In the Garden of Eden, after their sin, Adam and Eve hide from God. It is clear that one of the effects of their disobedience is fear. This fear produces a kind of “barrier” in their heart, a barrier that constricts and hardens – an obstacle that keeps God out. But God is Goodness Itself, He is the great and perfect healer, and so they sink in the mire of their action instead of allowing God to pull them out. How could the God who runs out to the prodigal, refrain from restoring His children? Yet God always waits on us to turn to Him. He holds our freedom delicately in His hands, like a small bird, careful never to damage it.
We have inherited this fear of God, trembling at the idea of Him who could very well cast us into hell. If this is our view of God, how could we open our hearts to Him and reveal their contents? It would be like giving the prosecution in our trial all the incriminating evidence. And so we clutch at our wounds, trying to cover them so that God cannot see (as if that were possible) and condemn us. We don’t do this consciously, of course, but we do it nevertheless.
Let’s say I have a problem with lust and that I believe God will judge me harshly for my sinfulness. So I thrash about trying all sorts of games to solve my problem. I may use my willpower to try and overcome the wound, so that I can stand confidently before God again, having conquered using my power. I may try to justify the lustful thoughts and actions, arguing to myself that I am no worse than anyone else, and what I do is not that bad (or God doesn’t care either way). I may try to distract myself from terrible feelings of guilt by engaging in entertainment or acts of dissipation. I may give in and forget about this whole “God” thing and become an agnostic or atheist.
All of these responses are attempts at hiding myself from God. I don’t trust Him, and therefore I try to shield myself before Him. I feel vulnerable before God, and His imposing majesty.
The solution to this is trust and honesty.
We don’t need to fear God in the sense of servile fear. Reverence and respect – yes, but not servile fear. Jesus revealed the Father’s heart, and what did Jesus do? He had compassion on the sick and suffering, was merciful to the harlots and tax collectors, and invited the children to come to him. So first, let us say with St Faustina – “Jesus, I trust in You!”
Next, once we trust God our Father, God our life, and God our merciful salvation, then it is time for honesty. Not honesty in the sense of a child shyly and timidly confessing that they broke the window with their ball, fearing punishment. No – honesty in the sense of radical openness with the God who lives and prays within us. Honesty in the sense of humility, as one poor in spirit, who tells God the Father “I can’t do this on my own, please help me.” Honesty that can tell God, in radical openness, that “I don’t want to change, I am comfortable as I am – yet I believe that you want what is best for me, so please change me.” Or “Jesus, I kind of want to do your will, but I am also scared that you will ask too much of me, please give me strength.”
One of the marvelous fruits of this “confessional attitude” (as that Swedish mystic Adrienne von Speyr called it), is peace. We don’t have to struggle to protect this inflated vision of ourselves; this facade that we hope will make us safe from God. We can just “let go” and give all things to Him, trusting that He will never abandon us or leave us where we are. He will always come after that one lost sheep.
So let us no longer pretend that we are something that we are not – that we are better than what we really are. Let us not try to be more holy than Jesus, who cried, naked in the depths of his suffering, that God his Father and Love had abandoned him. No, let us, as we journey through life, open our entire hearts to God so that His light, love, and peace may fill us. May we let the Divine Doctor do his work.