A friend of mine said he believes we have all under-experienced God’s love in our lives. If so, that alone may be a big impediment to intimacy with Him, and may inhibit us from praying powerful prayers.
This summer, I learned this was true of me to some extent.
You may not know this about me, but I am a kid of divorce. My mom and dad split up when I was five, my dad then remarried soon thereafter. As you can imagine, there was a lot of dysfunction, a lot of relational damage in my household growing up. God, by His grace, has worked beautiful redemption through all that, and I have forgiven and been reconciled in those relationships. Unfortunately, I mistakenly thought forgiveness meant not thinking anymore about that past, putting it out of my mind. I also never wanted to be a victim or blame others for my shortcomings (many). Because of all this, I never really tried to understand or deal with what all that brokenness might have left behind.
In his wonderful book on spiritual growth, Mansions of the Heart, Tom Ashbrook says that reaching deeper intimacy with the Lord often involves healing wounded relationships. He says one of the results of living in a fallen world is that we all have broken relationships, and these deficits often impact our understanding of intimacy with our Heavenly Father. I found that true of me. What I realized is that this mess impacted and impeded my perspective on the Lord and how He cares for me. In the past, I had no trouble seeing the Lord as a kindly, benevolent master and myself as servant, and I strove to be a worthy servant. But, it began to dawn on me that God saw me as so much more, and that I had the opportunity to see Him as more.
I have a spiritual mentor who lives in Colorado, and I lived in his basement for a few days this summer (it was a nice basement). My mentor guided me through a retreat, whereby he would ask me a question, send me to pray and think for a couple of hours, then call me back and we’d talk about it.
One of these times, he told me to go off and ask the Lord this question, “Who do you see me to be? What do you think about me?” I was outside only five minutes when the kids next door and came outside, along with their parents. The parents sat on the back porch, talking and laughing as they watched their kids run around in their bathing suits, throwing water balloons at each other and playing. Being a parent myself, I reflected on how those parents felt, how they enjoyed watching their kids, knowing they were protecting their kids, providing for them and caring for them, so they can be kids, safe and secure. In that moment, it hit me: I am not first and foremost God’s servant. He’s not first and foremost my boss and Lord. Those things are true. But, beyond that, I’m his kid. He’s my Dad, who loves me and protects me and provides for me, and wants me to fully experience His love and be secure in it, so I’ll enjoy Him, and overflow in that love with love for all of you, and view work alongside Him as joyful and fun. Seeing life that way is a game-changer.
Part of praying powerfully means seeing God rightly: understanding how He sees you, and by contrast, seeing Him as He is. You are His beloved child in whom He is well pleased. Not because of what you do or how well you do it, but because you are His. Brennan Manning says “Living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves.”
Conversely, as Dallas Willard said in Hearing God, “We demean God immeasurably by casting Him in the role of the cosmic boss, foreman, or autocrat, whose chief joy in relation to humans is ordering them around, taking pleasure in seeing them jump at his command and painstakingly noting any failures.” Willard says we have to cleanse our minds of these motives, images and concepts that would brutalize the very God we hope to approach.
What relational brokenness in your life has created misconceptions of how you perceive God, how you relate to Him? Have you under-experienced the love of God in your life? If so, get quiet and alone and ask Him to show you, reveal to you how He loves you. He really wants to, you know?
I wonder whether it seems so hard at times to disciple our kids because they have no clue how much God really loves them? And, I wonder how much of our inability to teach and model that is tied up in the fact we under-experience the love of God ourselves?