The (de)formed self

You were never inconsequential

You were never inconsequential

Your existence has never been inconsequential. God joined your father’s seed with your mother’s egg and you were conceived. News of the pregnancy brought various reactions, expectations, hopes and fears to your parents. And, even before your conception, God knew you and had a plan for your life. (Isaiah 49)

It was God’s intention for you to be loved perfectly; and if humankind had not taken a wrong turn in Eden, a child would learn his belovedness and competency from his family. But a wrong turn was taken and this detour left all of us without the ability to love purely and completely.

Even though your parents loved you the best they could, they fell short of perfection. Each of these violations of love harmed you. Some violations were minor and relatively reparable by forgiveness and good intentions. Some were tragic and caused extended harm and a disfigurement of some fashion, forcing a compromised physical or emotional posture.

We learned early on that there were expectations placed upon us. Even at birth, before a baby has done nothing but breathe on it’s own, there is standard that is applied to measure the child’s perfection. A ten on the Apgar scale is the hoped for score. Anything less alerts fear and/or disappointment in the new parents.

What if you were an introverted child, born to a set of extraverts, or an athlete born to scholars? Perfect and patient love would honor your uniqueness. At some level, though, parents see their child as an extension of who they are and hope the child will grow into a better version of themselves. Your love of dance could be a disappointment to your scientist mother. Unchecked, such parental disappointment harms and (de)forms the maturing child.

Some points for reflection:

  • How was the news of your mom’s pregnancy received by your parents? Is there a connection between their responses and the emotional tone of your childhood?
  • Recount the way your parents’ love taught you your belovedness; caused you to doubt it.
  • How was your uniqueness treated in your family? Were you honored, misunderstood, celebrated, silenced?
  • How can you honor your child’s God-given nature?

Next post, we’ll talk about the family rules, both spoken and unspoken, that teach us who we should be and how we should act.

The series of posts The NEW Old begins here. Join me each Monday as we explore how God wants to make old things new.
Advertisements

God gives God’s self a gift

Imagine, you are a gift God's gives the world

Imagine, you are a gift God’s gives the world

Recall the satisfaction you experience when you find the perfect gift for someone you love; the joy of knowing it will bring them delight. If we find joy in giving good gifts, imagine how much more God enjoys giving the perfect gift. And wrap your mind around this truth: You are God’s gift!

Everybody loves a gift, right? Even God! Jesus described you as a gift given to him by his Father. (John 17) You know the joy you get out of spending your birthday money on something you really, really want? That is the same joy God experiences over you. You are precious and honored in God’s sight and dearly beloved. (Isaiah 43) You are God’s gift to God’s self!

You are God’s gift to the world! God planned for you to inhabit earth at this very precise moment in history. You are uniquely created, there is no one like you. You have particular gifts, inclinations and skills necessary to bless your family, your coworkers, your neighbors. You are an essential means by which God shows the world God’s great love and generous compassion.

You are God’s gift to you! God created you to experience joy and delight as you follow your interests, use your good mind and enjoy exercising your body. Let yourself become friends with who you are. Sure, you’re not perfect, but you, the true you, is a wonder. Take a lesson from Evelyn Underhill, in her book, The Ways of the Spirit.

The true relation between the soul and God is the perfectly simple one of a childlike dependence. Well then be simple and dependent, acknowledge once for all the plain fact that you have nothing of your own, offer your life to God and trust Him with the ins and outs of our soul as well as everything else! Cultivate a loving relation to Him in your daily life; don’t be ferocious with yourself because that is treating badly a precious (if imperfect) thing which God has made. 

Imagine: you are God’s gift, this is your fundamental identity. (For more thoughts on your identity in Christ, read the paragraph Concerning your Identity in the Mentored Life Rule.)

But something has gone awry. Generally speaking we do not live from this sense of being celebrated by God. And we rarely recognize that our very self, with it’s unique temperament and talents is entrusted by God with the mission of bringing the gospel to the world in which we live.

With you on the journey,

Debby

P.S. I love gifts, hint, hint.

To be continued in my next post.

The series of posts The NEW Old begins here. Join me each Monday as we explore how God wants to make old things new.

Begin with the end in mind

In our series of important questions, we’ve considered “Who is God?” Let’s move on to an equally important question: “Who am I?”

We know ourselves by such things as what we do, the way we look, or the relationships we are in. If I were to name a few essential things that describe who I am, the list would include:

  • I am an introvert (edging on recluse)
  • I am playful (enjoy silliness, games, childlike pursuits)
  • I love God (not perfectly, though)
  • I doubt my value (keeps me quiet and invisible)
  • I’m a woman, married, well-educated (and other external identifiers)

You could make your own list and reading it would help me know you better. But are these qualities, characteristics and interests what define you? I’m not the first to realize there is more to who we are than what we do. Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island says,

We must find our real selves not in the froth stirred up by the impact of our being upon the beings around us, but in our own soul which is the principle of all our acts.

When you ask “Who am I?” you touch the essence of the human experience. The answer to the question reveals the unique you, who was created by God, for God’s delight and God’s intention.

God created you to belong to God, to know yourself as God’s beloved; and from this solid sense of self, to allow your unique personhood to become a means of expressing God’s character and God’s good will toward the entire world.

In Rev. 7 there is a description of the end for which you were made:

‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ These are they who have come out of the great ordeal. 

The ordeal you face is the lifelong struggle of putting off the old, false self with all it’s sin-based, ego-driven needs and habits and putting on the new self, the one God has named “my beloved and pleasing child.” Emerging victorious from this struggle is accomplished by faithfully clinging to Jesus and being deaf to any voice but God’s. The evil one would clothe you in shame and accusations. God clothes you in a white robe, the robe of acceptance and purity. Hold this truth foremost as you fight the good fight. Because:

For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

As it has been said, begin with the end in mind. Today, you are in God’s presence. Can you feel the shelter of God’s love and power? Right now, let God satisfy your hunger, quench your thirst, and keep you safe. In this very moment, Jesus, your good shepherd, cares for you and takes you to the source of life. At this hour, God knows your pain and sorrow, let God comfort and console you.

Let these truths define who you are.

With you on the journey,

Debby

This is part of a series entitled  The New Old, a look at familiar things God wants to make new. It begins here.

Can you let yourself be loved?

Remember this, my friends: God is love, God cannot not love. Peter van Breeman says it much better than I can.

If we think God is a person who can divide his love, then we are thinking not of God but ourselves. God is perfectly one, the perfect unity. We have love, but God is love. His love is not an activity. It is his whole self.

It takes a lifetime to let ourselves be loved by such a fierce and tender God. God, though is a patient lover. We resist, we throw out the reasons we are not worthy of such a love and these excuses are swatted away by God’s gracious hand.

I was totally taken by surprise when my husband, Jack, proposed to me. I was still dating other men at the time, so obviously, he was much further along the relationship road than I was. In my shock, I asked him why he was proposing to me at this early stage of our relationship. He answered, “You’ve told me that you hold back your heart because you are afraid of rejection. I just want you to know that if and when you are ready to let your heart venture out, I will be there waiting for you.” Wow.

I had dated other men and had friends who had told me I was attractive, or had gifts to offer the world, but in my heart I thought, ‘Yeah, you don’t really know me, I’m actually quite ugly and selfish inside.’ But when Jack told me these things, I believed him. His love for me helped me believe God’s truth about myself. I decided I needed to let myself be loved by such a man. I agreed to marry him and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Such is God’s love for us. God knows we’ve been convinced through any number of circumstances and relationships that we are fundamentally unloveable. Yet God never forgets our true self, the beautiful soul he had in mind when he created us. He calls, invites and woos us into daring to believe his image of us is possible. Slowly, his love wins us over.

Anthony de Mello is quoted in Father Gregory Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart,

‘Behold the One beholding you and smiling.’ It is precisely because we have such an overactive disapproval gland ourselves that we tend to create God in our own image. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.

and again, Fr. Boyle,

God, I guess, is more expansive than every image we think rhymes with God. How much greater is the God we have than the one we think we have. More than anything else, the truth of God seems to be about a joy that is a foreigner to disappointment and disapproval. This joy just doesn’t know what we’re talking about when we focus on the restriction of not measuring up.

We need to let ourselves be loved by such a God.

With you on the journey,

Debby

This is part of a series entitled  The New Old, a look at familiar things God wants to make new. It begins here.

God’s Autobiography (cont)

Sorry about a lack of post last week. As I’m sure you can relate, I had a bit of a crazy week. Please read, comment and share these posts as you like. We’re in the middle of a series on the ways God wants to make old, familiar things new and fresh. Today we’re looking at part two of God’s self description. See part one here.

With you on the journey,

Debby

God With Us Matthew 1:23

By choice, God dwells within you. You are God’s home. No one picks a place to live that has no value, no redeeming qualities. People pick places to live they love. God wants to build a home in you, one built on a solid foundation. You may experience your foundation as weak, shaky, slapped together, and maybe this is so. Yet, God alone, the great engineer, architect and builder, will design, redeem, get rid of, build, furnish his home. God has a vision for God’s home. God will build his dream house within you. You point out the flaws, condemn and reject. God does not. God’s plan is to build a beautiful, showplace of a home within you, one God can joyfully inhabit and invite others to enjoy.

Helper Hebrews 13:6

It’s funny to think about God being our helper. I usually think of a helper as one who is paid minimum wage to do the busy work, so that the expert can focus on the important stuff. Yet God says he is our helper. What does this mean? How is God our helper? Well, God has an important assignment for you in this life. It is yours to accomplish. God comes along side, handling the details, clearing the way for you to walk in the good works prepared for you. Leave off worrying about the small stuff, trust your handy helper. You don’t need to micro-manage your life. But don’t forget that it is God’s quiet work that allows your success, give your helper glory and proper credit for the great life you’ve been given.

Husband Hosea 2:16

God invites Israel (read you and me) to relate to him as a husband. Whether you are a man or a woman, you can understand what a perfect husband would be and how he would treat his wife. This is the kind of relationship God wants us to experience. A husband cherishes, respects, protects, provides…the list goes on. This is a picture of God’s love for you.

Mother Eagle Deuteronomy 32:10-11

God is also feminine. A mother eagle is majestic. She feeds her young from her own mouth. She guards them against threats with her strong body. When they are ready, she stirs up the nest, encouraging them to try their wings. When their untrained wings haven’t yet figured out how to manage this flying business, she catches them when they fall. She makes sure they succeed. God is your mother eagle.

God’s brief autobiography

Fotolia_7105853_XSHere are just a few images of God’s self-description. I will list a few more next Monday.

Comforter 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: “To comfort is to cheer and encourage. It has a positive force as it indicates the dispelling of grief by the impartation of strength.” The comfort God gives does more than just honor and recognize your grief. God comes along side you in your pain (sorrow, sadness, loss) and gives you strength to bear it and hope for a good future.

Counselor Isaiah 9:6

God is wise and gives the best advice about what to do in life’s situations. (And you don’t have to pay $100/session.) Sit still. Quiet your anxious mind. Ignore pestering thoughts. Tell God all about your situation, include the specific details and your emotional reactions to the situation, pour it all out. When you are empty of words and your feelings are neutral, listen to the nudges of the Holy Spirit within you. Prayerfully explore the option. Ask for and look for confirmation, test it with scripture, trusted mentors. Be patient.

Deliverer Psalm 18

After David was rescued from the hands of his enemy, Saul, he sang a song of praise to God. The song included various names that described the relationship between God and David. He called the Lord my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my refuge, my shield, my salvation, my stronghold. Obviously David knew a powerful and caring God. Have you ever felt like David? Up against a powerful force that threatens your well being, your security? Afraid you will not have the strength or resilience to withstand the emotional assault? Like David, call on the Lord in the midst of your distress. He wants to deliver you.

Father of the fatherless Psalm 68:5

You were created to be loved perfectly. And even though your parents loved you the best they could, they fell short of perfection. God loves you with the love of an ideal parent. Your father may have been a wonderful parent, leaving you with an image of a heavenly father’s love; or he may have been a lousy one, creating a hunger for a perfect  parent, either way we are all in need of a spiritual parent that loves and accepts, teaches and corrects, respects and encourages us. We have been adopted into God’s family. God fathers (and mothers) our yearning soul.

To be continued in next Monday’s post.

The series of posts The NEW Old begins here. Join me each Monday as we explore how God wants to make old things new.

Unseating the gut god

empty throneMany of us live under the tyranny of a god we’ve created in our own image, a god who is cruel, punishing, aloof or uncaring. How do we unseat this false god and let God’s true character be our master?

Honesty

Our distorted image of God begins to change when we admit our fear, even hatred of this made-up being we’ve named God.

We’ve kept ourselves distant from God because we believed God was not trustworthy, or interested, or whatever. The Psalmist says, “God desires truth in the inner being.” Authentically voicing the reasons for our distance is valid prayer. Even if the emotional tone of your prayer is angry or accusing, you are bringing your truth into the presence of the God of Truth who has invited you, who wants you to be honest with him.

“God I don’t trust you because I believe you are mean. I’ve experienced enough meanness in my life. I’m not going to let you close enough to me to hurt me too.”

Switcharoo

Ask God to replace your gut god image with a biblical and corrective one. Cooperate with this request by getting into the scriptures with an open mind. Forget everything you’ve learned about God and let the word speak for itself. Do a word study on the attributes of God. If your god is aloof, meditate on God’s nearness. Uncaring? Look for the pictures of God as compassionate. Memorize the passages that capture the heart of the true God.

Look around

Consider common relationships as a means to correct your image of God. Think about the ways a perfect parent respond to a hurt child; the way lovers greet one another; the way friends esteem each other. We are created in God’s image and we are loving, kind and respectful. If we, imperfect creatures that we are do these things, the perfect God must do them even better.

Imagine

Use your prayerful imagination to invite the true God into the wounded places where a false god has set up shop.

Our head knows God is good. Our gut, where our feelings live, isn’t quite convinced.  This can be addressed by praying the scriptures with our imagination. Putting ourselves into the scripture.

Be Zaccheus in the tree…what do you feel up there? Why are you up there? How do you feel about the crowds below you? What do they think about you? What is it like for you when Jesus stops and looks up into your face? When Jesus wants to come home with you, how do you respond?

Let your spirit guided imagination take you to the places the Lord wants to touch, heal and correct.

Finally

Remind yourself of what your head does know…God is on your side. Literally speak to the gut god who subtly demands your obedience. “No. God is for me, I am God’s beloved child, God is pleased with me. I will listen to this God.”

Be patient. These distortions are deeply rooted; deep healing will be take time. But remember God is not slow, God is thorough.

With you on the journey,

Debby

This is part of a series of posts, The NEW Old. We’re exploring the old familiar things of the spiritual life that God wants to make new. The series begins here. Please join us. When you subscribe to my blog you’ll be notified by email when a new installment is posted.