Overcoming the fear of the Lord
The sound of the angels moving furniture around in heaven woke me early Friday morning.
For a long time, I just lay there listening, remembering.
I grew up in the time of childhood innocence. We believed in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, magic beans and a dozen other whimsical things.
So the thought of angels moving furniture around so they could mop the floor soothed any would-be fears of a thundering rainstorm.
But my granny told the story differently from Mama. She said the thundering crashes were the devil beating his wife. I liked Mugi’s version better. I could just see the ol’ devil up there with a big stick beating the living tar out of that old haggy wife of his.
See, back then, fighting was a favorite past time for young’uns. My cousin, Jimmy, and my friend, Betty Kay and I fought every time we were together. We didn’t stop until one of us got blood. I don’t know which we loved more, each other or fighting.
Betty Kay had a scar on her lip where I hit her in the mouth with a porcelain doorknob. I have a scar on my finger where she ran over it with the push lawnmower, but that’s another story.
Since young’uns were eager believers, our mamas thought they could scare us with threats of the “boogerman” coming to get us but I wasn’t afraid of him.
Mama said I wasn’t afraid of the ol’ devil himself, but there was one thing that I was scared of and that was God.
In Sunday school, our teachers told us that God was everywhere and that He saw everything that we did and heard everything that we said. Why, God even knew what we were thinking. That scared me. I didn’t want God hanging around everywhere I was and seeing what we were doing.
We fought, set things on fire, smoked rabbit tobacco, cussed (heck, shut up, darn), went where we weren’t supposed to go, took things that weren’t ours and lied about it all. And God didn’t need to know about all that.
But in Sunday school, the teachers also said that God would forgive you for being bad if you asked Him. We would bow our heads and ask God to forgive us. But the teacher always said “amen” before I could get around to it all.
When I got a little older, I really wanted to put a face on God. I wanted him to show himself.
One Sunday, Julia Irene Gilmore told me that God was in our church. That he was the man that sat by himself way in the back of the church. He wore a black suit coat and had real white hair. That’s kind of the way I had pictured God but I didn’t think he would have such a big nose.
It was a long time before I found out that the man was Mr. Tupper Lightfoot, not God.
When I had children of my own, they also were taught that God is everywhere but they evidently were more comfortable with the knowledge of God’s continuous presence than I had been as a child because they weren’t afraid as I had been.
At an art exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. there was a huge, huge, slick-as-glass sphere sculpture.
My little daughter couldn’t resist. She walked over and contoured the big, steel marble with both her little hands. When she did, a voice boomed from above, “Don’t touch the sculpture!”
Surprised, she looked up at me and asked “Was that God?”
I wondered what her image of God might be but I didn’t have to wonder about my little son’s.
We had a Sunday school superintendent who was a rather dapper dresser. Back then, big plaid sport coats were in fashion. And he had a head of hair that looked like it had been treated to a Lilt curl. Every Sunday, this wonderful man with a bright smile would welcome the children to Sunday school.
One Sunday I caught the little boys running in the hallway of the Sunday school building.
In the car on the way home, I reminded my son that the Sunday school building was God’s house just like the sanctuary and that he should behave the same way he did in church.
The little fellow leaned over from the backseat and asked, “Mama, is that God that opens the door for us at Sunday school?”
Yes, God is everywhere.
We see it in an early spring flower, the boiling of thunderclouds, in huge, shiny spheres and in the smiling face of a man in a bright, plaid sport coat. It’s everywhere we look. God is everywhere …but I’m not scared anymore.
Jaine Treadwell is features editor at The Messenger. She can be reached at email@example.com.