today I just really want to talk to you about something a bit heavy that has been weighing down hard on me. it’s something that just recently became oh-so-clear to me, and I think it might be just the thing that sets us all a little bit more free. ❤
there’s a disgusting habit among people of corrupt power, to instill fear in the people they feel the need to control. usually this happens through very manipulative & subtle ways. and when these people creep into houses of worship & our spirituality, it can be downright abusive in the most life-changing and soul-deep ways… particularly because their un-Christlike biases are often handed down in teaching under the guise of absolute truth. (how do you think the church managed to condone slavery for so long?)
instilling a crippling fear in one’s victims is an age-old abuse tactic that every manipulator everywhere uses. but it isn’t one that God uses.
if you grew up in church, you’re probably quite familiar with the famous verse from proverbs 9… the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
I grew up believing that this meant I should be forever in fear of God. and yeah, you’re supposed to love Him as a father and follow Jesus… but in the very core of what I learned, at the foundation of my very faith… was fear.
and when I realized that virtually everything I knew about my faith, and everything that made up my theology, was built upon this foundation of “fear and trembling“, I was crushed. horrified. and yes… afraid.
so… if you’ve ever been told to be afraid of God, this is for you.
because I know the utter terror & hopelessness that washes over you when you realize your theology (and maybe even your life) has been built on the shakiest base of fear.
but I also know this… scripture is full of goodness. it holds all the beauty and hope of a flaming dawn, and if we truly understand the truth it’s offering us, we won’t be trapped in a life full of lies.
when I’m confused, angry, or frustrated with the interpretations I’ve heard of scripture, I always find comfort and clarity when I search out the original languages & seek to understand the context in which it was written.
so with that in mind, let’s tackle that verse, okay?
because, as wild as it may seem, that’s where my liberation came from.
firstly, the proverbs were primarily written by Solomon, the same guy who wrote ecclesiastes (which is one of my all-time favorite books in the bible, and which I really dig into in my scripture study!). ecclesiastes was written in his younger days during his desperate pursuit for happiness, wisdom, and hope. so this author knows a thing or two about feeling hopeless, deserted, and completely frustrated with what shallow & domineering religion has to offer.
some people like to soften the blow of this verse by suggesting that perhaps “fear” doesn’t actually mean fear at all, but more of a holy & reverent respect.
but… that’s just not true. the hebrew word used here, yi’rah, literally means fear, terror, or dread. that argument falls apart quite easily when you really dig into it.
but don’t freak out on me! we’re not done!
because, despite what you may have been taught, told, or sold into… fear is not the most important part of this verse.
perhaps you, like many others have read this and simplified it something like this: yeah, okay, fear equals wisdom. got it. weird. not totally comfortable with that, and it bothers me, but the bible says it, so…
nope! did you notice that a very important word was omitted in that simplified equation of fear = wisdom?
that precious, omitted word is beginning. yup.
the fear of the Lord is the beginning, and just the beginning.
the word translated here for beginning in hebrew is techillah, and it means the first time, to begin, or first.
a word often translated the same way is re’shiyth, and its definition is the same, with the exception of adding firstfruits.
so, the fear of the Lord is the first part, the beginning of, or the first encounter which leads to wisdom.
still confused? let me explain it this way:
since moving cross-country a year ago, I now live in an area surrounded by mountains. they are so beautiful, and when I see them it sends a thrill through my heart! but when I first saw them up close, they honestly scared me with their big-ness.
they were just so huge. towering. overwhelming. majestic. massive. glorious. close. they weren’t just a photo on a screen, or an idea in my head anymore… they were right there, and so much of what they were, that my heart skipped a beat out of sheer fear at first.
I’d seen mountains from a distance, and they were lovely, but when I got right up next to them, the realness of it all was just plain terrifying at first.
as I made them my home, however, I grew to love them. the mountains are a cornerstone of what I call my secure, comforting place… home. what once scared me, now makes me feel safe and peaceful.
same thing with God… our first encounter with the sheer bigness, realness, massiveness of God should scare us a little because there is SO MUCH of who He is. there’s so much majesty, so much beauty, so much love, so much overwhelm… it’s too much to take in, and He comes so close to us, that our human hearts, as expansive as they are, can’t quite contain the vastness of who He is.
and so we fear.
BUT WE DON’T STAY THERE!
we don’t sit in our fear and cower.
we don’t get lost in the terror.
we make God our safe place.
we come home to Divine Love.
we find our peace & serenity in the shadows of Goodness.
we breathe free & we dance in the towering heights of the Beautiful One.
because there is no fear in love.
and over and over we remember Jesus’ words fear not.