I started writing this series because too many people I love and serve have crashed and burned spiritually and personally. Others are heading for that kind of destruction. I hope that your fear of pain or indifference about your unfinished business has begun to dissipate. I hope that more of you who have followed this series have chosen to ask God to do a ruthless search within your soul. But my desires for you are nothing compared to that of God our Savior. The cross is the voice of His commitment to your restoration to wholeness. He held nothing back, not even His own Son.
What I am about to share next may seem obvious to you, but it needs to be remembered as often as possible.The single most critical factor in the healing of your unfinished business is the love of God. The personal grip of His love is our greatest security in this alarming process of transformation. It is the only thing that opens the door to the renewing of our mind and our being able to rest in Him.
God’s love is something we know theologically, theoretically, but often not really, not convincingly. Not enough to sustain us daily with the feeling that we are safe. Deep down in our honest selves, where no one can see, most of us are feeling extremely unsafe and unsure of our welcome by God. We realize that the walled-off sections of our soul where sin lurks are not really hidden. So we wait for. . .what? Judgment to fall? To be exposed and censured? A chance to plead our case? God to own up to His failures? Unasked for forgiveness, as if that was likely? The fact is, we are uncertain of our relationship with God even though our official theology says He is love.
This is why the lies of the enemy seem so much more real than the truth of God. Satan suggests that the sin of the heart will make us safer. In a perverse way we grab hold of sin because it leaves us in charge, in control-and find in the end that we bought into a very bad lie. But by then the love of God seems too far away from us, too elusive for us to trust. We expect that God is disgusted-even angry beyond mending-with us and our mess. Unthinkingly we have bought into the lie that God is unsafe, and now as far as love goes, untrustworthy. We find ourselves with no alternative, stuck on a terrible ride to a crash.
Twenty years ago Gerald May wrote a powerful book called Addiction and Grace. His picture of the constancy of God’s love is worth special consideration for all of us who are looking for a station where we can disembark from our destructive journey.
“God’s love is more constant than human love can be. Human loving has its pure moments and parental love especially can sometimes express a likeness of God in its deep steadiness. But however solid it may be, human love is always prey to selfishness and distractions bred by attachment. Even in the best of situations, human love is bound to become intermingled with attachment. When this happens, we can feel possessive of our loved ones or jealous and even vengeful if they do not meet our expectations. We can see our loved ones as an extension of ourselves, wanting them to make good impressions on other people so we ourselves will look good. We can want them to live out our fantasies, conform to our desires, meet our needs, provide us with our security and sense of worth. The degree to which we can feel or express authentic love is always conditional upon such attachments.
It is not so with God’s love. God goes on loving us regardless of who we are or what we do. This does not mean God is like a permissive human parent who makes excuses and ignores the consequences of a child’s behavior. Such permissiveness is more cowardly than loving, because it devalues the child’s capacity for dignity and responsibility. In God’s constantly respectful love, consequences of our actions are very real, and they can be horrible, and we are responsible. We are even responsible for the compulsive behaviors of our addictions. The freedom God preserves in us has a double edge. On the one hand, it means God’s love and empowerment are always with us. On the other, it means there is no authentic escape from the truth of our choices.
But even when our choices are destructive and their consequences are hurtful, God’s love remains unwavering. Thus, regardless of our insulation and defensiveness, God is constantly open and vulnerable to us. God is joyful when we are joyful and when we bring joy to others. God hurts when we are hurting and when we hurt others. Such is the constancy of God’s love. God’s Spirit is the vibrant essence of creation and transformation and grace flowers in constantly surprising ways, but in the root of love that bears this Spirit and grace, God is changeless.”
For your true journey of being conformed to Jesus’ image, you must have a daily knowing of this changeless love. In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul prays a transformational prayer for his readers, that they would be filled with power and grasp the love of Christ. The first half of the request is about grace. Paul is asking on their behalf that the empowering presence of the Spirit would change the nature of their hearts-the place where life decisions are made. The heart is where people, including you and me, go off the tracks, choosing sin to comfort our hurt. Paul sees that they need power beyond the self-help variety-that they would realize Christ’s very presence, who is able to transform them because He is far stronger than the sin that has been having its way with them.
But there is more. Paul also lasers in on their need for understanding a love that is so beyond them, it is humanly incomprehensible. Yet understanding God’s love is the necessary ingredient for being filled with the full measure of God. Grasping this love has been made possible because they-and we-have the mind of Christ. His love is what brings us to trust the safeness of God in the middle of our mess when we are anything but whole and clean. It gives us hope that we will see the end of our unfinished business when no end seems in sight. There is nothing we can do that will make God love us more. There is nothing we can do that will make God love us less. This truth anchors our future.
So what will you do about your need for this truth? How you think about God’s love will affect whether or not you will ask Him for healing and deliverance. Here is another ‘done’ discipline that I have found powerful in the transformational process God is carrying me through. It is the practice of meditating on God’s love. Meditating is the process in which we grasp the truth of God’s love. How deep is it? How wide is it? How high and long does it stretch? This meditation offers a daily reminder to me of who I am to Him. I actually say out loud while I am in His presence, “I know you love me. I am safe.” I hear Him affirm this in my heart, even on days when my wounded emotions are raw and I feel the beckoning of the sin of my heart…especially on those days.
Next post I will talk about the most daunting part of the journey – abandoning secrecy.