I stood in the laundry room with piles of clothes at my feet, feeling my dad’s arms wrap around me and his scruffy beard scratch my forehead as he kissed me, whispering, “I am proud of you.” Hours later, I boarded my Williams-bound plane, my eyes moist with tears and my heart bursting with love for the family I was leaving behind.
I cherished my dad’s words of affirmation because his praise, though infrequent, is thoughtful and meaningful. The development of my relationship with my dad has involved a tension between my high regard for and my fear of him. Even though I’m not “afraid” of him per se, I am intimidated by his intellectual superiority. My recent high school diploma pales in comparison to his numerous graduate degrees. When I was younger, I hesitated to confide in him because I worried about sounding immature. Over time, my dad has shown me through his words and actions that he loves me completely, imperfections and all. We are close now; I ask him for advice and tell him stories about Williams, and he asks me lots of questions.
Even though I see my dad as superior, his love has opened the door for us to have a close relationship. Similarly, God’s love bridges the gap between His perfection and my humanity so that God and I can have a deeply personal relationship. For some unfathomable reason, the indescribable God of the universe desires intimate relationships with human beings, including me. Acknowledging God’s greatness and accepting His love brings me closer to Him. The fact that He is perfect but still loves me makes me want to get to know Him better. Like many relationships, the process of getting closer involves daily communication. I like to write and pray to God, and I listen for His responses as I sit in silence, sing worship songs, or read the Bible. I can interact intimately with God because Jesus’ death and resurrection made a way for me to commune with Him. I do not have to worry about sounding immature when I talk to God because although He is so much greater than me, He will never reject me.
As we grow closer, God’s love and acceptance help me trust Him more. I remember drawing a series of doors and windows in my prayer journal senior year, labeling them with the various colleges to which I had applied. I prayed, “God, have Your way with me. Open and shut doors.” I thought He wanted me to go to Dartmouth, so when I was deferred in the fall of my senior year, I felt angry and confused. Through prayer, God helped me realize that Williams was a better fit for me. There is a verse in the Bible that captures how God can take away something good and give something better. It reads, “Instead of bronze I [God] will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron…I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler.”1 God took away my potential Dartmouth acceptance, but he was giving me a positive Williams experience instead. When I feared God, I realized that I did not have to be scared of the outcome of my college applications because God knows and loves me fully. My perfect God answered my prayers by giving me otherworldly peace throughout the college process and making it abundantly clear my senior spring that He wanted me to go to Williams.
Even though I fear both my dad and God, their unconditional love invites me to be in close relationships with them. Drawing close to God and fearing Him is a continuous process in my life, just like the apostle Paul instructed to the early church in Philippi, I “continue to work out [my] salvation with fear and trembling.”2
1 Isaiah 60:17, NIV.
2 Philippians 2:12b, NIV, emphasis added
Originally published in The Williams Telos Issue 14, FEAR
Written by Sarah Gantt ’23