Drawn to the Flame: Loving the Dangerous God
I concluded my previous post with the following interpretation of Proverbs 9:10:
In this world, the most crucial, the most important, the most central, the most vital point to know is this: you must fear God. Why? Because He is dangerous.
Until you know that, you do not know anything in this strange new world of the Bible.
As I had been discussing in that post, this realization comes out of a greatly different view of God that I had been used to holding. It comes out of my long and difficult journey to really understand the Fear of the Lord – and I do not say that I have yet attained to it!
But as true and Biblical as the above statement is, I believe that it has the potential to really shake someone’s faith, and confuse them about God. « Exactly what sort of a God is this? Is He meniacle? Is He capricious? Is He harsh and judgmental? » and most importantly, « We are commanded to love God. I don’t think I can love a God I fear. Doesn’t perfect love cast out fear? (1 John 4:18) It seems to me that loving a person and fearing a person are directly opposite emotions! »
So how is it, exactly, that we can love a dangerous God?
The answer is nearer at hand than we realize. Is it not in fact true that you love quite a few dangerous things? Some of them – such as most forms of motorized transportation – which we love (or, rather, tolerate) because the danger is unavoidable. This is because we use forms of energy which are powerful. And powerful things can be used for us, but also can turn against us. A combustion engine is very useful. It is also quite dangerous – they have been known to burst into flame when they crash into objects at high speeds!
However, it is also possible to love a thing not in spite of the danger, but precisely because of the danger. How many women have been drawn to « that tall, dark stranger, the kind man of mystery with a dangerous twinkle in his eye »? And how many men feel their hearts melt like wax in part because of the rebellious, fiery strength in their mate?
And how many men and women push through the monotony of life, just to live for the weekend or vacation when they can stare death in the face with a dangerous sport, vacation, past-time or activity? People pay small fortunes to risk their lives safely, running off to have their heart quickened by even the slightest brush with that mysterious love, which is heart-pounding fear, exhilaration and triumph in the very presence of that strange lover of the human soul, which is danger.
And then there is that mysterious love affair that every human I know has with fire. Fire is beautiful, mesmerizing, comforting, sacred even. You may feel very alone, isolated, fearful, out in the woods at night. But light a fire, and you have a friend. You are at peace. You are safe. You are no longer alone.
Fire, it turns out, has a lot in common with God. A fire in its place is comforting, warm, and makes us secure. But a fire out of control is the greatest danger we can experience. Is that why we love fire? Because we fear it so?
Is that why we love our God? For He too is « a consuming fire » (Heb. 12:29)?
We all rejoice that God is powerful for us – but there are not a lot of exciting worship songs rejoicing that God’s power is at times turned against us. However, we need to remember that God does, in fact, have an opinion. He is, after all, a personal God not some nebulous force. His power brought down plagues and curses on the Egyptians until Pharaoh let God’s people go – and it is easy to love God for this! But that same God rained down similar curses and plagues on His own people, and finally deported them into captivity when they refused to obey Him. This side of God is harder to love – especially when we admit that this anger may be directed at ourselves, and is almost definitely directed at some people that we know and love.
There is really no way to love the dangerous God other than to meet Him. This is my prayer for you this valentines day – that you would meet the dangerous God, that you would see Him not only for His love and kindness, but also for His power, for His danger. I pray that the great dread of His presence would fill and captivate all your soul and cause you to cling to Him and love Him all the more.
The next best thing you can do is to read C.S. Lewis. Although I feel terribly cliché for doing so, I think I need to quote this famous passage from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to make this point. Please allow me to give you two samples of how Lewis describes a meeting between God and man (and for those of you who don’t know, « Aslan » is Lewis’ name for Jesus in this story):
« Is – is he a man? » asked Lucy
« Aslan a man! » said Mr. Beaver sternly. « Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion. »
« Ooh, » said Susan, « I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion. »
« That you will, dearie, and make no mistake, » said Mrs. Beaver; « if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly. »
« Then he isn’t safe? » said Lucy.
« Safe? » said Mr. Beaver; « don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you. »
And that is really the heart of the matter.
So many, many, many people prefer a God who is safe. A God incapable of hurting us. A God with no negative emotion. A God who is always, perpetually, without question, « On Our Side, » and « For Us » and « Tame. »
Let them who will love such a pale, half-brained, squishy-wishy, man-made caricature of God.
For myself, my heart and soul are all ablaze with love for this jealous God, this just God, this wrathful God, this loving God, this merciful God, this redeeming God, this immoderately and surprisingly kind God.
Where else could I go? For He has the words of life.
With one word my heart is stilled: « I am going to prepare a place for you. » And one promise fills all my soul with joy: « And so you will be always with your Lord. »
I am my lover’s and my lover is mine. And I am satisfied!