“The fear of God is the beginning…”
Our little family had just moved to a foreign country that had recently experienced devastating loss. My husband was venturing to start a business to help people learn how to do that honorably in a place where it had been considered immoral. We hired services to help us register the business, later to find out they were corrupt.
Our first clue was when they came to deliver the registration papers at the cold, leftover Soviet apartment that we used for an office. Oleg brought Tajir along with him. He was a Genghis Khan-looking fellow, the power lifter type with close-cropped hair. Oleg sat down and went through the papers then gargled, “I want you to meet Tajir. He’ll be your guard.” Immediately Dan suspected what was going on and said, “I don’t think we’ll need him.”
“Well,” he threatened “bad things can happen…”
Taken aback and scrambling to fathom this new culture Dan asked,
“If we were to hire him what would we pay?”
“We’ll come to an agreement…a percentage.”
“A percentage of what?! We’re just trying to get off the ground. We’re in the red!” Not given easily to intimidation, Dan continued, “If we need a guard, I’ll let you know and he’ll work for us.”
Some days later, the office door squeaked open and there was Tajir. He began to show up unannounced, making a habit of presumptuously walking into the office without knocking. Dan would greet him, tell him business was slow, practice his Russian, offer him tea, and ask him if he wanted to study the Bible. Tajir had a hard time keeping his smile under wraps. He was really a teddy bear caught in this mafia mix. After a few weeks Oleg showed up and asked Dan why he wasn’t paying Tajir. Dan said, “If we want him, we will hire him.”
He began to threaten. “Well, you have a wife and children…” he retorted. Of course this took it to another level. Dan showed them to the door scarcely able to disguise his anger. In the post Soviet power vacuum these types found ways of dealing with foreigners that clashed with our ideas of how to do ethical business. Dan asked him to leave.
Fear. It came closer to me the day I heard about this! I recognized it, felt its power. I knew I had to make a choice. We had been warned that living here would be difficult and dangerous. As I wrestled, I had to lean on the rock bottom belief that God is over all. I threw this fear like a hot potato to the God who wanted to show himself in this forsaken land. I had been working on taking my fears to Him rather than denying or just bottling them as I had done over the years. I felt its talons wanting to work into my mind and heart and had to deal with it for days. I didn’t want to live in fear and knew the paralysis of it to keep us in ruts. I hated ruts but often found myself in them.
Our local business partner began to worry greatly about not accommodating Oleg and the day she brought it up, Dan happened to be wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Fear Not’! But since it was winter and the city heat hadn’t been turned on yet, he had his winter coat on as he huddled over his desk. As he saw fear grasp *Cvyeta’s face, Dan remembered what he was wearing and yanked off his coat to show her the verse written on his shirt, a take-off of the then popular ‘No Fear’ logo. Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not for I am with you… “ She was given an ear-full about this God who was over all; much greater than this wanna-be mafia thug, and though she strained to listen, she still felt we needed to appease. Being new in the culture, Dan decided to let her call the shots on this one. She called Oleg’s office and made a plan to meet them to see what needed to be done. A meeting date was set.
The day came for the meeting and two local tour guides, inquiring about our new company, happened to come in for a consultation. Time got away as they discussed business. The phone rang. Sofia, answering the phone, looked worried and mouthed to Dan, “We’re supposed to be at Oleg’s office!” Dan asked her to reschedule, because we had unexpected clients arrive.
After this, Tajir inexplicably stopped showing up and we didn’t hear from Oleg for weeks. Another co-worker came in one day having seen the secretary who worked in Oleg’s office. Remembering that the dreaded meeting hadn’t yet happened, he asked her about Oleg, and she said abruptly, “Oleg’s dead”!
“What?! …what happened?
“He had a heart attack.” She announced. His partner was running a pyramid scheme and fled the country with $25,000 and the police arrested Oleg saying he was responsible for the money. He had a heart attack on the spot and died. Wow.
A year or so later Dan ran into Tajir. He asked him how it was going. Dan said, “Business is still slow…” Tajir smiled and waved.
God deals strongly with those who mess with his own! Sometimes a lot sooner than we expect!
If I grapple with a fear yet realize that there’s something much greater than it, then I can work through small fears that keep me from real life. Sometimes we don’t even know what those fears are, but not identifying them keeps us in ruts and builds walls. So I have to stop and identify the fear that’s grabbing me and admit it and begin taking it to the One we should fear above all.
What do you think you are most afraid of? Why? What are the fears behind those fears?
Think it through, if what you fear happens, then what? Can we go with God to our worst fears and talk them through?
If so, with time, perhaps we can break the inertia they bring and not give in to them or let them control us.
“The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him….”