It took me six trips total to come up with K’s new shoes. After wearing out two pairs of boots in two months, I was determined to find a pair of shoes that would last, and also be fun to wear (without breaking the bank, of course). I hunted high and low and we finally settled on a pair of (heaven help me) clearance sequined up the calf Twinkle Toes. Light-up shoes: my nemesis. I have sworn since they were small that there was no sense in light-up shoes whatsoever, and of course K has wanted them ever since. I caved–they were just so her, and with durable soles to boot.
As we drove to school that morning in her sparkling new shoes, I noticed that I’d left the “I light up!” tag at the base of each set of laces. “I’ll cut it off when we get home,” I told her. Apparently she forgot. Instead, when I picked her up, I noticed the laces of one shoe tied in a knot at the base. “Did you cut those laces?” I asked her, my voice trembling with frustration. She too began trembling, the apology tumbling out of her. “I’m so sorry, Mama. Are you mad, Mama? Please don’t be mad!”
I was mad. I had told her I would cut the tag off later, precisely because I knew that the laces ran underneath and it would be tricky to cut the tag but not the laces. Six trips to buy these shoes, and they were snipped through on the very first day. And she was afraid, because she knew she had made a mistake, that she had disobeyed me and damaged something valuable that I had given her.
“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:4-5)
Fear of God is a major theme in theme in the Bible, but I’ve always struggled with the idea of fearing God, partly because the God I know is so full of love and tenderness that it’s hard for me to imagine being afraid of Him. But I also know that it’s critical, because “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Psalm 1:7), and I can use me some knowledge.
But what God’s been directing me to in this verse is that “He is to be feared above all gods.” Regardless of how my fear of Him is getting along, it’s still possible for me to evaluate instead what I’m fearing above Him. Which can be a lot: Judgement from others. Rejection. Lack of success. Even piddling things like weight gain and blog readers (which, now that I look at them, are related to the earlier three).
These are idols, even though they’re not shiny and gold, even though I hold them in the recesses of my heart instead of on an altar in my home. While my human nature may never allow me to let them go completely, that’s not exactly what’s asked in this verse. Instead, we are called to fear God “above all gods.” I think He knows we’re human, that we struggle to be loved and valued in a crazy, messed-up culture. But He wants us to let that go anyway, because being afraid of God is something much safer and healthier–after all, He is that loving, caring father.
K was afraid of my anger, and rightfully so. But I, a loving though flawed mother, responded firmly but tenderly. I pointed out her mistake, but with sweetness and forgiveness. I told her that we all make mistakes, that I loved her very much, that I was sorry she had cut her laces. Then I worked them carefully, tying a tight knot in a cute bow, finally presenting them back to her as nearly perfect as they would ever be now, with the comfort that it was okay, that it would all be okay.
God loves us even more. We should fear Him, because that fear says that we value His rules above the rule of anything else. But we should also know that in contrast to the harshness the rest of the world doles out when we go against it, God will always love us. No matter how off course we get, He will make our paths straight if we surrender to Him, just as I was able to mend K’s laces only when she surrendered them to me. And just like our fear of something else is replacing our fear of God, if we aren’t surrendered to God, we’re surrendered to something else.
Who knew it would be light-up shoes that would help me see the importance of fear, and the love that follows?