I think it’s possible for you to give me a whole lot more than you are!

Have you ever said those words to God? I find that they are words that come up in my heart far more often than I’d like. One reason they do is because I still have a “healthy” measure of rebelliousness at war within me. The other reason is that, quite simply, God and I don’t always think so alike. Many things in my thinking have changed as I’ve walked with God the past three years, but one thing has not: my thinking always needs revision. At every turn in my journey I find new challenges that make it necessary for major portions of my human-centric thinking to be evacuated from their home inside me.

This change can often be mighty unpleasant. On rare and blessed occasions–which seem to multiply with time–I welcome the adjustments God gives my thinking as a breath of spiritual fresh air. Those are precious, grace-filled moments for me. But they can feel so natural to me that I begin to think that I am able to accept what God puts before me because my way of thinking and God’s are just so alike.

This is when God mercifully shows me the truth. He exposes the gap between my natural way of thinking and His. It can feel really hard because I don’t want to let go of my thinking; instead, I like to measure every nuance of His thinking that I can observe against my own. Quite frankly, I often find that His thoughts just don’t quite measure up. They don’t satisfy my “reasonable” mind.

Then God steps in and shows me that thinking this way is the source of my problems. First, I don’t think like Him. And second, I think He should think like me. Whoa! This kind of deceit is why God commands us to not rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Despite the fact that it seems to offer us the only counsel we can really trust, God is calling us to acknowledge that it is flawed. Any mental orientation that would lead you or I in resisting our Maker cannot come under the heading of true wisdom. Great frauds must be believable if they are to succeed, and so it is with our self-promoting thinking.

But if we are to be set free from this thinking, we do not just let it go ceremonially and then sit around in expectation of brand new thoughts coming along to take hold of us. That is not how it works. Thoughts must be chosen and thoughts must be guarded if we are to be sure that they will cause pure waters to flow from our hearts. But how can we do this? What thoughts do we choose; do we make things up in our heads? Do we strive all day long to have original thoughts? This sounds like it could be a whole lot of work!

It is. But it is not impossible. We have the Holy Spirit, given to the redeemed sons and daughters of God, to teach us what we are to think and to reveal to us the mind of Christ. The Bible promises us that He will lead and guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Surely God does not expect us to find all this truth we are to be thinking about on our own; He merely asks us to follow His lead. When we walk with Him, in close and intimate fellowship, we will learn to think like Him too!

This is why God calls us to be His friends and not just His henchmen–running to fulfill orders that we don’t even understand. (This is not to say that we will never be expected to obey Him unless we understand what He’s doing. There will surely be times when we will obey His will simply because it is His will, not because we understand it. This is part of trusting His thinking above our own.)

But, His thinking is meant to have such a profound impact on us that it becomes an elemental part of who we are. We begin to not only act like Him, but think like Him and dream like Him. Through our lives, which are to become so closely intertwined with His, He will show the world what He looks like according to His heart and mind. Then no one will have an excuse that they did not know what God was really like or how to find Him. Do we need a better reason to want His thinking to become our own?

 

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The Price of Intimacy

I told the Lord I wanted intimacy with Him — intimacy that far exceeded anything I would know with anyone beside Him. I wanted to know the depths of His love that may only be discovered when one puts her hand in God’s, giving Him permission to take her wherever He wants. I longed to experience Him in everyday life, and know more of what life really is — to grow and blossom according to influences that were more than what I could arrange on my own.

I told God that I wanted His best, and I was willing to take His way to get there; I just wanted Him, and to know by experience that He was more than enough for me — far better than any other thing. I saw my need to go beyond trusting God when I was sure everything He did made sense, and I could be an expert on His activities. I believed that love for Him needed to grow out of the sacrifice of what was most precious to me: I prayed that if it be in the loss of all things, I would be certain to have gained Christ.

The reality that we will face trials, temptations and various forms of torture, focused me on Him. I wanted all my struggles to count for something: If I be in pain let it be for Him; if I should wrestle with sin and evil and doing good, let it be a fight that brought me closer to my Savior, one that made my bitter tears sweet and my broken heart secure.

Let me see all I shall of grief and joy, but let it be at Your side. I do not want pleasure that steers me farther from you, when I have so much closer I need to get. May I not be deceived by joy that springs from wells that I have dug, unconscious of the well of never-ending joy waiting for me in You.

Prayers only He could answer, only He knows how. The reply has not come as I expected. I requested the reward without knowledge of the path to get there. I knew I wanted God, but I didn’t know how much competition all my other desires were creating, desires that would have to be diminished for Him to be increased. My heart is only so big, and natural laws here apply. He must take over all, and I must surrender shares of all the real estate that’s currently in my name. I want Him to rule, I must offer Him the kingdom that I would rather keep to myself. After all, what other kingdom could I offer Him? My neighbor’s does not offer the parts of me He requests.

Surrendering my life to God puts me in a position of needing Him more than I would ever need Him otherwise. Unable to control, but forced to face, my circumstances creates the greatest opportunity to recognize God that this life on earth can support.

God is at work where my strength and rights are challenged. He knows that I need Him more than I need permission to clutch His rivals to my chest. He requires a higher cost of fellowship because the riches to be found there are the fruit of a covenant that divorces me from every threat to the bond between us.

His love is strong, but can’t be fully known until allowed to grow — and as it does, to reshape my life. I do not need to understand this, or expect to steadfastly support it at all times, but to trust that the God Who weaves my heart in love with His, knows me, and counts all my needs as nothing less than tickets granted me to explore His love and mercies deep.

Waiting, Trusting, Watching

It’s one thing to give your life to God, and it’s another thing to follow Him through everything that comes next. I like beginnings, personally — that fresh-faced excitement and seemingly boundless vigor that identifies so many things that are in their infancy. I don’t often like that awkward stage that follows, when we’re not really sure what’s going on and what comes next. Everything we had come to expect while we were in that first stage now seems completely irrelevant. The future is not as crystal-clear as we once thought it looked. We wonder what we should be doing with ourselves, now that everything we once recognized as our normal course appears to be missing in action.

Should we abandon the mission altogether, or just try learning to adapt to a temporary shift in priority?

Have you ever had these questions about your life and what God is up to so mysteriously? Perhaps you are feeling a little disgruntled right now because you don’t remember getting His heads-up memo. You liked how things were not far back and you are not taking too kindly to all the sudden change in your life. Maybe you even thought that you and God were partners, meaning that He would clear anything new He wanted to do with you before making a move.

Well, might I suggest that He already is? Think about it, if you are working with God — that meaning you are seeking out His purposes and perspectives — then He could be revealing to you what you asked to know, as we speak.

You see, God will not always map-out for us everything He has in mind for our lives — sometimes what is most important to Him is our trust. Yes, we could feel better right now if we knew we could sign-off on the whole thing He’s got planned for us, but why can’t we?

God’s not getting in our way, we are. We think that trust needs to be earned and can never just be warranted — even by God. But why not? Because we want to believe that we are the ultimate judges of character. But what does that say about our own? We only trust what we can see and fully identify; we trust only what we can know by our own calculations — we are a long way off from faith. We are sight-dependent believers who don’t really know their God.

Faith in Relationships

Faith in relationships…what does that look like? For me, it is being able to trust God that He is working out all the big and small details that I can’t handle on my own — details that concern more than me, and what’s going on in my heart, but someone I love who seems to see things so entirely different than myself.

That’s what it starts with at least, but from there God consistently leads me into the next stage, pointing out the lessons He has set up for me in this misunderstanding or apparent distance between me and another.

There is always so much to learn through the daily dynamics of our interactions with the people we share this life with. The experiences we have together are what pushes us to work on more than just what will improve ourselves, but will make us more focused on the interests of others.

It can be easy to pursue growth that makes us look good, serving as personal accessories, to trump up what already makes for a wonderful person. It is far harder to choose to see ourselves in the light that others see us, accepting their observations as being capable of being legitimate representations of us.

No, what others think of us will not ever tell the whole story, and their sentiments should not discourage us with the idea that we are not worth anything unless we live up to someone’s expectations of us, but we should not dismiss them either. We should take the  assessments we receive from others to our Father, who is faithful to present to us our true identity along with all the flaws that He is not lax to confront and correct.