There’s fear and then there’s fear.
Mom learned to swim when I did. She was in her thirty-one. I was six. Great was my puzzlement when I spotted my strong, capable mom clinging to the edge of the pool, face hovering over the surface of the shallow. Oh sure, I had butterflies when I first flopped off the high dive. But Mom–she was afraid to splash her face.
I learned more about the irrational fear since our mother-daughter lessons at the YWCA. Like how her own mother was terrified by water. Grandma wouldn’t even take her shoes off at the beach, if she’d even consent to go. Mom described how fear nearly came between her and Dad. Early in their courting, Dad took her to Mill Pond. It was all she could do to wade in to her ankles.
A little boogie boarding incident in Maui comes to mind, too. We’re not thrill seekers, not daredevils, Jim and I. We couldn’t surf to save our lives. But the allure of a white sand beach on a sunny Saturday morning is stronger than a Siren’s song.
Maui’s Ho’okipa Beach Park is world renown for surfing. We’d stowed the boogie boards from our condo closets and voila! It just so happened that some family friends were picnicking on the white sand beach. And that’s how we Wisconsinites got a free surfing lesson in the mighty Pacific.
So, tether your strap to your wrist first. Then lie down with your belly on the board and then paddle out where the waves are breaking. Once you find the wave you want to ride, kick and paddle hard ahead of it, until you catch the wave!
Oh, and if you get stuck under one, don’t panic. Just hold your breath and you’ll come out of it. Just keep your wrist strap on, whatever happens.
Fear of wave power had us tethered up before we were off the beach. Then we flopped ourselves down on the squat, foam boards and paddled out. With fearful trembling, and joyful hope, behind our surfer-dude guide.
Here are four key questions and answers about draw-near fear:
1. What is the right fear of God?
A loving, drawing reverence you feel in the presence of great power. Right fear draws us near God. Wrong fear drives us from Him. It’s plunging into the Maui’s north shore well-instructed, tethered to your board. It’s not a paralyzing dread that keeps your face out of the YWCA pool.
It’s walking near the big loping dog that’s running at you, barking. It’s not high-tailing it away from the beast, chirping, Go home, go home, go home. I know. I tried it and the German Shepherd had my hamstring for lunch. I was afraid to get close.
Now I’m afraid not to. I don’t run from big dogs anymore. I still fear them running at me. But my fear holds me fast; it doesn’t scare me away.
John Piper explains how this right fear of God draws us near Him:
If you are running from God because you are afraid of him, then you are not yet as afraid as you ought to be. In fact, your very flight is a mockery of God, presuming to think that you could outrun this German shepherd. If you him and love your own life, stop running, turn around, and hug his neck for dear life, and he will lick your face.
The fear of the Lord is fear of fleeing out of his fellowship into the way of sin. Therefore the fear of the Lord is full of peace and security and hope. It keeps us near to the merciful heart of God, our fortress, our refuge, our sanctuary, our shield, our sun. Isaiah 8:13 says, “The Lord of Hosts, . . . let him be your , and let him be your dread, and he will become a ” A proper fear of the Lord keeps us under the shadow of his wings where we need not be afraid.
It’s true for big dogs and big waves. How much more with Almighty God!
2. What benefits come to those who fear the LORD?
Big, bountiful blessings. Here are ten to whet your appetite for this blessed fear:
- God will confide in him. The confides in those who him; he makes his covenant known to m. Ps. 25:14
God will instruct him. Who, n, are those who ? He will instruct m in ways y should choose. Ps. 25:12
God will watch over him. The angel of encamps around those who him, and he delivers m. Ps. 34:7
- God will have compassion on him. As a father has compassion on his children, so has compassion on those who him; Ps. 103:1
- God will give him wisdom. The of is beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Prov. 1:7, Prov. 10:27, 14:25
- God will keep him safe from snares. The of is a fountain of life, turning a person from snares of death. Prov. 14:27
- God will grant him prosperity. Humility is of ; its wages are riches and honor and life. Prov. 22:4
- God will endorse her praise. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who s is to be praised. Prov. 31:30
- n those who ed talked with each other, and listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written concerning those who ed and honored his name. Mal. 3:16
- God will be his sure foundation. He will be sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; of is key to this treasure. Is 33:6
3. Can this draw-near fear be learned?
Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth and that they may teach their children so.
And [the king] shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and doing them.
Jim chuckles, shakes his head whenever he recounts our Maui adventure.
Barnies on foamies were we. He-atop the Pipeline; I-beneath-inside the monster wave.
Inside I held my breath, lungs beginning the burn; the strap still secure around my wrist. Finally, I burst into glorious light. And then my eyes set on Jim; gripping his board, and craning. What a grin, then, when our eyes met.
And we coasted in together onto white sand beach.