I was a perpetually petrified little kid. When I learned how to write, I constructed a “What Terrifies Me Top Ten,” just so I could keep all my phobias straight.
The dark and clowns were both mainstays (watching Stephen King’s It without my parents’ knowledge cemented clowns forever.) Roller coasters, spiders, demons, and my basement all made the list.
Then there were some unusual, miscellaneous fears that rounded off the Top Ten. Ordering at fast food restaurants. Siamese cats. The church sanctuary. (I wasn’t exactly a normal child.)
But my number one on the “What Terrifies Me” list was car washes—the kind where you stay in the car and drive through. Traveling through a car wash was like taking a little jaunt through hell itself, or so I thought. The water pounded the roof and windows, trying to break through so the menacing rollers and brushes could assassinate me! I’d cry hysterically and make frenzied attempts of escape, like a cat desperately trying to avoid a bath.
Needless to say, my mom was in a real pickle. I was with her every minute of the day and she still needed car washes. So for years, my memories of car washes were laying on the floor of the car with a down comforter over my head. Then I was fine.
My mom didn’t get rid of car washes, and she didn’t get rid of me. She just brought blankets. Smart woman, my mom.
At twenty-five years old, a quarter of life set in stone; I’ve still got a Top Ten, but constructed with slightly different fears. Car washes still freak me out a little, but I don’t drive through one with blankets on my head. (For some reason, that freaks other people out.)
No, I’m scared because life’s up to me now.
I’m anxious I’ll fail. I’m terrified that I may not have what it takes.
I’m scared because I can’t see a thing in front of me. I feel like I’m driving a car sixty miles per hour with two flashlights for headlights, I’m blind without a seeing-eye dog. I’m searching for the next step, but I can’t even find the staircase. I trusted my parents when they covered my head in blankets, but now who?
Well I know it’s supposed to be God. I know I should lay my burning fear before Him, so He can put it out with His extinguisher filled with Grade-A Heaven-Air. But as I float in this deep murky water called our twenties and fear latches on me like a giant squid, do I really trust that He’s going to save me before I drown?
Well no, if I’m honest. I tell my Christian friends I do—for appearance’s sake. I clap and sing, raising my hands with everyone else. But I know my open palms are two liars.
Oh theologically I’d say I still believe in all the “musts.” All the things I learned in Sunday school, I still believe to be true. Cloth-cutout Jesus still has the power to multiply all the graham crackers He wants to in my book. The problem is, I believe in Him, but I don’t necessarily believe Him, if that makes sense? I believe he is God the Father, just not necessarily to me.
Put Away Upstairs
Honestly, I see God more as my crazy uncle, than as my dad. I see him only at major holidays, and don’t trust him to carve the turkey, let alone put blankets over my head. I’m not letting him have that kind of control. Instead I have the kind of trust that locks him upstairs when company comes over.
“All right Uncle God, up those stairs you go. Yep, keep on going. I’ll be up in a little while to check on you.”
“Hey Paul, what was crazy Uncle God saying tonight?”
“You know, the usual gibberish.”
Where do I even start?
How about when he says that all things are possible with him? Or when the Apostle Paul says that God is able to do immeasurably more than we could even ask or imagine? My wildest, most hare-brained ideas about a life lived well are not even a drop in the bucket for him. Well if I really believed Him, I’d have to read these words with such a different intensity, wouldn’t I? If I really believed, Faith and Works would be doing a beautiful waltz throughout the details of every day. Instead, Faith is taking a nap and Works is playing on Facebook.
If I really believed my Father, I’d be comforted as he covered me in blankets. Even if it meant I couldn’t see a thing.
So I know some see Him as their Father and they act accordingly. They stand at the edge of the pool and jump to his open arms without reservation. But not me. I’m petrified, shivering at the edge. I want to jump, but I just don’t believe he’s really going to catch me.
“No thanks Uncle God. I think I’ll go swim in the kiddie-pool instead.” Give me numerous flotation devices to strap to my arms, as I try to survive in three feet of water. At least there, I’ll be safe.
A Couple Questions . . .
But if I can’t accept his role as my Father, then should I really be calling myself his child? Huh, that question is a tad frightening.
And am I really questioning the legitimacy of His fatherhood because he’s failed to catch me? Or because I’ve failed to jump?
Floating in the yellowish-water of this kiddie-pool, I’m pretty sure I know the answer.