I sat in the back row with my husband and daughter. The church was a humble little building, a pitched tent so to speak. Inside there were no fancy pews, or lights, or podiums —just little blue chairs lined up in rows, facing a stage that held a drum set, a piano, and a microphone.
It was all very informal and unassuming and it was nothing like the church where I grew up.
There is something nice about entering a church where no one knows your name, no one expects anything and you are you are met with quiet smiles.
Behind the stage were two screens that counted down the minutes to the start of the service.
Just as the timer reached zero, the lights dimmed and the music began.
I could tell from the start this would not be the traditional stand-up, sit down, sing, listen, greet your neighbor kind of worship that was ingrained in my DNA. This was a full on 15-20 minutes of singing and praying. It felt wrong. I felt wrong. The uneasiness was welling inside of me.
Then she came the long arm of anxiety slithering around my neck —her steely fingers one by one circling my neck and I am fighting for my breath. Pulling me under as waves of nausea pound against me as I try to regain balance and focus. And in one swift turn, I left.
This feeling is nothing new. I am prone to panic attacks. Anxiety disorder has been following me for years, it began long before they found the celiac disease and my body was starving to death, literally, and I was living in survival mode.
But here is the thing, each week we returned to that church and each week I couldn’t find the oxygen or the floor, and I left.
In everything I knew of church and Jesus, I came to the conclusion there was something wrong with this church and we should not be there.
And therein lies the rub.
When all we are taught is fear of the lord, as in be afraid, be very afraid —gathering the smallest ounce of courage to run to God is just not an option, because we do not recognize Him, because we do not know His heart or His character, this ultimately leads to not knowing how to experience Him.
Once I experienced God outside of all the rules, I had to know what is the truth? How do the law and grace fit together? Why is fear taught so freely without the knowledge of grace?
This is my meager attempt to understand my past, present and future. How each piece has a purpose and each broken piece from the past is redeemed over and over and how those pieces from my past give me strength for today, and for the days to come.
Fear is used a lot in scripture and the meanings can vary based on context, but when it comes to the fear of the Lord in the Hebrew and Greek these words give light to a positive experience.
The Hebrew verb yare: to fear, to respect, to reverence, the Hebrew noun yirah: refers to the fear of God as a positive quality, and the Greek noun phobos: reverential fear of God. These acknowledge God’s good intentions.
Gills Exposition of the entire Bible says it like this, “and that his fear may be before your faces; not a slavish fear of death, of wrath, and damnation, before dehorted from; but a reverence of the divine Majesty, an awe of his greatness and glory, a serious regard to his commands, delivered in so grand a manner, and a carefulness to offend him by disobeying them”
So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord
and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.
Acts 9:31 (HCSB)
I am learning the fear of God is an attitude. It’s respect. It’s reverence. It’s wonder.
The anxiety I felt in the midst of dim lights and music, was not anxiety at all it was the Holy Spirit. It was God making Himself known to me, reaching for me.
I did not recognize Him. Not yet.
This post is fourth in a series on Chasing Grace :: a journey further up and further in, if you would like to read the whole series go here.