I have a vivid memory from childhood when I was about 3 years old. My Mother and I were at the grocery store. As we stood in line at the checkout, I couldn't help but be mesmerized by the display of candy bars that were exactly at my eye level. All lined up in organized rows, wrapped in packaging I couldn't yet read but still recognized; they beckoned me.
I recalled the previous shopping trip when my Mother bought a candy bar, unwrapped it in the car, and divided it between my siblings and myself. The two bites I got felt like happiness I could chew. The nuts, caramel, and squishy stuff that tasted like a sweet cloud covered in chocolate infiltrated my world with intoxicating pleasure. The crinkling sound of the wrapper as it was torn off was like a call to joy.
My Mother placed her groceries on the belt as if those candy bars weren't even there. Did my Mother not remember that fantastic event? As she inexplicably bypassed these bundles of delight and concentrated only on the healthy items she had selected, I stood there incredulous.
How could she miss this opportunity? I watched her reach into her purse and produce a wallet that I knew contained enough money to buy a lot of candy bars, and yet she still ignored the candy.
I was baffled.
Standing there with my Mother, witnessing her lapse in judgement and refraining from pouncing on this chance to fill up her cart with candy bars was nothing short of perplexing to me. All I knew as a tiny girl was that one day I would be a grown-up, and I would NEVER miss a prospect to buy every candy bar I could possibly pay for, and then eat them all. I was no fool. That is what being a grown up should be, after all, isn't it?
Adulting is when you do what you want to do because;
1.) you can
2.) candy bars are gratifying
3.) more is better.
Honestly, resisting candy bars was not the only thing my Mother did back then that mystified me. She spent much of her time cleaning, cooking, driving people places, and working. If I was a grown-up, I knew that I would opt for more enjoyable activities instead of those time wasters. My Mother was obviously making the wrong choices. All I could do is sigh at the error of her ways and assure myself that I would live right when I had a purse full of bank checks. Irrational avoidance of fun stuff was not on my bucket list.
I would later discover something about candy bars. If you eat too many of them, you got sick. It was a wretched feeling when the cold sweats came upon me midway through secret candy bar number 5. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor experiencing the after-effects of the indulgence that I had previously viewed as perfectly reasonable, if not inspired.
Ah, life lessons. Mom was brilliant. She sat chatting happily on the phone with her friend, while I suffered a digestive crisis for the rest of the afternoon in hiding. Eventually, she found me in a moist, heap of regret. My childish idea of inspired indulgence came with agony. As my Mother cared for me on my path to recovery, she talked to me about candy and stomachaches. Got it.
So often I am sharing with people about The Father, and when we get to the Torah portions about the Temple, their eyes start glazing over. The complexity of the furnishings, the rules and regulations, the Priesthood, and the rituals all seem so foreign. Thus, it can be natural to question them. It can be tempting to fall into the belief that something which presents as nonsensical when compared to our everyday experience displays a difficult, demanding God who operates in whimsy and enforced fulfillment of His irrational needs.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)
We read "fear" and then default into a wrath mentality which illustrates a G-d who is scary and predatory to our flaws. We fail to see that this word for "fear" is a pragmatic precursor for wisdom, not further fear.
"Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling." (Proverbs 2:11)
Here we see that "fear" is the precursor to rejoicing. We cannot rejoice with a placated, invisible hand of vengeance as that would be impossible. That would be relief, not rejoicing. Rejoicing requires joy. If rejoicing is paired with the word we translate as "fear," then this type of fear must be the kind that fills us with wisdom, not dread. It's a summons us to tremble with trust, not terror.
My Mother was trustworthy. She fed me well. If I had learned to fear my Mother by way of trust in her judgment, I would have avoided my gastric disaster, but acquisition of that wisdom requires experience. I had to learn to do that. The problem was that I was under the age of 5. Ironically, that "problem" is also the solution.
Let me explain.
Youth comes with ignorance. That ignorance is comprised of the ability to form an opinion, but knowing too little to be wise in that opinion.
Youth also comes with innocence. That innocence is comprised of our lack of knowledge, our preciousness to Him, and our need for G-d.
My Mother knew that my affinity for candy bars was a natural stage of development for my age. She tended to me in my trial knowing that both the crisis and the care were the measures of guidance I needed. The education was less about candy bars and more about learning to trust her, but I got the message about both. Many more of these drills were headed my way in life, and she was the one who had my back. Therefore, I not only had to master the lesson about candy so I could be wise, but I also had to experience her nurturing so I could become wiser. The wisest of us know in Whom we can place our trust.
We aren't the grown-upsIn our role as Children of God, it takes wisdom to realize that we are the kids and He is the Dad, then it takes humility and trust to accept it. . Without this childlike "fear" we trail off onto dark roads with dangerous surroundings because the world is cruel. It's cruel because as much as He commands us not to, we operate in greed and control, and this makes acts of man hazardous . When we do this, we know not the power and strength of this type of rejoicing.
When the concept of "fearing" Him as written in the scriptures is matched to our modern definition of the word, we unsurprisingly assign a negative connotation. Thus, we miss the point, the purpose, and the connection.
The world forces us to do battle. When you trust the One in command over you, He will instruct you to victory in the fog of war. You might not see it clearly at the time, but you can count on it.
Don't preach this. Live it.
This grace induced "fear" of going against Him protects us from guaranteed exposure and suffering. We don't usually struggle with applying this to His more "relatable" commandments such as "do not gossip" or "do not marry your son." The conflict enters when we read what He required in Leviticus.
"Then the anointed priest is to bring some of the bull’s blood into the Tent of Meeting, and he is to dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD in front of the veil. He is also to apply some of the blood to the horns of the altar that is before the LORD in the Tent of Meeting, and he must pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. And he is to remove all the fat from it and burn it on the altar. He shall offer this bull just as he did the bull for the sin offering; in this way, the priest will make atonement on their behalf, and they will be forgiven. Then he is to take the bull outside the camp and burn it, just as he burned the first bull. It is the sin offering for the assembly." (Leviticus 4:16-21)
For all that we imagine and are benignly entertained by in cinema and books, interestingly, many things The Father details for us to do can read like a horror story. Leviticus and many other parts of the Bible are strange to us, and so far outside the norms that we experience day in and day out. We think through a limited filter and lack understanding of supernatural things. We are mortal. Additionally, we are embedded emotionally in the culture we live in. This creates a filter through which we process information.
This filter emerges from unintentionally setting our "normative," cultural and earthly experiences as the measurement tool. Doing this can result in us viewing Him as remote and unpalatable rather than us reveling in the mysterious, otherworldly Divinity He really is.
Instead of finding relief in the resignation of a loving, trusting, reverence that proclaims; You're You, and I'm two,"" we internalize the notion that He is playing a game of chess and we are nothing more than the pieces. We associate being "the kid" with being worthless rather than being precious. We associate being "parented" with being punished rather than being guided. Even if we don't verbalize this directly, lest we "ruin our witness" of Him, when we frame His worship rituals as bizarre and barbaric, we inadvertently imply that He is far removed from us.
Let's get a better picture of The Father of Love and Perfection.
These rituals we legitimately see as peculiar, He actually brings forth to the Earth so that we can share a glimpse into His inner world and He so He can enter into our outer world. He makes the trip toward us. We meet Him at the rendezvous. Together we experience connection in a tangible, memorable, soul-stirring manner, customized for indelible impact.
His ways are higher than our ways, not weirder.
"Seek the LORD while He may be found;
call on Him while He is near.
Let the wicked man forsake his own way
and the unrighteous man his own thoughts;
let him return to the LORD,
that He may have compassion,
and to our God,
for He will freely pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways,”
declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:6-9)
An indigenous person from a secluded location might find the sight of a wedding ring eccentric, though for us culturally, a wedding ring is a typical representation of marital union. Remember the film "The God's Must Be Crazy"? A simple Coke bottle rattled their entire earthly experience. An item we threw in the trash on a daily basis with out a second thought was deemed a marvelous, limitless device by people who had never seen it before. They had never encountered it and therefore didn't predetermine its' potential. It hit their culture like a meteor.
Our Parent loves us unconditionally. He invites us to come to Him, and He shows up for us. We squint curiously at the processes He utilizes to do so as we filter these elements through the mundane, common experiences we within a terrestrial planet. Yet astonishingly, this is a way He can display Who He is in contrast to who we are rather than striving to match who we are. I believe He does this partly so we may learn to fear Him since we cannot understand Him in this way. We learn as I did when I disobeyed and hid from my mother. HE IS THE DAD. It's our role to be human and His role to be G-d. He is in control. We don't know things He knows.
Where there is smoke, there is fire. In the Temple there is smoke, and yes, there is fire. The fire is a Divine God with otherworldly, passionate exchanges to challenge us. Isn't that part of the beautiful mystique of our Bridegroom? This is the journey of fascination. Isn't it exciting to learn about a new crush? We delve into all the quirks, secrets, and anecdotes of the one with whom we are infatuated, savoring every story.
Can you embrace this reality? Can you trust The Father? Can you allow Him to set the scene and standard knowing that this is a portal of a world to which you cannot yet cross over?
Let the strangeness of His world beguile you, move you, even charm you.
No, we don't understand why He doesn't give us a large bag of Snicker's bars; they taste so good. We stand in line in life, watching His hands do His work. We wonder why He squanders opportunities that we, in the hubris of our youth, find utterly splendid. We think we know these things are splendid. Until we don't. Until we sit crumpled in our sickness because His ways are higher than our ways, but we did it our way.
He knows we are kids and we don't know what He knows. As we experience the cool cloth He lovingly places on our forehead in our suffering, we recognize that gaze. As we lie there blinking into His merciful eyes, we grow more and more wise with each wave of our consequences from maneuvering outside of His pasture. Father knows best. Fear this and have no more fear of anything. Ever again.
To our innocent and ignorant thoughts, it all looks like a jumble of discordant prescriptions. Alas, it is not. It is the gateway to the unique bond between a parent and their child. We are His children. He is not only our Father, but He is the Source of all things. In fearing Him, we are on the right side of fear. We fear Him, so we don't have to be afraid of fear itself.
Trusting Him is the truest wisdom we could ever possess. Our inner and outer world collides with His in what can appear to be the oddest hug a mortal could receive.