The God of the unappreciated

Who is Jacob’s God?

The God of the one who isn’t preferred in life by his Father or significant authority.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilled hunter, a man of the fields while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:28).

Jacob’s God is the one who comes to your aid in situations where you feel overlooked or unappreciated. The places where your skill set doesn’t match the demands of the role or the preference of the one in authority; where you feel invisible or dismissed because your gifts or temperament do not align with the dominant culture.

Jacob’s God is the Rebekah who sees who you are and appreciates your talents even when the world doesn’t; the God who reminds you of your distinct value and promotes the expression of your gifts.

My whole life I have suffered under a a sense of shame, convinced I had nothing of value to offer the world. But at the same time blaming the world for not appreciating who I was. I orchestrated a move to a new high school in the middle of my senior year. I knew if I could start fresh in a different school, I’d be seen by my new friends as the cool, awesome girl I was. My old friends just didn’t recognize the gem they had in me.

It was okay for a few weeks, and then I began to run into the old me, the insecure me, the me I thought I had left behind. There was grace in this discovery though, for it moved me to seek a love that never is disappointed in me, the love of God given in Jesus.

Much later in my life I woke from a sweet dream given to me by the Holy Spirit, I am sure. It was a transformative moment in my life. The Lord spoke to my spirit and told me, “Debby, you are a treasure hidden in a field. Not everyone will appreciate the value that you bring, but some will. There will be those who stumble upon the gifts you offer and will be forever grateful for you. I value you, and have made you and have placed you exactly in the right place and at the right time.”

This word from God’s heart of love has kept me over the years, especially as I have offered my writing to the world. Not everyone gets my voice, but there are those who do so I must remain faithful to God’s call on me.

The world may not appreciate your unique set of skills and temperaments, but there are Rebekahs who do. God sends you love and appreciation in the ones who value your uniqueness. Let their esteem and support be enough. Often times the preferences of authority promotes the individuals who satisfy their selfish or blind partialities.

Listen to Jacob’s God, let the whisper of love and value give you strength to believe your visibility and viability. Be bold and trust that love.

Seriously, who is your Rebekah? To whom are you Rebekah-like? I’d love to hear from you. With you on the journey, Debby

MM 12/22/15 living in shame?

On “that” day, you will not be put to shame. Sure there are things that you’ve done against God’s law of love that are wrong or disappointing, but the Messiah will not wag his finger over you and send you to the corner. Let your sense of shame drive you to the Lord who loves you and willingly forgives and restores. Amen.

They ‘paved paradise’

It’s obvious we are not living anywhere near the Garden of Eden and God’s intention for our lives and relationships. What went wrong? Genesis 3 gives us a clue.

After the ‘fall’ Adam and Eve “clothed themselves in fig leaves.”

Previous to the fall, they enjoyed unadulterated fellowship with God, each other and all of creation; they were “naked and not ashamed.” In perfect partnership and according to God’s direction, they tended the garden and cared for the animals. They knew only freedom and joy. After the fall, Adam and Eve were afraid. They hid themselves and made fig leaves to cover their nakedness. Heeding the serpent’s voice and choosing to do the one thing God has asked them not to do changed their outlook; suddenly they became self conscious, for the first time they noticed their own nakedness. Their attention and focus shifted to themselves. Their gaze moved from God, each other and the garden to their own naked bodies. They became aware of their vulnerable state and knew they had disappointed God. Out of this shame, they attempted to hide behind self-made fig leaves.

We’ve inherited this pattern. We are very self-aware, in many ways we cast ourselves as the primary character in the play of life; it’s all about us, we are the center of the universe. And sadly, because we are afraid who we are will disappoint God or others we hide and cover up. Our fear and shame causes us to use emotional/relational styles of fig leaves to cover ourselves and hide our nakedness. Fear and pretense kills the spiritual and ideal community God wants to us experience.

We can no longer enter relationships without fear and shame being present to some degree. You must earn my trust. I must grow to believe that you are a safe person with whom I can be my vulnerable self. Until then, I’ll keep myself protected and guard against the pain of disappointment by hiding behind my own version of a fig leaf.

Does this sound familiar? Visit see examples of various emotional/relational fig leaves. Take a risk, find a few trusted friends in your spiritual community with whom you can dare to be ‘naked and not ashamed.’ As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Pockets of Paradise

God desires our communities to be safe places where one can live in intimate relationship with God, with self and with others. Genesis 2:25 describes the quality of such a fellowship beautifully and poetically, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

A gathering of God’s beloved children should be characterized by people who are “naked and not ashamed.” Wow! Of course I am speaking metaphorically and spiritually, but consider with me the definitions and implications of what it means to be naked and not experience any shame in the context of community.

Although Adam and Eve were literally naked, the Hebrew word translated naked also means a person without pretense or uniform. Police officers wear uniforms so they can easily be identified. A police uniform tells you how to relate to the person wearing it and what you can expect from them. The uniform defines the role they’ll play in your life and how you should interact with them. You don’t know the person behind the uniform, you don’t even care about the person behind the uniform, your relationship with them is defined by the role they play.

When physically naked, there is nothing covering your body, your beauty and your flaws are seen by all. To be naked spiritually and relationally is to be yourself, without pretending to be someone you are not, or hiding within the safety of a role you play. It’s “what you see is what you get”, no pretense, no hiding, just guileless authenticity.

And (here’s the kicker) this person, in their absolute nakedness feels no sense of shame. Shame is the feeling that follows disappointment of opinion, hope or expectation. They are purely themselves and have complete confidence that who they are will not disappoint in any way. There is no shadow of doubt cast on their personhood, they live from a place of sufficiency, value and acceptance.

I think of my grandkids when I think about this type of unashamed nakedness. Eliza and Jack both jump out of the bath and run around in naked exuberance, unaware of their bodies, conscious only of joy and life. This is the experience God desires for us in our communities. To live with one another in the freedom that unselfconscious nakedness would allow. Imagine outposts of Eden where God’s kingdom is realized, where brothers and sisters can live together Naked and Not Ashamed. This is paradise!

What are your thoughts about this concept? Do you have any place where you experience the type of community described in Genesis 2:25?

Born to be wild? Born to please is more likely.

It’s in our nature, we love to make the ones we love happy. As young children we live to please our parents. Nothing makes a parent happier than an obedient child, one who willingly complies with the explicit family rules and standards. These rules are created to insure safety, to promote healthy habits and to educate about a moral and ordered life. Parents hope the habits they require of their children will influence their child’s character; that the externally applied rules will be the mold that shapes the interior character of their child.

  • “Look both ways, before you cross the street.”
  • “Brush your teeth before you go to bed.”
  • “Write thank you notes to people who’ve done something nice for you.”

These explicit family rules fall short of their hoped for target. Our interior sense of self is more frequently shaped by the implicit and often unspoken family rules, which demand equal obedience and compliance. Born to please, we aim to satisfy these unarticulated family rules. Usually these unspoken injunctions end up causing harm and brokenness.

Here is an extensive, but not exhaustive list of such rules. Take a look and see if any sound familiar to you. We’ll talk more about it next post.

With you on the journey,


Examples of the relationship between family injunctions, childhood vows and current issues

INJUNCTION – Vow – Current Issues

DON’T EXIST, DON’T BE – I’m not valuable, It’s all my fault, If things get bad enough, I’ll kill myself. – Depression, Self-abuse, Suicidal thoughts or actions.

DON’T BE YOU (The sex you are, the ethnicity you are) – I should have been a boy/girl, No matter how hard I try I’ll never please, why even try? I’m shameful, I’m not good enough – Sexual identity issues, other types of identity issues, Depression

DON’T BE A CHILD – I can’t/won’t cry, I can’t have fun, I won’t ask for anything, I’ll take care of myself – Express rage when sad, Never have fun, Over serious

DON’T GROW UPI”ll always be Daddy’s little girl/ Mama’s little man, I am helpless, I need to be rescued – Separation problems, Fear of abandonment, Learned helplessness

DON’T! – The world is dangerous – Phobias, Other anxiety issues, Control issues

DON’T MAKE IT – I’ll never do anything right, I’m stupid, I’ll show you, even if it kills me, No matter how well I do, I should have done better – Repeated failure or sense of failure despite success, Life-threatening physical illness, Type A personality

DON’T BE IMPORTANT – I’ll never amount to anything – Underachievement, chemical dependency

DON’T BELONGNo one will ever like me, I’m different, I’m better than the rest of the crowd – Feeling of alienation, anger, superiority complex, paranoia

DON’T BE CLOSE I’m unloveable/unattractive, Others are dangerous – Social Isolation, Loneliness

DON’T TRUST I will never be hurt, it might kill me, I must take care of myself – Impaired relationships, Suspicious/paranoid – Extreme independence

DON’T LOVE – I’ll never let anyone close, I must keep my heart safe – Problems with intimacy, Sarcastic demeanor

DON’T BE WELL, DON’T BE SANE – I‘m frail, I’m crazy – Phobias, High susceptibility to illness

DON’T THINKI’m dumb – Extreme emotionality, academic failures, avoid decision making

DON’T THINK WHAT YOU THINK, THINK WHAT I THINKEveryone else knows better than me – Passivity, Non-assertiveness

DON’T FEELEmotions are a waste of time, to feel is dangerous – psychosomatic disorders, inability to connect with others

DON’T FEEL THATI’ll never get angry, sex is bad, crying is weak – Indirect expression of anger, Passive aggressive, Certain emotions are taboo


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,


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

Keeping the love (part two)

Henri Nouwen says we can live either in the house of love or the house of fear

Remove Shame Cleanse the lepers: restore to community (part nine)

Henri Nouwen says we can live in either the house of love or the house of fear. The walls of fear’s house are shoddy attempts to keep our vulnerable self safe from danger, pain and displeasure. They take the form of emotional/relational styles of operating that are our best, but weak efforts at protection. They keep others at a distance, insuring our security. In my last post I began a list of some common “fig leaves.” Here the list continues. Do any of these seem familiar? Take hope, in my next post I’ll speak about how we can move into the house of love.

I tend to protect my vulnerable self by…

6. Co-Dependence  I gain a sense of value by being needed by others; when others don’t need me or appreciate me, I develop resentment and bitterness. Like the elder brother – Luke 15

7. Dependence  I am always in need or in crises. Like the man by the pool – John 5

8. Sexualization  I use my sexuality or flirtatious nature to avoid real intimacy in relationships. Like the woman caught in adultery – John 8

9. Spiritualizing  All of life’s issues are described in spiritual terms. No emotions acknowledged, hiding behind God, assigning God more than his due.  Like the Pharisees and the man born blind – John 9

10. Hyper Emotionality  The opposite of intellectualizing, intense emotions areexperienced and expressed as an attempt to garner sympathy and to avoid theissue at hand. Like the Gerasene demoniac – Mark 5

11. Verbosity  If I keep talking, I can distract you (and me) from my more vulnerable self. Like the young Debby Bellingham (see Proverbs 21:23 and others)

12. Busyness  My never ending list of things to do keeps me from slowing down enough to allow my deeper issues/fears to come to the surface. Plus it proves to everyone how important and efficient I am. Like Martha – Luke 10

13. Control  Micromanaging my life and the lives of those around me gives me a sense of safety. I am prepared for anything that might come along, nothing will take me by surprise. It is an attempt to keep fear at bay. Like Moses in Exodus 18 or Martha in Luke 10

14. Withdrawal  Literally shutting down, absenting myself from relationships,conversations and even myself. I become zombie-like, unreachable. If you can’t reach me, perhaps you’ll give up trying and I’ll be safe. Like Elijah in 1 Kings 19

15. Consumer  Using any substance to extreme. Moving from one “high” to the next in an attempt to numb my soul to it’s fear and shame. Like Esau in Genesis 25:29ff

We’ll talk about getting back to the garden in my next post.

This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden Retreat. For information about this retreat, please contact me or check out the upcoming events.