I’ve talked a bit about how I’ve discovered my unique way of mothering and my struggle with postpartum depression. Today I’m pivoting a bit to focus on the spiritual side of the journey of discovering the truth of who we are. I believe this journey originates in God’s desire for us to know and embrace the person he has made us to be and to live authentically in a world where there is immense pressure to conform and perform.
The Courage To Face Ourselves
The journey to discover the truth of who we are is completely intertwined with the journey of discovering who God is. If we don’t bring ourselves fully to our relationship with God and instead take a more intellectual approach to knowing about Him, we will be left with a bloated head and a sagging life. We must face ourselves and bring ourselves as we come to know God.
This takes a lot more courage than we first imagine. Most days, I would rather believe the best about myself and nod my head in all the right places than actually examine how I’m really living. It’s also easy to simply focus on my behavior and through sheer will-power try to change myself into the person I think God wants me to be. But if we want actual change and an actual relationship with Christ, we must first be willing to honestly face ourselves and identify the discrepancy between what we say we believe about God and what we truly believe.
A Revealing Question
I’m reading Surrender to Love* by David Benner with some friends and he opens the first chapter with a challenging question that gets to the heart of what I mean:
Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?”
When I engage this exercise, the first word that quickly pops into my mind is “indifferent.” “Disappointed” follows close behind. These answers are knee-jerk reactions. They feel familiar. These answers tell a story about the nature of my relationship with God.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to gain God’s approval through my behavior. I have wrongly believed that God is only happy with me when I am being good or doing the right thing. A cloud of guilt follows me, pointing out all the mistakes, leaving me feeling like I’ve never done enough. I berate myself for failing to measure up, and then I gather my energy and try harder. I conclude that most of the time, He must feel disappointed in me. And it’s no wonder I think He feels indifferent about my needs and hurts.
A Common Problem
Many of us have this tendency to view God as someone who is preoccupied with our sin. Benner, a psychologist and spiritual director says:
I have known many Christians like this… [who think] of the Christian life as measuring up to divine expectations by avoiding sin. This leaves little room for grace, little room for knowing and enjoying God or resting in his love.
We may think we believe in God’s love for us for the simple reason that we’ve heard about it so much. But hearing, while helpful, doesn’t automatically lead to transformation. We have to work the truth into our soul. We have to examine ourselves and tear down the lies we find before we can re-build our lives around the truth that God reveals.
We must first acknowledge and explore the knee-jerk responses. Even though they aren’t true, they point to where we live and what we actually believe. If we try to shove them down or dismiss them too easily, then they continue to wield power over us. We must deal with the roots of these perceptions.
So, I gave Disappointment and Indifferent a seat at the table. But I also didn’t let them have the last word. I continued to listen for another answer to Benner’s question.
Slowly, a whisper from the corner of my mind, small and quiet, snuck his way in. Excited! The word felt a bit out-of-place, not familiar at all, and even a little uncomfortable. I almost dismissed him. And then, I remembered that this is more in line with the God the Bible reveals. Zephaniah 3:17 says God rejoices over me and sings songs over me. “Excited” fits that description. So I gave Excited a seat at the table. Disappointment and Indifference shouted in protest. But gently I coaxed Excited to tell me more.
The Process of Changing Our Beliefs
I think it’s important that we let our feelings sit at the table with the whispers of God’s truth. We must face our unbelief before belief in God will take root and grow in us. Our faulty beliefs won’t go away overnight, but as we acknowledge them, discover where they came from, and allow God to speak his truth to us, their influence will shrink more and more, eventually losing their power over us.
When we talk to God about how we perceive Him, it gives Him the opportunity to address our pain. The lies we believe often arise from the pain of our lives. When we face ourselves, we can allow truth to actually replace the lies. Otherwise, our efforts to stifle the lies will be useless. If we push them down and try to ignore them, they will continue to drive our lives and alienate us from God.
So what about you? Have you ever examined what you believe God thinks of you? Have you allowed yourself to be honest about your actual relationship and perception of God? He’s waiting to show compassion to you and to replace the lies with the truth.
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