Hi friends! I realized today that it's been three weeks since I last wrote! It's been a very busy three weeks with a lot of opportunities and celebration. I helped put on an open house to celebrate my husband's business and new office. It was a super exciting time for us since he's had his IT business for a little over 18 years and recently experienced a lot of growth. It was so fun to celebrate the years of hard work by many that has gone into making the business what it is today.
I also spent one week at my first of four residencies with the Renovare Institute of Spiritual Formation. It was a beautiful week spiritually, physically and relationally and I learned so much! I have found in coming home there has been a ripple effect in my life and a radical change in my thinking about God, myself and others. I am only one month into a two year program. I don't think I even knew the change was happening during the week, but I have found myself living from a whole new reality and a deepening and transforming understanding of how great God's love is for all of us. I am still sifting through all I learned but this is where my thoughts have been stationed this week. I feel a bit overloaded, but the main thing I am thinking on right now is how impactful our view of God is. Thanks for coming along as I write my thoughts. My best learning is done through writing and hopefully you can find something for you as well!
If there was a faulty belief you had deep down that is driving your very life, would you want to know? What if many of the internal problems you face center around a main belief? What if the gap between what you believe in your head and what you are experiencing in your day to day life is not impassable, but simply missing something crucial or omitting something grand? What if the anxiety you feel, the shame you try to hide, the deep disappointments you have can be traced to the faulty beliefs? What if that belief is one you do not even know you carry, but affects every area of your life on some level? What if this belief colors your whole world?
A.W. Tozer said,
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.
We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.
I am coming to see that this is true. Our view of God will necessarily dictate how we see ourselves in relation to Him. There is a necessary interplay between what we believe about God, and what we believe He thinks about us. Both are crucial to the health of our relationship with Him. I know C.S. Lewis is disagreeing with Tozer in his coming statement, but I think they are both correct. We need a correct view of both God and our relation to Him. Most of us have neither and need to let God keep transforming our view into a more correct one.
C.S. Lewis in response to Tozer said, "
I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God.
By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us.
It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
Trevor Hudson, one of the Renovare Institute instructors, says:
Our idea of God and its associated images are the most important things about us. We live at the mercy of our ideas.
-Our picture of God shapes the way we relate to God
-Our picture of God shapes the way we relate to others
-Our picture of God shapes the way we relate to Scripture
-Our picture of God shapes the way we relate to pain and our response
In my own life, I have found this to be 100% true. Last week, one of our main courses was about our view(s) of God, how we acquired them and how to compare them to the Biblical view of God. We often have many wrong views. It seems to me that my last ten years have been filled with ever-changing views of God and the more I can see, the more beautiful my image of Him becomes. We really do see in a mirror dimly. Last week brought another major shift as well as a level of anticipation. One teacher, Carolyn Arends, said that our capacity to know God is like water in a thimble compared to the size of the ocean. This is very good news! Not least because God doesn't just love us, but IS love. This means that there is an immeasurable amount of His love to be captivated by. We can learn a little bit more every day and still only experience an undetectable trace of who He is in comparison to who He actually is.
If you're anything like me, I have carried some distorted views of God. As God has been healing them and transforming them, it's amazing how much more freedom I am finding. As my view of Him is changing, my beliefs about His view of me are changing as well. I am finding freedom to be more of who He created me to be and more freedom from things like anger, bitterness, resentment, judgmentalism, fears, anxieties and shame.
I went through many years in my walk with God where I didn't give any thought to my view of God. I just assumed what I was told and what I perceived were all true. It didn't occur to me that our image of God is formed by many, many things. Our warped images of God will always affect us in some way. They can come from any variety of things like teachings, experiences, disappointments, successes, other relationships etc. Our very lives often form our view of God and where we fit in relation to Him.
My main view of God I lived with for many years led to much anxiety and a life that looked like never measuring up and always failing. Nine years ago, I reached a crisis point in my faith because it wasn't working. God upended my view of Him and transformed my view from a harsh God to a deeply loving God and continues to do so. The best way I can describe the chaos my old view of God caused was feeling like there were always barking dogs at my heels. My wrong view affected my ability to come near to God, how I saw myself, how I interacted with and saw others, how I read the Bible, how I worshiped and how I prayed.
After God started healing some of my misconceptions of Him, it become much easier to approach Him. I could truly trust Him. Not only that, but I WANTED to spend more and more time with Him. I think that much of our struggle to spend time with God is because we don't really believe He is near or that He cares. Our struggle with trust is often because the God we truly believe in is not very worthy of trust. Honestly, is the God you know, a God you want to spend time with? A God you want to trust? You will know the answer by how you live your life. Our inner life reveals itself in our outer life. The problem is we often berate ourselves instead of finding out the 'why's' of the way we are living or aren't. God isn't scared of the 'why's' and there can be great freedom found in exploring them with God.
After God overhauled my harsh view of Him, I distinctly remember attending a type of prayer meeting I previously would have been comfortable with and seeing those in the room begging loudly for God to come. God whispered to my heart, "Is this how you have come to know Me? A distant God who needs to be begged to come?" I then thought of all of the Scripture that reveals He is near. Suddenly, it made no sense to me to beg Him. I felt so much relief that the God I had come to know was not the God I previously thought He was. I imagine for the rest of our lives we will keep being relieved when He reveals more and more of His goodness. This is what we see in the story of the Prodigal Son. The wayward son was overcome with his father's extravagant love and goodness. I remember at one point God spoke to my heart, "You will never find me to be less loving than you hope me to be."
My view of God as far away and needing to be begged had been mainly formed in a church I had attended at one point during college and this view of Him had stayed with me. It became a normal way to pray for me and I couldn't see it was stemming from a faulty view of God. Prayer meetings I attended where this was the norm left me feeling internally tired and distant from God. I don't know if I could have articulated it at the the time. Faulty views are like that. We can't often see them because they are so much a part of our thinking and belief system.
The thing is, I didn't pay attention much to how I felt. I attributed my negative feelings to 'sin' or 'flesh' and didn't realize the negative feelings were serving as a warning to me that something was not right. To be sure, we can have negative feelings and resistance that are against what God is trying to do in us, but either way, we do ourselves a disservice when we ignore them.
When we have negative feelings about something, God is big enough for us to take them to Him to see what He has to say about them. If it is something He wants to change in us or something wrong in us, we can trust Him to love us enough to show us. Sometimes, it is actually the Holy Spirit in us trying to move us towards a more accurate view of God. Ignoring our heart is never a good solution. Some of us have learned to override feelings and just keep moving, but that only takes away our capacity to be real with God and to hear Him when He is trying to speak to us. I overlooked the fact that our feelings often reveal to us the things we are uncomfortable with or struggling with below the surface. Feelings aren't always accurate, but negative feelings - especially about God - should always be explored. It may just be that our view of God is too small and He is trying to break out of the box we have confined Him to.
What about you?
What is your picture of God?
What has helped your picture of God to be more accurate?
What kinds of events or past experiences may have colored your view of God?
What did they speak to you about God?
What disappointments about God do you have?
When you think about God, what feelings do you have?
What does your life reveal about the God you believe in?
Maybe you will think of more questions as you process this
All of these are important questions to help us get to our true views of God. Do the conclusions about God that your heart has come to reflect what is revealed about God in the Bible through Jesus? If not, ask God to help you trust Him enough to help you bring those views to Him. The first step is noticing.
God is far more than we can fathom, imagine or hope for. An eternity is not long enough to understand Him in all of His goodness and kindness. His love is directed towards us and His mercies for us are new every morning. He understands our deepest needs. Not one part of our heart is hidden from Him yet He loves us deeply. He is bigger than our questions and is tenderhearted towards us. He is more than capable of keeping us in His truth and there is nothing we can do to hide from His presence. He will surround us every day of our lives and will answer every time we call. He is slow to anger and quick to forgive all of our sins. He knows we are but dust and is patient with us. He is safe and in Him we can be completely secure. He gives us all we need for life and godliness and doesn't leave us on our own. Our weaknesses, when given to Him, reveal His strength. He IS love.
Father, Thank you that our view of you does not determine who You really are. Help us to see the places where our view of you does not match who you are. Give us the courage we need to allow ourselves to be aware of your nearness to us. Reveal to our hearts all of the places where we hold you at arms length and help us to see what is true. Thank you that your desire is to be near us and give us the ability to live in this truth daily.