Awesome God or Familiar Friend?

Sometimes when I take my early morning prayer walk I’m torn as to how to approach God. On the one hand I feel I can enter into a comfortable and casual conversation with Him, like an old and familiar friend. On the other hand I understand that He is the awesome God of the universe, and that if He should reveal Himself as He did to the prophet Isaiah, I too, like Isaiah, would drop to my face, grinding my nose into the muddy path, afraid that exposure to such a holy God would most certainly prove fatal. 

Jerry Bridges, in his book I Exalt You O God, writes that “in the physical realm there are two opposing forces called centrifugal and centripetal. Centrifugal force tends to pull away from a center of rotation, while centripetal force pulls toward the center. A stone whirled about on the end of a string exerts centrifugal force on the string, while the string exerts centripetal force on the stone. Each of these forces cannot exist without the other. Take away one and the other immediately disappears.” 

Bridges continues, “These two opposing forces can help us understand something of our relationship with God. The centrifugal force represents those attributes of God such as His holiness and sovereignty that cause us to bow in awe and self-abasement before Him. They hold us reverently distant…The centripetal force represents the love of God. It surrounds us with grace and mercy and draws us with cords of love into the Father’s warm embrace.” (p. 142) 

This tension I feel between familiarity and fear in my relationship with God is what Bridges calls a “healthy tension” and should not be seen as something negative. After all, how could I love a God who prompted nothing but fear? How could I bow before a God who was nothing more than a divine buddy? God is so big that I need all of my emotions to embrace Him in a relationship!

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