Fear, Faith, and Fatherhood
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
When I was maybe four or five years old, we were at my grandparent’s farm, when my brother and I climbed on top of the corn in the gravity wagon as the auger unloaded it from the bottom. It was, in retrospect, not safe to ride the corn down as it was being sucked out. We thought it was grand fun though – until I got pulled in too deep and couldn’t get out. As I was being sucked under, to the mouth of the auger, I cried out for my father, who was close enough to jump up, reach over the edge, and pull me out. I don’t want to know what would have happened if my dad hadn’t been there to rescue me. In that moment, I needed him, and he saved me.
This was not altogether unlike my drug addiction. In my drug use, I was sucked in and pulled under by my self-destructive behavior. In the disastrous consequences, I cried out in desperation to God. Just like in that gravity wagon, when I knew that my dad was the only one who could save me, I knew in my addiction that my only hope was God. It was in that helpless condition that I learned to truly depend on him. It was only when I had no other hope that I learned to practice authentic faith.
In today’s passage, Paul said that we no longer need to live in bondage and fear. He doesn’t promise that we won’t struggle and that there won’t be terrifying things in life. He just promised that now, as children of God, we don’t need to be enslaved or to live in fear.
This isn’t automatic though. Our trials and fears don’t simply disappear because we call ourselves Christians. In fact, Paul said we only experience the freedom and peace of God’s as father when we follow him (Romans 8:14). It’s only in living like his children that we find salvation from our struggles and fears. We can’t continue to live only for ourselves and expect the benefits that are bestowed only on those who follow the father.
We all have struggles and we all experience fear. We don’t, however, need to live enslaved and in fear. In choosing to live as children of God, we can experience him as the loving father who saves us when we can’t save ourselves.