn’t have to. Our goal isn’t to be like him, but to be freed by him. To stand before God, not because of anything we’ve done, but because what was needed to be done is already finished. I have a relationship with the Creator of the universe because of that. Not because I love my husband well or give alms to the poor or don’t make mistakes. It is finished.

sunset at bay.jpg

I read an article that talked about how we look for answers in the Bible, verses that speak to our worth and beauty, but we miss the beckoning of God to fear Him. Fear Him first. How our efforts to validate our being can be self-seeking and how our eyes need to turn toward Jesus before they can truly see our beauty and our worth. The first thing we are to do is fear the Lord.

Moving to a new place with new rules and new norms and a new language, not just the verbal kind but the nonverbal kind too, has brought out more uncomfortable emotions in me than I know how to deal with. My pride screams loud and clear when a guard reprimands me for rules I broke that didn’t know and when I don’t get the correct change at a restaurant or store. A system with seemingly new and ever changing rules reveal a part of my heart that aches to be in control, in a place of power, and right. My anger against injustice moves past righteous and straight toward self-seeking. While two years ago I would have described myself as kind, forgiving, and honest, I know I can no longer claim those attributes to be inherently true.

And if Jesus could submit himself to the governmental system under Pilate even to the point of death, can’t I too submit myself to a system to the point of losing my pride.

A few weeks ago, I thought that maybe it was better to not ask God directly for things. Maybe it was better, more kind, to passively share my heart with Him and explain my desires, and that then He would do what He wills. I don’t know the best anyway.

Then I found out that my dad was going to be in Korea on a business trip and I wept that I might not get to see him. He didn’t, after all, mention a possibility of coming to Manila. My friends encouraged me, “Just ask him! It won’t hurt anything.” But what it hurt was my pride and it made me vulnerable to ask for something he could say no to.

I asked.

I didn’t hear back.

God spoke to my heart, “Child, now ask Me.” That felt just as hard. At the Spirit’s prompting, I asked even still. “Boldly approach the throne of grace,” I thought, still timid.

I asked.

They both said yes.

My parents shared with me that they had no idea how close Manila was to Korea (a four hour flight from Seoul). My dad shared that it was an odd turn of events that led him to be the point-man for this trip in the first place, but now he could see why God wanted him there. He wanted him to visit me.

God brought my dad to my home in Manila.

God wants me to ask Him. He showed me that my earthly father would want it and so would He. He showed me that my earthly father would spend up to $500 on a plane ticket just to spend two days with me. Then He showed me that He would provide for my family by giving my dad that ticket for free.

dad at naia

He showed me the delight I could feel by hosting my father, the man who gave of himself to raise my siblings and me. God gave me a glimpse into what it looks like to serve, not to get or earn, but because of deep gratitude for the one who gave first. I cooked dinner for my dad, we took him around town, made him coffee, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I could honor my dad by giving back just one, small ounce of what he’s given to me.

My obedience to God isn’t to earn anything. What I do doesn’t matter. I can, in fact, end each day with peace in the deep truth that whatever has been done is enough. That obedience is rooted in who God is – in my awe of Him, my fear of Him.

I asked God to show me what it means to fear Him.

When Dad was here, I felt dizzy with excitement and disbelief that he was here. I was never certain it would happen and I didn’t dare dream that the world would seem so small. The whole two days felt like an alternate reality where anything was possible. It felt big – bigger than myself. Powerful, too, that God would care for the longings of my heart I didn’t fully realize.

And that reminded me of the time I went scuba diving. When everything under the water was so magical and incredible that I couldn’t take it all in without feeling dizzy (not for lack of oxygen, either) and overwhelmed with the possibility of what God can do.

It reminded me of the moments I’ve walk out onto the Atlantic Ocean, sea reeds dancing in the wind and sand lying in stillness before the tumultuous sea. That feeling of BIG inside my heart as the waves crash on the shore as if to say, “Look what we can do” and yet they hold their power back to protect us all.

“That, my dear child,” the Spirit of God whispered to my heart, “that’s the fear I’m talking about.”

He’s so big it makes us dizzy. He’s so powerful it makes us feel weak. He’s so wonderful it fills us with joy. And while all of that reminds us that there’s nothing we can do to earn His presence, there’s our whole life to give to celebrate that gift.

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