The greatest threat to our ability to walk with God — to be alive to Him — does not come from without, but from within. It is our tragic propensity to think wrongly about God, harboring false beliefs that erode our ability to relate to Him.
The exile I described last week was a time in which I was resting from hard work, savoring the sweet pleasures God had placed in my life. He was actually giving me that rest, changing strategies for a season, tenderly concerned for me, spoon-feeding me to help me regain my strength. But in my mind, I was taking time off illicitly, abandoning my post, turning soft and self-indulgent. I wasn’t doing the work He had given me to do, and I was sure He was angry with me.
In actuality, He wasn’t angry at all, but my apprehension became a cloud of unsettling guilt, keeping me from feeling close to Him. Like a barrier that jams radio signals, the cloud of false apprehensions hindered me from detecting His thoughts toward me.
My wrong thinking positioned things differently than they were, and the resulting confusion suffocated my ability to walk with Him. I could not trace His activity. I felt alienated and cut off from The One Who normally rights my every mood . . . Who prepares the path before me and keeps me from digression . . . Whose fluid stream of companionship issues in healthy encouragement and tender, tough teaching that makes me strong to do right. I was cut off from our normal relationship, because my unfounded apprehensions were getting between us.
I carried this picture of a horse in my mind, an old horse that was so tired and broken that it had collapsed and couldn’t get up, no matter how hard the whip cracked over him. I knew I was that horse, but what or who was cracking the whip?
In my secret heart, that whip was the tireless expectation of God. In my thinking, He expected me to get up and get on with it, despite how tired I was. The religious voice in my head goaded me, “If you were obeying Him, he would give you the energy to complete the job. But look at you, you’re a waste.”
I believed every word, but I couldn’t make myself get back on my feet. Deep in the unconscious recesses of my soul, I felt that God was a hard and unreasonable master, Who was mad at me for abandoning my post. That characterization — which could not be more unfair or further from the truth — put a whip into the hand of the religious voice in my head. Consciously, I would have vigorously resisted anyone who suggested that God was hard and unreasonable . . . but deep down, that is how I feared He was . . .
The reality is, God gave me the picture of the nearly dead horse to surface what was really breaking me, wearing me out and treating me brutally. It was not Him cracking the whip over me, but what I falsely believed about Him, twisted into a slave-driver work ethic that I had projected onto Him for so long, that I thought working until I dropped equated with pleasing Him.
The wrong ideas about God, which we harbor, have to be rooted out and exposed, to keep them from getting between us.
Our God, this God of Whom I write, orchestrates everything to serve His needed correction of how we think about Him. His soft dialogue threads our days and nights — every dream, every challenge, and every uncertainty — asking us what we really believe about Him. Is He good? Can He be trusted? Does He do what He has said that He will? Is He able and willing to provide for and protect us? Is He actually going to break through on our behalf?
He pushes us to the edge, where our confidence gives way and our apprehension begins, because that is where the untruth we believe about Him is operating . . . where both our angst and our separation from Him begin.
In my own experience, I have learned that every sterile struggling place in my life has been directly linked to a wrong perception of God. They are the places where my Lord’s imprint is missing, where His power is not evident and blessing languishes. Eventually those places have all proven to be linked to my seeing Him wrongly.
I had dozens of reasons to explain those rare but terrible moments between my husband and me when vicious things flew from my mouth . . . words that cut, shredding the object of my fury. I may have effectively silenced my husband, but I also drove him from me, bringing a steely cold to our relationship. Yes, I had my excuses, but they did not ease my guilt afterward. I hated my tongue getting away from me, and wept over the damage it did.
Then one night, after one of my tirades, God gave me this dream.
I was a bride. The ceremony was over and the reception was finishing. I was standing beside my groom on a wooden sidewalk, set in what seemed like an old Western town. Across the dirt road, there was a churchyard with green grass spilling to the edge of the road, where friends and family were waving good-bye.
At the edge of the crowd, a man in a wheelchair was singing my life in his song.
This troubadour had a beautiful face and seemed to know me far more deeply than my groom, causing me to wonder for an instant if I had made a mistake and should have been with him instead. But he was in a wheelchair.
I put the question to rest, looking at my strong, darkly handsome groom –assuring myself that I had made the right choice — even though he felt like a stranger to me.
My groom then ushered me into the Old West saloon, taking me to our hotel room upstairs. And then my dream turned into a nightmare. He slowly, meticulously put on a pair of leather gloves and pulled out a terrible knife with a wide blade. First he cut my mouth, disfiguring me. Then he placed the blade on my chest and cut an “x” over my heart. My last thought was, “The butcher! I’ve married the butcher . . .”
Waking up with a start, dripping with sweat and my heart pounding, I realized, gratefully, that I was safe. . . but I was haunted by the sense that this dream was a picture of something God wanted me to see. What on earth could it mean?
It was clear to me that the bride and groom imagery was telling me that I had given myself to a stranger, attracted to and uniting with a figure who seemed strong — but who, when he got me alone, was a nightmare of hurt.
The imagery of him disfiguring my mouth made me sick . . . but suddenly, I made the connection between that picture and my disfigurement by the vicious words that had come out of my mouth that night. I winced. The same blade had been used to cut my chest. Didn’t my rare but terrible bouts always cut my heart afterward? Even as it was wounded now?
Any fear engendered by the nightmare fell away as I began to understand the symbols. That blade was a symbol of what cruel words do . . . their power to shred, disfigure, cut and wound. The realization left me weak, but so very clear about myself.
I was in union with this sinister figure, because he made me strong when my back was against the wall. His attraction was the edge he gave me with his strength on my side, and so I united myself with him. When we are pushed to the extreme emotionally, feeling threatened helpless and frustrated . . . that is when we default to behaviors we wouldn’t normally tolerate in ourselves. When I came to those tough places, I “married” that dark strength that promised “protection.”
It was all so clear! I got it. I wanted no part of this union any longer. Laying in our bed in the dark, utterly repentant, I asked God to save me from that union, to make it null and void . . . and He did. A real transaction took place. That bond was broken, and I’ve never been the same since.
But the troubadour . . . singing my life in his song, sitting in his wheelchair, seeming to know me tenderly and intimately . . . who was he?
Jesus answered me ever so softly, “This is how you see me.”
The sterile struggling places in our life, where our Lord’s imprint is missing, where His power is not evident and blessing languishes — the places we grieve over but don’t know what to do about — every one of them is a place where we see God as insufficient and have chosen union with something else, because our confidence in Him is weak.
If God’s power is missing and transformation is not taking place in our life, it is because we’re harboring wrong ideas about The Person, God, deep in our souls.
Our God, this God of Whom I write, sees our underestimation of Him and uses every means to expose it: dreams, challenges, uncertainties, tragedies and triumphs. His soft dialogue threads our days and nights — asking us what we really believe about Him.
He pushes us to the edge — where the untruth we believe about Him is operating, to expose and root out our doubt, so that He can bring us into confident union with Himself.
Transformation is missing from the church
God’s power is missing and transformation is not taking place among “Christians” because we have confused biographical, Scriptural, church-taught information as the knowledge of God. It is not.
The knowledge of God is
personal acquaintance and interaction with
The Person, God.
This, alone, has transformative power.
I don’t think it is possible to have this true knowledge of God, apart from the divine dialogue. The personal revelation of Who God Is only pierces your heart, surpassing all that you have thought or believed, as He surfaces and roots out your wrong thinking . . . and you realize He is not holding against you the insufficiency you’ve unconsciously ascribed to Him for so long.
Does it matter what name we give to God?
A name identifies. The politically correct forcefully assert that it doesn’t matter what name we give to God, because He is the one god worshipped by all men, alike. In the name of tolerance, they say, we dare not elevate one understanding of God above another.
Life experience tells me differently. I’ve seen how costly my errors have been.
The greatest threat to our ability to walk with God, to be alive to Him, to see His reign and His rule in our life — comes from our propensity to think wrongly about Him, harboring false beliefs that erode our ability to relate to Him.
To know God’s power in our life, we have to be alive to Who He really Is. Therefore, nothing matters more than what name, what identity we attribute to Him.
Now therefore, what have I here,” says the Lord, “That My people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them make them wail,” says the Lord, “And My name is blasphemed continually every day. Therefore My people shall know My name; Therefore they shall know in that day That I am He who speaks: ‘Behold, it is I.'”
Isa 52:5-6, NKJV
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Peter 1:3
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord . . .
2 Peter 1:2