More on the Fear of God

I’m not sure if you’ve ever done any sailing, or forging of metal, or shooting at the range, but when you engage in an activity that has an easy chance of maiming or killing you, you instinctively develop a responsible attitude toward that activity which prevents you from doing yourself harm. This is not a mental idea, but a deep, gut-level dread that blossoms into absolute horror should you transgress the rules of that activity.

A perfect example of this is the feeling you get if someone points a gun at you – even when you know it’s not loaded. There is no escaping the fear we feel for such an object of power, and it would be wrong not to treat it with respect at all times. I actually tried this once, when I used to own a shotgun. No matter how much I thought about the situation, I always felt a current of fear as I pointed the barrel back at myself, despite the fact that I admired and enjoyed using the weapon.

We should have exactly this relationship with the Covenant of God. This is what guards our soul from error: the “shield” and “guarantor of victory” promised by Bahá’u’lláh. It’s very similar to the role pain plays in our physical bodies, as a natural deterrent from self-harm.

Yet such a fear is very different from terror. People engage in these activities because they enjoy them, or find them useful. A pilot loves to be in the air more than anywhere else. But he does not, for one moment, ever take his circumstances lightly, or disregard the maintenance of his plane. If you’re 10,000 feet in the air, and your whole left depends on the tightness of a few engine bolts, and how much gas is left in your tank, believe me, you’d feel “khashiyyat” right where it counts. This is why my brother, a pilot, affectionately refers to his plane as his “little metal box of death”.