The Fear of God

“… to call someone a Corinthian was really- well- it wasn’t a nice thing.”

I pulled the top off a new marker and continued to draw.  I’d been staying away from the the Church Bible Studies.  But  this one was at my parents house. All the people who had asked my family about me while I was gone were coming.  I had no real excuse that didn’t sound like obvious avoidance.

So I brought my sketchbook and some metallic markers and sat in a corner of the crowded room. This was what I had always done- I just hoped my expressions weren’t too expressive.  Pastor was talking about Corinthians.

“The church in Corinth was surrounded by horrible immorality.  Imagine if our church was plucked up and set down in the middle of San Francisco-  in the middle of…” he fumbled, looking for the words “-in the middle of a gay scene? Can you imagine how hard that would be? ”

Camouflaged as a person among people, I tried to imagine.

You must not MIX with the immoral, Pastor explained.  You could be around them at work, he granted, but you couldn’t join your life with theirs in any significant way.  The only result would be suffering.  Terrible suffering.

The Church meets  at a summer camp and it’s member’s living rooms because it doesn’t have a building.  Most of the families home school/ed and most of the girls wore long denim skirts up until a few years ago.  The youth were swept with a restless wind about that time. The girls started wearing long skirts made of not denim, along with über fashionable tops that showed their upper arms.

While they stayed home and waited for someone to marry them.  In their late twenties.

I wondered how the ‘adults’ would react if they suddenly were aware that that the immorality they had so studiously isolated their progeny from, and that they contemplated with such horror from half a nation away, was sitting in the room with them.

I focused on drawing. The line of the pen on the page. Focus. Focus.

Pastor went on.

“…Now, when we say ‘the fear of the Lord’, does that mean we sit around shaking with fear because God is going to come and get us?”

Que the explanation of how ‘the fear of the lord’ doesn’t mean abject terror but respect, I told myself, planning  to pat myself on the back for knowing the talking points so well.

“It only partly means that.”  I looked up in surprise.  I thought I knew this speech.  “It does partially mean that, because after all, we serve an awesome God. But it also means having respect for God…”

They’ve been upgrading their definitions while I was away.  It isn’t the definition of fear that’s changed necessarily. He did still mention the fear= respect thing.  It’s just the definition of awesome that’s changed.

Serving an ‘awesome’ person now means serving ‘a person so frightening that you would be immobilized with helplessness and terror at the thought of disagreeing with them, because they are going to show up and do horrible things to you in revenge”

I wonder if Rich Mullins knew that.

Awesome is no longer awesome.

The Pastor went on to talk about how  a true Christian must stand for one’s convictions even when surrounded by those who disagree with them.  Then he talked in a soft and tender voice about suffering.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw my mom move. He was saying this for her, I suspected. About her situation.

The point of life isn’t to be happy he said. The point of life is to obey. God. In whatever He wills for you.

They prayed.

The Bible Study ended.  I went to face/escape from a large gaggle of young women in long skirts and fashionable tops. In ecstatically happy voices that managed to sound prerecorded, they asked me how I was doing.

Closed in my sketchbook was a picture of a Hindu god. Stylized and glittering, the god’s arms and aura swirled around him.

“Now I am become Death- the Destroyer of Worlds”

 

 

 

 

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