It seems like such a stretch…no…an impossibility, for us to accept what God really desires from us and for us: Not a list of commands we can tick off like the rich guy in Matthew (19:16), not a quick rote prayer on our way to more important things, not a list of complaints we keep bringing to him until they are heard and remedied.
And so, here we are, stuck in our miserable small lives, blaming our unhappiness on God or some inept human and demanding the universe be reordered in our favor! All the while, we seem to be oblivious to life’s special moments with friends and loved ones, majestic sunsets, breathtaking rainbows, the pure pleasure of chocolate, and most of all, a magnificent life full of richness and purpose. All planned out for us by a God who doesn’t do ordinary and never did.
Do you ever think about why we stay stuck there? I believe we are afraid of intimacy. Deny it, poo-poo it, thumb your nose at it. But think about it. Keeping ourselves at arm’s length from our relationship with God and others requires nothing from us. Intimacy is too scary. But surprisingly, it too makes no demands. By its nature, it cannot demand.
Intimacy is the love relationship modeled for us by the Father and his beloved Son through the work of the Spirit. It is self-emptying and gratuitous. It seeks the best for others over our own wants and needs. It is life-giving and what God longs for with each of us. He beacons us into a relationship with him, and he will court and swoon and get all mushy over us until we let go of our fears. But intimacy requires trust and vulnerability, and we’re terrified of being vulnerable and exposing our weaknesses. Yeah, I tried that once and got smacked silly. No thanks. If we could just realize that vulnerability is not a character flaw to be conquered. It is integral to our relationship with God and is meant to be transforming. It means accepting and loving who we truly are, sins and all. It is birthed in the grace of God, not shame.
We continually believe that we’re not good, perfect, or “holy” enough. Who told us that? I can think of several people in my life, beginning with my parents, especially my mother. Countless more people have been eager to reinforce that lie over the years. It’s incredible when you think about it, that we allow other broken people to define us and determine our worth. Then point to them when we try to prove to God that we are not worthy of love.
Truth be told, it’s the ego that holds us back, which is a paradox, actually. The ego is our sacred cow. And yet, we live this meager, paltry, desolate life tethered to our fears while pumping up our false selves for display to anyone who threatens our fragile sense of self. I wasted so many years trying to defend myself against the lies and blamed God for all my misery. In my lowest moments, I accused him of not caring, “If you loved me, where were you when I needed you?! What was I supposed to think when you were silent while my mother abused me?” More silence. “Yeah, I thought so.” Proving my point, I could go off and do what I damn well pleased. You’re on your own, Linda. I’m pretty sure God was silent in those moments because he knew I was a hot mess, that my heart was too closed off to hear him. I wasn’t interested in healing; I just wanted him to bring down fire and brimstone on everyone else.
Fear makes no sense. It denies us a loving, generous, merciful, forgiving, extraordinary relationship with God, and in turn, with others. Instead, we settle for crumbs. We live in defiance of our truth because it seems impossible to believe that God would really “desire” our broken, self-centered, imperfect selves. What Glennon Doyle calls “this crappy version of ourselves.” Instead of embracing it, we give up trying because it’s just too hard to be the flawless human we’ve been led to believe God requires. We’re sure that we are a disappointment to him. That he’s tallying up all our transgressions. That nothing gets past him. It’s really annoying.
Fear has a source that God continually warns us about. I love this quote from John Eldridge:
When we don’t believe in our blessedness, we begin to doubt and fear, just as Peter did when Jesus invited him to walk on the water (Matt 14:29), and that’s just where Satan wants us. So, how do we get beyond that? How do we learn to embrace; to love what God sees in us? Perhaps we should start with this truth: Even if your parents failed to love you well, it’s okay. It really is okay. You are okay because you already possessed an innate capacity to love and be loved before God formed you in your mother’s womb. Our mothers, no matter if they love us well or totally suck at nurturing, are not the creators of our essence. That distinction is God’s alone. Got that? Let that soak in.
I was able to begin my long journey of change when I came face-to-face with this God who seems to forget our offenses even when we can’t. Not a change that signifies accomplishment but a change that allows me to embrace my messiness, brokenness, and imperfections.
One of my most powerful growth moments came when I realized that my mother, my mean, abusive mother, was loved by God. But, sadly, she was never able to grasp her truth. When I was younger, I hated her and told her so. She lived and died, never having known the person God longed for her to accept and embrace as His beloved daughter. What I wouldn’t give to have her back. What I wouldn’t give to offer her the forgiveness and love that I now know. But when she was alive, I was too lost and broken myself. God knows that and has been relentless in his pursuit of my heart so that I could forgive myself and offer his love to others. I honestly feel that the moment I could forgive my mom, even though it was long after she died, our spirits connected and that mysterious, mystical love of God transcended all our barriers and healed our hearts. I could deeply sense it even though I couldn’t explain it. Of course, as soon as you try to “explain” mystery, it is no longer mystery.
When we allow ourselves to open our hearts to God, the magic begins. Suddenly, our worldly longings don’t seem so significant. We stop demanding anything from anyone, ourselves included. If we can get just a tiny taste of the peace and indescribable joy God will bring to our lives when just sitting in his presence becomes everything, it is tantamount to heaven because it is heaven.
Jesus said to all with ears to hear, which has never been many, “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (my emphasis). Luke 17:21. You don’t have to strive for it or wait till you die.
Saint Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive”. Conversely, the joy of Satan is man sound asleep. Are we even aware that there is a battle raging in the very depth of our hearts that is continuous and unrelenting? Jesus warned about it, but we’re not listening because we don’t think it applies to us. Why is that? How much of scripture do you believe is meant for us today; is intended to be a guidepost for how we should live and move and have our being? And how much do we toss away as irrelevant? That, my friends, is Satan at his most cunning. Like that pesky snake in the garden, “Oh, come on, you don’t really believe all that stuff do you?! God wants you to have a fun-filled life with no worries! Party on, munchkins”.
Jesus warned his followers then and warns us now, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they (you and me included) may have life and have it to the full.” John10:10. Do you feel like you’re living your fullest life possible, that you are the best version of yourself? Or does it feel like one hurdle after another to overcome, barriers and heartaches and detours that wear you down?
I believe God has a challenge for you if you’re willing to give him a chance. Ready?
“Try me out for thirty days. When you arise in the morning, come talk to me first. Read some scripture, tell me what’s on your mind, what breaks your heart. You may already be doing that, but, I would ask you to go deeper because this is where it gets real. Give me ten or fifteen quiet minutes of your time without expecting anything. Then, if you don’t feel something stirring within you (by the way, that would be Me), I will give you your miserable life back! What do you say?” – God
I see you there, thinking, “Yeah, been there, done that, and got lost in a maze of “rules and regulations” from days gone by. I’m busy, and this is complicated. Can you just give me the bullet points?” I think we have the notion that God doesn’t understand our obsession with bullet points in this hurried life we live. Look how we are drawn to articles that provide 5 Easy Steps to _________ (fill in the blank). Actually, four would be better. Just get to the point! For example:
4 Easy Steps to permanent weight loss (I could offer this in 1 Easy Step):
- Stop eating crap. BAM! See how easy that is?
And reading scripture? Really?! How many attempts have you made to read the Old Testament before your eyes glazed over? Exactly. If God could just make this easier. Actually, he did. Perhaps he made it too easy, and we can’t wrap our minds around something so simple. Ready?
1 Easy Step to permanent peace and joy:
- “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 – Any questions?
And this, dear ones, is what I hope and pray for you: