Reading Joe, mid-August to mid-September

A good many of Joe’s posts were about the fear of the Lord, translated to the fear of the self — fear of self-government, self-reliance, self-trust. Fear of letting go of God, fear of separation from him.

Abstract like that, it sounds reasonable.

I know that I am wayward, and I have learned that when I am discontent or anxious or feeling empty, it’s a sign that I’ve strayed, and I should turn back, and I am being called back and that’s how I recognize my waywardness.

But some of his posts seem so strident, like he couldn’t rest in or enjoy any little thing because of his fear, his confidence, that there is sin in it.

I think I must be missing something, because that doesn’t really sound like the Joe who was my therapist. Joe so often counseled me to know and trust myself — to have a more internal locus of control — to listen to my intuition.

It reminds me of my little theory of health — that what looks like holy behavior and holy words can come from either sub-healthy or super-healthy places — the sub-healthy is no self, but a doormat, a robot, an empty vessel. The super-healthy is so secure in Christ that he or she no longer needs to protect and defend self.

You can’t get to super-healthy without going through healthy first, which looks a lot like what secular psychology tells us — good boundaries, self-awareness, reflection, all that sort of thing. Not a lot of cheek-turning yet, because a developing self must learn to protect and defend itself before learning how a greater Protector and Defender bests its own efforts.

It is so difficult to discern anything.

I want something — is it something God wants? Is it something I am allowed to want? Just because I want it, does that mean God is against me having it?

I fear something — is it something that should be feared? Is it something God wants me to flee or to face? Is the solution I imagine God’s plan of deliverance that he is revealing to me, or my own attempt?

I suppose the main point is to stay with God — not to fear leaving him so much as to hope, intend, and desire not to leave him, and to trust him to bring me back when I do stray. Perhaps someone who, like me, struggles so much with general fear and anxiety, does not need more encouragement to be fearful, but more encouragement to trust — and to fear the right things.

But again! Discernment! How does one trust God and fear waywardness, and still live in this world, making use of all the resources that have been provided, such as food and therapists and friends and computers, but not making idols of them?

Not a map, but a navigator — not a checklist, but a guide — “not a religion, but a relationship” — I need to more and more be relating to, interacting with, talking to, listening to, following God, and not just thinking and talking and writing about him.

Lord, teach me to listen, and to hear you. Please answer my questions. Please guide me. Please give me faith and wisdom. Because it would sure be a lot easier to trust you, and to obey, if I could know for sure where you are, what you look like, what you want me to do, and all that sort of thing.

PS — It’s funny how much I fear becoming so “holy” or “close to God” that no one wants to be around me, or that I don’t want to be around anyone, or can’t enjoy anything. Again, I’m pretty sure there’s some deep misunderstanding involved in that fear. I have been around people who are annoyingly “holy,” but I have also been around people who are restfully, beautifully, welcomingly, inclusively “holy.”


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