“Daddy…sometimes I whisper to myself.” she said to me, timidly.
“Oh yeah?” I say back, smiling. “What do you say?” She motions for me to come close, so she can whisper in my ear.
In a soft whisper she reveals to me an amazing capacity for depth I don’t usually give my 5 year old credit for. “Is this really happening?”
I tried not to look too surprised. “You wonder if things are real?” She smiled shyly and nodded. We talked a bit about the differences between dreams and reality, and things that are pretend and things that are real. She reassured me that she knew what was real, but that sometimes she just wants to make sure. Whispering to herself helps.
I remember taking intimidating philosophy/theology classes in college. I had a great professor who was known for guiding students toward thinking, writing, and speaking about the big questions (and some small ones that were added just for fun). I didn’t get remarkable grades in that class, but I saved every one of my papers. Some of my first moments asking difficult questions happened in those classes, and I was introduced to a Jesus I’d never known existed before. The encouraging words written by that professor meant even more than the less-than-impressive letter grade.
This past Sunday I was reminded of a misunderstanding, or rather, a missed blessing I had back in those college theology days.
Philippians 2:12 says: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,”
Throughout college, because of the pressure to not answer a question incorrectly or seem to be “out of the loop” theologically – but most of all because I was finally grasping the awesome and dangerous thing called “putting God into words”, I’d always read these verses as a warning to not dance lightly through the task of understanding God. To not take him for granted. To not have bad theology from an uninformed reading of scripture. To work out my salvation “in fear in trembling” largely meant to be cautious so as to not get something wrong.
Obviously I hadn’t read Kierkegaard as closely as I should have. (although I did really enjoy “Works of Love”, and taste it like an everlasting gobstopper that still hasn’t gone bad sometimes still today.)
As any follower of Christ who has children must realize at one point or another – the “fear and trembling” is not only from the risk of misunderstanding who God is. Not only about “what if I get something wrong?” There is a fear and trembling that can be just as threatening…
What if we get it right?
What if we do actually understand the words of God, and the calling of Christ, and it compels us to live sacrificially? To open up our homes, and our selves to loving the world around us in ways that make us vulnerable/less powerful/less popular/less…? To pray to God “I will follow you”, and hear him ask us to travel to Nineveh. (sorry…we watched Veggietales “Jonah” this past week)
And so, as my daughters waved their palm branches this past Sunday, declaring Jesus as Lord – I prayed. I continue to pray. My fear and trembling now goes beyond me. What will Jesus ask of my daughters? It’s not a fear and trembling that makes us choose another road. In fact, God gives us examples of this fear and trembling in our lives. As we stand before the minister, saying our vows (What sacrifices will this lead me into?). As we stand at the OB during an ultrasound (What sacrifices will this lead us into?).
In the same way…each of us approaches our journey with God in humility. Not only because this is God we’re talking about, but because this God is also speaking to us…:)