What we believe about ourselves carries no weight with God. Long before the world began in the early stages of creation, God made us in his image, declared us good and blessed us.[Genesis 1:27-31] And in his eyes we are still good and made in his image and blessed. Do you think that the God who created this complex, interdependent universe and our Earth with its 8,000,000 species couldn’t predict how we humans would turn out and has been surprised by our faults? So… we’re going to have to get over ourselves and adopt God’s view of the people who populate the world.
Why is this so hard? Well, we’re really tricky in the way we think about ourselves and reality. We look at ourselves and the world through distorted lenses. And everywhere we look we seek and see confirmation of the way we think. The first time I was aware of this, I was an adult in my twenties and seeing my mother through a new lens. I realized that she could find rejection in anything, and I mean, ANYTHING! Something, probably very early on, had created this distorted lens—some early experience of rejection– and it colored how she saw everything. And, of course, I had seen Mom through my own distorted lenses as a child, later as a teen and now as an adult.
As I’ve become aware of how my own early experiences have distorted how I see myself and life—my greatest fear was that it(whatever was happening at the time) wouldn’t work out for me! I’ve seen how little this fear has to do with reality. And as I have stepped even farther back from my own very personal lens, I have begun to see more as God sees me and others, to appreciate and be inspired by what I see, to expect less and less of what I think should happen and to just be able to be with what is.
So for each of us, first there is the personal lens which is probably pretty messed up. And then there is the cultural lens which also gets reinforced wherever we look. We’re all on a cultural trajectory, an evolving one, that right now is about extreme busyness and trying to maintain ourselves in a world which peppers us with ads luring us into dissatisfaction with what we have and prompts us to want more, that distracts us from taking a good long look at ourselves and what we are doing in favor of being a ostrich, of burying our heads in the sand through watching tv, playing video games, shopping, anything which will help us forget who we are and what we are about.
The personal lens and the cultural lens… Multiply the individual lenses by the number of people inhabiting a culture and you can see how the multitude viewpoints can distort reality.
The only stumbling block in our relationships with God is our own negative opinions about ourselves. We see the kind of person we are—help!—and then we figure out what sort of God it will take to straighten us out. So we project our dissatisfaction with ourselves onto God. So God becomes a more punishing, demanding parent instead of the One who so loved the Israelites that he put up with all their errant behavior for forty years all so that he could bring them to the Promised Land, the land he had set aside for them.
We are looking at God with the same distorted lenses we use on ourselves. And so we’re afraid to let him see who we really are, we hold him at arm’s length so he won’t know of our guilt and shame. All the while we can’t really hide anything from God—he is the all-seeing deity after all! We water down Jesus’ teachings so that we can be comfortable as Christians rather than really living the Gospel Truths. Every time we think about God we are applying this distorted filter to who he is. Often we really have no idea who God is because we so avoid the truth about ourselves and the truth about God.
There is so much misunderstanding about how God works in our lives and what our part is in the relationship. It is not about trying harder, remembering to put God first or any effort of our own. What it is about is having what is already true about us and God become our lived reality. Let me repeat this: our job is to be so into the relationship with God that what is already true for us—that God has never left us or rejected us or failed to love us exactly as we are—becomes the lived reality of our lives.
We start with such distortions in the lenses through which we view life and ourselves, that our major misunderstanding is that we need to put tremendous effort into getting ourselves into a place where we can approach God or that we just have to try harder. So often, the bottom line for us is that we don’t have any right, being the flawed people that we are, to approach God as we are.
Here is the truth: God created us from the beginning of creation and declared us good,[Genesis 1:27-31] even though he gave us free will. He has never left us, abandoned us, judged us, or failed to love us. He has waited until we wake up to the truth of our existence which is this—we cannot leave God, because he never leaves us. He is embedded in us, in every single person, the Indwelling Spirit of God we Christians call it. He loves us. He created us each with a specific purpose. Each person’s purpose is to use the talents and gifts that we were created with in the world, to do everything we do with love, and, by extension, to bring in his kingdom on Earth.
God is, has been, and always will be within us and right at our side. When we don’t know this basic truth, the only thing that has to change is our awareness of God. That’s it. That’s the whole deal for us.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son[Luke 15:11ff] pictures this relationship we have with God. While the prodigal is off spending his inheritance and doing bad stuff, and while his brother is dutifully following the rules, the father is watching and waiting for the son’s return and hopeful that the brother will get it, too. He celebrates the prodigal’s return, he includes the other brother; he wants both to enjoy the relationship, the ownership he takes in us.
God wants us to realize what is already true—that there is an unbreakable tie between God and each one of us, that there is nothing, not one thing that we have done that can separate us from God. [Romans 8:31-39] It is only in the way we think about ourselves and God that creates the illusion of separation, certainly not God himself. This is the truth of the story of the Garden of Eden.[Genesis 3] We left God in fear and shame, because we changed how we thought about ourselves and God. We were naked. Exposed. Rule-breakers. Our actions separated us from God. He did not leave us. Although he did acknowledge how we had separated ourselves from him and could no longer live in Eden.
So the process becomes one of raising our awareness of God’s presence and support and love for us, not of working harder on ourselves. We want to be aware during our days and nights of what God is doing for us, how he is blessing our lives, with what he is gracing us. We want to become aware of God’s presence, his magnificent presence in all of nature, in every creature, rock and plant and within us too. We want to become attuned to how he works with us, what he is saying to us in the thoughts implanted in our minds, in the suggestions he makes through other people, the way he sends messages through dreams and reveries and more.
We need to become present to God in our lives in every aspect. This is the journey—to discover what is already true: That God exists in us, with us, surrounding each of us every moment of our lives. And he is there with love.
So get real. Get truth. Become aware of all that God is already to you and how you can allow God to free you of all the lies you tell yourself. Relax into his arms. Allow him space within you. He’s already there, just bring his presence to the surface of your consciousness, realize the truth that lies within you.
So there is only the way we think about ourselves and what we project from that image on the bigger parent, God, and what is actually true. Go for truth!
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Questions to ponder over the week: Do I see myself and God through distorted lens? Or has God helped me to clean the lens? Can I now see myself as a whole person and God as the One who loves me? Can I accept all the problematic parts of myself? And feel God’s love for me?
This week’s blessing: May God take care of all the distortions in our sight and hearing. May we see ourselves and God clearly. May we live in truth and love. in faith and love, Pat
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If you’d like to see more of By the Waters, check these out:
–There’s a new video up on YouTube: “Jesus’ Two Great Commandments” youtu,be/xXnQnWljpZ8 and five others.
–Check out my twitter feed at twitter.com/BTWwithPatAdams
–Check out the Offerings at bythewaters.net: a CD of guided meditations designed to help deepen your spiritual life and a series of booklets on the Life of the Spirit.