“How’s Lent?” Tim asked. He filled my mug with coffee. “Apparently coffee isn’t part of your offering this year.”
Tim knew one year I had given up all but one cup of coffee a day. And he knew how hard that year had been, not because of the caffeine withdrawal, but because of the stuff that had happened in our lives. (You can read more about that year in the appendix of Lent for Non-Lent People.)
“I’m still struggling to describe my commitment for this year,” I said.
Tim sat on the stool across the counter from me. I sat down, too.
“Fear,” I said. “That’s the first thing that came to mind a week ago, on Ash Wednesday. I thought, ‘I’m giving up fear for Lent.’ And I’ve been thinking about what that means all week. But I haven’t taken the time to sit and unpack it.”
Tim smiled. “I’ve got some familiarity with the idea,” he said. “And I might be able to be helpful. But can you describe what you mean by ‘fear’?”
“That’s a pretty important step,” I said. “I realized that I needed to identify as many shades of fearlike feelings that I have, if I wanted to give them up. Fear. Hesitation. Trepidation. Cowardice. Chaos. Worry. Anxiety. Anticipation. Dread.”
“What about skepticism,” Tim said. “And cowardice. And timidity.”
I looked up. That sounded familiar.
“I know something about fear,” Tim said. “When you included that sense of cowardice, I understand that from the inside. But I wanted you to dig far enough to see that something like ‘Fear of the Lord’ which is more like respect, is a different thing than being fearful or timid.”
He stood up. “One is about the thing you respect. The other is about your own responses. And being timid isn’t a gift from God.”