Holy Fear, Salient Father
Updated: Mar 1
‘The deepest search in life was our search to find a father, not merely the lost father of our youth but the image of strength and wisdom external to our need and superior to our hunger to which our own life can be united.’ Thomas Wolfe
So quotes Leanne Payne in Crisis in Masculinity; we do well to heed our inner cry for God the Father. For the next 40 days, beginning this Wednesday, Lent invites us to do just that. Might we cooperate -- identifying pleasing attachments that dull holy longings and deny ourselves them? Might we rediscover our deepest, truest ache? And cry out for beloved vagrants who will find no home 'til they find Him?
That ache drives the most awarded film of the year, Power of the Dog. I didn’t particularly enjoy the film (fine looking but episodic; implausible in its cartoonish lead actors and silly ‘self-pleasure’ scenes) but I appreciated allusions to the crippling impact of fatherlessness. The lead stalls at his erotic adulation of a mentor and spews self-hatred on all, especially the second lead whose father killed himself. Mom hovers ineffectively as son homosexually fantasizes and plots his revenge. (To director/writer Jane Campion’s credit, the story retains its complexity by refusing to conclude: ‘I’m now free to live my best gay self’…)
Absent from the film is any hint of the holy—Wolfe’s intimation that our ache can’t be satisfied by mere creatures but by this Father who stoops down to raise us up to our true stature as sons and daughters (Ps. 18:35; Gal. 4:3-7).
Our Father is salient: equal parts tenderness and power. He refuses to allow us to reduce Him to the sum of our need; at the same time, He knows and cares deeply about our needs, tends to them, and engenders a respect that compels us to cry out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’!
Manipulating characters on a screen, habituating to sexy images, or politicizing sexual ‘selves’ won’t satisfy. Only Jesus. His Spirit probes deeper than our attachments and reveals His Father to us. He awakens our hearts’ truest convictions (Rom. 2:15).
Perhaps in retrospect I had more holy fear than I knew. Having tried to reduce the creature to my needs, I was not inclined to reduce God to them. A high school friend, Catholic, expressed real concern for my eternal destiny. We talked frankly about my homosexuality and her conviction about the nature of God and human sexuality. She stopped me in my tracks. Not that she was harsh—far from it; she was cool and kind. Her words simply aligned with my heart’s awareness that I was stalled, mucking about in some dark stuff that affronted God; Holy God, the One of whom it is said, ‘Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps. 111:10).
This Lent, might we allow holy fear to take us back to the beginning of wisdom, the way things are, truly, in God’s design for our lives. We who have called upon the Lord for a while may well need to feel the pinch of an inspired, self-imposed ‘fast’ from our opiates. That means little unless we open to the One Whose heart burns-in-love for us and longs to burn through us for our beloved lost.