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The God We See

Psalm 34:4-5 (CSB) "Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed."

“Joy gives us the freedom to live without masks because, in spite of our weaknesses, we know we are loved. We are not afraid of our vulnerabilities or exposure. Joy gives us the freedom from fear to live from the heart Jesus gave us. We discover increasing delight in becoming the people God knew we could be.5”
Jim Wilder, The Other Half of Church: Christian Community, Brain Science, and Overcoming Spiritual Stagnation

How do you picture God's face? More importantly, how do you picture His face while looking at you? Take a moment to really think about this because our answer to this question says much about how we believe God sees us. How we believe God sees us will determine our trust for Him, our willingness to come to Him and our willingness to be vulnerable with Him which is always necessary for intimacy. 

It has been fascinating to me that even our dog responds to my face. If she walks into the room and I smile at her, she will turn from where she was going and make a beeline for me. If she is doing something she is not supposed to do and I frown at her, she will quickly walk away with a sideways glance. As an experiment, I have even tried to suddenly change from a frown to a smile and when that happens, she walks towards me again. If even a dog is influenced by a face, how much more are we influenced by the face of another human? 

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We don't often do a very good job of loving each other well and as a result, we have learned to perform for love. When we do things people love, we are loved. When we do things people don't like, we are not liked. Sometimes we may still be liked, but not very many are skilled at maintaining love while expressing anger or frustration. Because there is a love deficit, both in us and others, people often don't love each other well in weakness. When weakness (sin) hits another's pain, love often goes by the wayside. Much like when a wound is hit or scraped, the natural reaction is to pull away. We move away from those who have hurt us and that's where judgments, rejection, gossip, and relationship bonds are broken. A disapproving expression on a face or faces can affect us deeply especially when it seems difficult to regain love.

Now think about when you walk into a room and a face lights up when they see you. Perhaps it's a spouse coming home after a trip, a friend who runs into you at the store or someone you love listens to a story you tell. In some relationships we experience love gone well and those are the relationships that draw us out and help us be who God created us to be. These are the relationships that feel safe and we find little pieces of us that have been in hiding. We share more deeply with those we feel safe with and those who like to be with us.

Psalm 34:4 says that those who look to God are 'radiant with joy.' What kind of face looking at you would bring joy? A harsh one? A judgmental one? A disappointed one? An indifferent one? or would it be A kind one? A loving one? An understanding one? A compassionate one? A competent one?

The only way joy would be the result of looking towards God is if the God looking back is altogether loving and full of compassion, mercy and grace. The God who IS love always has His attention turned towards us. We may sometimes do those things He doesn't like, but it never alters His deep love for us or the joy He has when we turn towards Him. 

It can be really difficult for us to make the distinction between Him disliking some things we do and Him disliking us. In most of our human experiences, the two are so closely linked we cannot separate them. Throughout the Bible we see the tenderness of God for those who are weak. In the Gospels we see Jesus lovingly finding the ones who have nothing to offer and caught up in sin. He tenderly reached out and pulled the weak near to Himself. That's what He wants to do with us. The response to Jesus by the needy was never fear or to move away but to move towards Him. Even when Adam and Eve hid in the Garden, God went looking for them and wasn't content to leave them hiding. God is always looking for us because of His great love. Our hiding can take many forms, but none of us are skilled enough to hide from God although we can refuse to look at Him. Looking at Him always results in us finding Love.

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When we come to Him as we are and look to Him, our vision begins to clear and we begin to see Him more and more clearly. We begin to realize that this powerful God is safe and we can bring our whole self to Him. He is looking at us in love and desires no performance, no pretense, no flattery and loves who He created us to be. With Him, we can be fully at rest and in that place we find joy. In this space we find the courage to change and the freedom to live how He says is best. The joy we find there will be our strength and we will truly be radiant.