Last time I wrote, I quoted Kierkegaard on the fear of the Lord. This time I want to pick up an idea which was embedded within that and expend it.
Kierkegaard instructs his readers to be in fear of the Lord because one is ‘in the process of becoming’. As if, when one is aware of being in this state, the natural response would be fear and trembling before the Lord.
The question one must ask is why. Why would that be the natural response?
For instance think of a child and the love that child has for a parent. That child is in a state of becoming. It’s apparent to everybody that the child is growing and changing. The child is in the process of becoming an adult. Yet the child, if the parents are good, will not fear mother or father but will love them. Of course life is often a little more complicated than that, but in general we see that a child’s response to a parent is love.
I think children are a great demonstration of what it means to be in the process of becoming.
I forget most of the time. When one lives in the moment, with no future or past reference point, it is easy to presume too much of my estate. That is to say, to assume I have far more control of my existence than I do in reality. So, why should I fear? What does trembling profit me? I am the highest authority in my life, and that’s the way it is.
But what if I lived as though I was ‘becoming’? As it is, I live as if I am. I am not, but I live as though I am. One of the greatest confessions of the Bible, found in Exodus 3:14, is God’s own identity: I AM WHO I AM.
God is not in the process of becoming; he simply ‘is’. I change day-to-day and week to week.
In my view, the Biblical writers had a firm grasp of this notion.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
In fact, James goes further and says that ‘all such boasting is evil.’
It is the fact that I am grass, a vapour, which causes me to tremble with fear. I am fragile and ought to hold this in remembrance. I ought to fear him because like the mist, I am gone with slightest gust of wind. I ought to tremble because like the grass, the heat of the sun will burn me up. And there is nothing I can do to change that.
Does this change my life? It ought to.
Will it? Probably not.
Kierkegaard insists that this is evidence for God. I understand that to mean the proof that one knows God. That God can only be proved by being known and he can only be known by being encountered.
I hope that tomorrow, I will know God better than I do today.