He who takes refuge in the shelter of the Most High will be safe in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91
“If you don’t remember much about the words I write or the things I say, I hope you remember this: when I say God delights in you, it’s not a platitude. It’s born from a road of first believing He didn’t really give much of a damn at all.
“For years, I saw God as curmudgeonly Creator who did His impressively good work and then found Himself disgusted by it all. Especially what was to be His pride and joy—you and me. I know differently now, not because of a book or a podcast or powerful preacher. God Himself took the time to talk to me. “
I wrote those words just a few weeks ago. You see, every month this year, I’ve focused on a different definition of the word “gather.” June’s definition has been “to gain understanding.” So, this month, I’ve written about the understanding I’ve gained of what it means to love all others well, of who Jesus Christ really is and what it means to be filled with the presence of God’s own Holy Spirit.
Now, I’m writing about God. The words I share may be rattling, especially if you were raised in an environment where God could only be praised and never questioned, or if you were burned by well-meaning misfits in places where He was cast in bronze judgement or stripped of all power and purpose.
I’ve been in both of those places.
I don’t share this story often, but there was a time when I didn’t trust God. In fact, I didn’t see Him as good.
I saw Him as a Creator. But I didn’t see Him as a Responder, caring much for what He created.
Jesus, on the other hand? Oh, He was a superhero. In the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit trio, Jesus saved the day. God was rather perturbed by humanity, and the Holy Spirit carried a bully stick. Jesus was the only one to truly be trusted. His words were meaningful, His life a picture of true love, His invitation real and honest and just what a young woman who carried the scars of abuse and abandonment needed.
It was Jesus I believed. I fell headlong into His arms. And yes, you can absolutely love Jesus and still think God is a bit of an arse.
I wish I could tell you that seeing God in a different light happened quickly. But that would be a lie. I wish I could tell you that I never question Him. Also a lie. As long as I have breath, I’ll continue to keep seeing Him in more and more expansive ways, and He will continue to welcome my wondering. That reminds me of something important I’d like to say to pastors. Please stop using the line, “Think of your own dad—that’s what God is like…” when teaching.
It’s incomplete at best. And dangerous at worst.
I also wish I could tell you the exact day I asked God if He might reframe Himself to me. Yes, reframe. A words person, I knew most every one ascribed to Him. I didn’t need new words. I needed a reason to believe them. And so, one nondescript morning as I sat with a cup of coffee and a journal, I asked Him if we might have a gut-level honest conversation.
Let your love, God, shape my life…Psalm 119:41
There was no parting of the heavens or seas. There was just me with a bit of time carved out each day to consider whatever it was I felt God might be wanting to say. If you’re looking for tips, this is the only one I’ll offer. Trust that God wants to talk to you, and that you are designed to hear His voice—because it’s true.
Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: “Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go” whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left. Isaiah 30:21
And God was faithful, as is His nature.
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
We talked a lot about the book of Genesis, of how carefully He designed every part of creation as He prepared to create humanity. We talked about the powerful “why” of that design revealed in Eden – His desire to walk with us in the cool of the day and have rich conversation about the life we live together.
For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago. Ephesians 2:10
We talked about the day the earth tasted death when Adam and Eve chose to walk their own path rather than take God’s hand, and how God even in that dark moment protected and provided and wrapped them both in comfort spoken into existence by His own voice.
We talked about death, and how it aches because it’s our soul’s reminder that we were not created to bear the weight—and how one day there will be no more lament.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and eliminate death entirely. No one will mourn or weep any longer. The pain of wounds will no longer exist, for the old order has ceased. Revelation 21:4
We talked about the Law, the endless rules and the greater why of concern and care for others, His love for those on the fringes and in the margins, His heartbreak when we break each other with our words and deeds. We talked about the flesh and bone people He spoke with and to and through, about how His voice far more often reaches our ears through the dialects of those who are walking roads too, how He decided to reveal imperishable truth through wholly imperfect and perishing folks who are here but for a moment, and how that truth continues to be translated over and over again so that new ears may hear new dialects. And we laughed at the thought that any of those translations can begin to truly hold the magnitude of His voice.
Perhaps His grace is most gracious to those of us who think we can lay claim to knowing all there is to know about Him or us or anything, really.
We talked about God’s heart for community. Over and over again. From His design of this little blue ball to the promise of “all made new,” community permeates it all.
And love. We talked about love—a love that is fixed and firm and yet malleable, a love that never changes and yet responds, a love that is timeless and yet steps into the smallest of moments to embrace them, heal them, redeem them. A love that gives permission for honesty, even when that honesty is laced with pain and grief and doubt. A love that gives space for every, “I don’t know and I don’t understand.” A love that is paternal and maternal and eternal in all its ways. An intimate love that attends to the finest of details.
For Yahweh is always good and ready to receive you. He’s so loving that it will amaze you—so kind that it will astound you! And He is famous for his faithfulness toward all. Everyone knows our God can be trusted, for He keeps his promises to every generation! Psalm 100:5
We talked about the depths of image and likeness—how our DNA is woven with personality and emotion and gifts and talents and boldness and nuance—and how the strand filled with multitudes contains within it the story of its own origin—its Creator. There have been conversations about the reality of those emotions as they crash against each other, of the mystery of our design as humans to be the image and likeness of all that is divine and yet carry within us the shatterings of generation upon generation of all that denies that divinity’s very existence.
And we talked beyond scripture, knowing full well that scripture itself points to a God who exists beyond printed pages, of the overwhelming stories contained in the momentary hush of a sunset as the sky shifts to Cerulean blue or the dance of Aspen leaves in autumn or the way birds know the way to fly in response to an unseen calendar or the creative patience taught every time a flower moves from bud to bloom.
From the beginning, creation in its magnificence enlightens us to His nature. Creation itself makes His undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible… Romans 1:20a
We’ve talked a lot about purpose and calling and what it is you and I are supposed to do with this one life we’re given. And I think that, for now, this is where I’ll close. Because of all that God’s revealed about who He is and why any of it matters at all, perhaps it’s this conversation that has been the most tender and vulnerable and hopeful. I have seen glimpses of His heart, His character, His great love. And I have come to understand that the same God who spoke creation into existence and breathed life into humanity holds the same affection today.
“God’s purpose for your life is bigger than you think. His will isn’t an obscure road sign on a dark highway. His purpose is you, and His will is for you to live your life fully, no matter where that life takes you. His purpose isn’t wrapped up in the one job or the one person or the one place. It’s wrapped up in you.
“There’s liberty in embracing the freedom God’s will gives us to explore and wonder and take next step after next step. Certainly, it would be easier for God to determine one purpose for each of our lives, yet He adores us so much that He invites us to walk beside Him with all our hopes and dreams. He surprises us with opportunities, and He assures us with His promise that He is not going to leave us hanging. His delight is now what it was in the beginning—walking with us in the cool of the afternoon, having a great conversation. He spoke stars into existence, and He purposed them to shine for us.
“That’s because His purpose is us. His purpose is you.” (Excerpt from One Woman Can Change the World)
This is part of a three-part series on what I have come to understand about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God. Jesus is Love embodied, a Love Who passionately pursues and saves to the uttermost. The Holy Spirit is Love championed, God’s very breath filling our lungs as He fills our life to overflowing.
And God? He is Love perfectly purposed.
That understanding stems from a personal relationship that is weathered and war-torn and yet still keeps me warm. I’m here to pray with and over and for you and to be a listening ear, no matter where you are on that road of relationship.