If you’re mentally and spiritually healthy what you believe drives what you do. In technical terms therapists describe their client as “congruent” when a person’s behaviors are driven by their beliefs and values. This is also important for a healthy spirituality. I find clients who participate in spiritual direction often profess a “belief” in some spiritual truth but behave differently. When I encounter this incongruence I ask them about it. While the goal of spiritual direction is different than therapy, it’s still an important point to address. A healthy spiritual life is a life lived in truth. Sin hides us from our very selves and when we see these blind spots in one another we need to point them out allowing all that’s true, beautiful, and holy to emerge from the embers of our purified souls.
In our small home church, we’ve been watching a series by Francis Chan called “Basics” where he addresses key elements of the Christian faith. In the first video he addresses the fact many Christians no longer know what it means to fear God. We’ve turned the fear of God into feelings of “respect” and “reverence” but as Chan notes, when you read the scriptures, people truly understood the “Fear of God.” I’ve experienced this in myself and in a number of my spiritual direction clients. Because we don’t want to deal with the “Fear of God”, we change the meaning to be something else or attempt to ignore this disturbing reality by putting it out of our minds. In other words, we either shift the meaning of the words of scripture making them mean something they were never intended to mean or we try and live with the incongruence they elicit which never works out well. In the first instance we merely lie to ourselves and in the second we just ignore the truth. Either way, our spiritual lives suffer.
Fearing God should be a natural response to an accurate understanding of the nature of God. God is the ultimate power and if we believe he is all powerful, we will fear that power. Why do so many nations do everything they can to keep nuclear weapons from as many other nations as possible? Because they fear the power of those weapons. If nuclear power can elicit that kind of fear, shouldn’t the ultimate power of God elicit the same experience from us? Do you really believe God is all powerful? If so, why don’t you live like it! Yes, like the song says, “We have a friend in Jesus” but we also have a God who is an awesome and mighty God. If I fear God, I do what’s asked of me, I’m humbled by his incredible presence before me, and I recognize my place in the God-man relationship. But if I don’t “really” fear God, I say things like, “Oh, I guess I’m headed to hell for that!” in jest not realizing without God, hell is indeed a reality I may face.
To believe what scripture tells us and to act on that belief is being spiritually congruent. The paradox elicited when thinking about the fear of God is that just when we fear him, God tells us to “Fear not.” Yet, without that initial fear, we can never appreciate the great gift the command “Fear not” is. We must have the fear of God to gain the wisdom to know the love of God.
My challenge this week is for us to grow in spiritual congruence. Do you believe God is real? Live a life reflecting that belief. Do you understand his power and awe inspiring presence in your life? Do you open the scriptures and find yourself bowing down to his awe inspiring presence? Then, just when you fear for your life because you’re in that presence, do you lift your heart in joy because in his graciousness he reveals his power is fueled by his love? Seek the places where you’ve transformed what scripture teaches plainly to be more acceptable to the modern ear. Then, allow these hard truths to stir discomfort, paradox, and angst in you. You may find these spiritual stirrings put you in touch with who God is rather than who you want him to be.