This may be the most personal thing I’ve ever shared here in this space, in the sense that I have never told anyone this story.
I don’t have many nightmares these days. When I do, it’s more about something catching me off guard than something actually being frightening. In fact, I’m not afraid of things like I used to be (except snakes, because they’re extremely creepy and they’re terrifying and anyone that doesn’t think so is wrong.) Once in a great while, I’ll admit that I still have the dream where I realize I have an upcoming final in a class I didn’t realize I was enrolled in. That’s a relic and a quirk, though. That’s not fear.
When I was little, however, I had a recurring nightmare. I can’t really explain the content of the dream, because it’s not really like anything was actively happening. It was more of a feeling. I would dream that I was being admonished by an unknown entity. I remember the feeling of being literally crushed under the weight of the admonishment, as though the actual words being spoken to me were physical things. They felt infinitely large, and unbearably heavy. They made me feel very, very small and meek. Standing up against them felt like I now imagine it might have felt to be Atlas, holding the weight of the entire earth on my shoulders. Mostly, these nightmares made me feel overwhelmed, and indescribably afraid.
Today, when I hear someone use the phrase “fear of God,” or “God-fearing,” I imagine something akin to that feeling. Those nightmares were never something that I’ve told anyone about, nor were they something that I necessarily associated with God, but the idea of fearing a vengeful God is familiar to me through recalling those dreams.
The entire point of this diary is to explore my relationship with God, and the daily thoughts that I have regarding that relationship. So here’s a major thought that I’ve been considering for a long time:
I do not think that I fear God.
I think that God is the very definition of awesome–I am in awe of Him. I think that the fact that God is infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient is fearsome. But I do not feel afraid. What I feel is peace, love, acceptance, and comfort. And especially I feel gratitude.
There’s a reason that almost all of the references to fear of God are in the Old Testament. Simply put, that reason is Christ. I think the sacrifice He made and the love that He brought with Him made it so we have nothing to fear. One of my favorite verses is in the book of John: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). In that chapter, Jesus is talking about being a slave to sin, and being set free, but I believe that with that comes the freedom from living in constant fear. The freedom from sin is also the freedom from fear, and is also the freedom to feel joy in its place. This freedom does not advocate sinful behavior, but lifts our burden of it.
That is what I think Paul means when he writes about freedom throughout the Epistles. Consider what he says in Galatians, chapter 5: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5:13-14). In that way, that freedom from fear is also the freedom to love each other.
When I was very small, the sheer weight of fear in those nightmares would burden me, so I think it’s fitting that what God offers me is the opportunity to lift that burden from my shoulders and have Him carry it instead.