Spiritual Growth

What Do You Really Believe About God?

We sat together for years, my mentor and I.  Facing one another in her family room, we faced the deeper places in my heart together.  Regularly we came up to an invisible, yet impenetrable, internal wall.  It seemed as though nothing would break through when we hit this spot – a place so hard and protective, built strong by experiences long since dead. 

Stone Wall

My walk with Jesus hasn’t been what one would call a stroll in the park.  Yes, I have great times of intimacy where I feel the sweet breeze of the Spirit flowing through me and all is well with my soul in the deepest way imaginable.  I have seen the fingerprints of God all over this world – His creation singing out His glory, daring someone to refute the existence of a Loving Creator.  I have experienced even greater evidence in transformed hearts and lives after prayer, counseling or a movement of God.  Miracles of healing show us we are not in control.  We witness something no human could contrive or manufacture.  We worship Him in these moments because we know He is real, He is good and He is near. 

Sunset - Creation Screams His Glory 2

Despite all this, I am a bit like a stray dog, who, having been beaten, starved and nearly hit by many cars, remains skittish well into his life with a good, loving, gentle master.  My early years were filled with goodness in so many ways.  I lived with little TV or internet which meant life was filled with creative outlet and relationship.  We spent hours outdoors daily making up games and running free in wide open spaces with plenty of green grass and trees as our playground.  My parents were brilliant.  They sang in the opera as a hobby, took me to the symphony, read me Snow White in German and many, many, many other great books.  We spoke Spanish for fun – and pig Latin too.  There were shoulder back rides up the hill on campus to my dad’s office where he taught me about computers on the “new” machines which were as big as a washer and had printers twice as large.  My mom gave us dress up and craft materials to fill our time.  She baked our bread from scratch; cooked amazing and healthy meals made from vegetables in our garden and we got our milk from the local dairy.  Summers were spent driving around this great country camping in many National Parks.  Much good.

Camping Site 2

Intertwined with the goodness of my childhood were very dark days and a pervasive unpredictability.  My father had a violent temper and my mother was emotionally labile.  I never knew what was going to hit me {literally} if a rule were broken or an expectation went unfulfilled.  I acquired the habit of walking on eggshells {whoever coined that term nailed it} and, as you know, that’s a tricky business – one can never quite get it right.  I learned to be as close to perfect as I could and perform my way into approval.  I became my achievements.  As positive as so many things were in my childhood, the constant threat of danger loomed over all of the blessings so that it took me years after leaving home to see any memory worth calling “good” at all.  It was as though I lived out my childhood next to a live volcano on an island where hurricanes hit shore at regular intervals.  The literally life-threatening elements kept me from feeling the warmth and appreciating the scenery. 

Coming out of this background I developed an unconscious theology {I didn’t coin that, I think Betsy Barber at Biola University did}.  Outwardly and in my private thoughts, I acknowledged God as good, loving, my Shepherd and provider.  Beneath the surface I had hidden ideas about God – ones I didn’t readily even share with myself.  Having grown up with abuse, I feared God.  I didn’t fear Him in the Biblical sense – as in “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  Healthy fear involves a reverence.  I was scared to death of God.  Drawing near to my own father had its beautiful moments.  He was affectionate and silly.  He affirmed my intelligence and showed me off to others.  I just never knew when the other shoe would drop, and when it did, I was in for a very painful outcome, even when I didn’t do anything to warrant the rage and wrath aimed my direction.  Drawing near meant coming close to danger. 

As a Christian, God invited me to draw near.  He woos us all and calls us to trust Him.  How could I trust Him when everyone I had grown up trusting had seriously harmed me?  This material formed the great wall in my heart.  Stone by stone I had built an edifice which promised me security and safety from deep hurt.  I would keep you {and Him} at bay by performing well, leaning on my own abilities and always being in control.  

Stone Wall with Archway 2

Years later, I have removed many stones from that wall.  With the faithful presence and care of my mentor and the patient love of God, I learned to lean into Him when I feel fearful.  Becoming increasingly trusting, I have given Him entrance bit by bit and He has healed much in the process.  Together we have made a passageway through the wall.  I have walked far on this path of growing intimacy and can look back with deep gratitude for the growth He has brought about. 

I recently purchased a Bible Study by Dale and Juanita Ryan called, “Distorted Images of God.”  As I delved into the study this week I started thinking of you.  Sometimes when we suffer, we forget others who have endured similar or worse hardships.  We come to think we might be the only one or the worst case.  We are equally sure we ought to keep all our dark past hidden.  “If you knew my past, you’d reject me for sure.”  This line of thinking alienates us and keeps us from the “one another” love God intended. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God ~ 2 Cor 1:3-5

God intends us to be comforted and then to turn and share the comfort with others who have been through the same types of difficulties.  We must first be on our own journey of healing – and then we turn and share what we have endured and how the love of God has entered into our darkness to bring more wholeness. 

Embrace Under Stars 2

The more I talk with women one to one, the more I find out that most of us have deep wounds.  Our hearts have been broken.  We’ve endured great trials.  The initial impression we exude isn’t often a reflection of the depth of our sufferings. 

We are not alone. 

So, I’m going to embark on a new series here on Mondays.  I’ll be talking about the way we view God.  We encounter God as through a grid.  We don’t see Him completely as He is.  We all have some distortions.  Let’s get out the windshield wipers and clear off the grime so we can see Him more clearly and love Him more dearly – and allow His love into deeper recesses of our hearts.  I hope you join me on this journey as we examine our misconceptions and exchange them for more intimacy and peace. 

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  • Reply
    Michelle Waldrip
    March 14, 2016 at 10:10 AM

    Thanks for sharing something so personal and painful, Patty. I’ve always loved 2 Cor. 1:3-5; a friend shared it with me in college, and it has always stayed in the back of my mind. It’s a reminder to me that we aren’t alone, and that good can come even from suffering. I would never reject someone out of hand because of pain or ugliness in their past. I’m glad to know you! I pray you continue to move forward into greater healing and openness. I appreciate the very special person that God has shaped you into! (If Bar-nabas was the “son of encouragement,” does that make you Bat[h?]-nabas, “daughter of encouragment”?) Excellent sharing, once again!

    • Reply
      March 14, 2016 at 4:13 PM

      Thank you for your kind encouragement. I love the Bathnabas! That’s so clever. I’m so grateful for the healing God has done, continues to do and what He is doing even through hard circumstances to this day. He doesn’t waste a drop of what we go through in this life. He is the ultimate conservationist in that sense. We never have to wonder if something will be useful – for us and then others. In His hands all ugly things have something worthwhile within them. Thanks for leaving a comment. I love hearing from you.

  • Reply
    Lorretta Stembridge
    March 23, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    Patty. I’m glad I waisted for a quieter moment to sit with this and read it well. On so many levels I understand where you are coming from and I’m certain that there are some “false Gods” we all carry around in our soul and as we grow older (versus GET older) God ferrets them out one by one and replaces them with Himself. It’s a life-long process I’ve come to be thankful for. Blessings!

    • Reply
      March 23, 2016 at 2:16 PM

      I love that you took the time to visit and read, Lorretta. The growing old by far trumps the getting old (outwardly wasting … inwardly renewed) and the trust we come into as we walk through various storms with Him allows us to grant Him more access into those deep inner storehouses where we keep secrets from ourselves – idols we wouldn’t want to admit we had, reservations about Him, etc. He loves so thoroughly. Grateful for you and your transparency and bravery as you walk with Him.

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