“You will never change, will you?”

by steve on October 27, 2012

You will never change, will you? It’s not an audible voice, but a thought stirring in my mind. Where did it come from and why am I thinking it? It feels true, like a factual assessment of my character. My thoughts have the power to become my reality. The “you” quickly becomes an “I.” Once embraced as reality the power of “I” spreads like a wildfire incinerating the very core of my identity. I won’t really change! I have failed on so many occasions……I kinda suck don’t I? Will I ever get this figured out? Why is it so hard for me to do things right? I’m tired of trying! I’m tired of failing! The purpose of this assault is to drive me to a place of hopelessness. It begins with a thought; it morphs into an agreement, and it results in a false identity. Embracing this false identity validates what the enemy has been whispering in my ear for years…..I will never be good enough for God.

In a certain sense this is true; I will never truly be “good enough” for God. If I was able to be good enough on my own there would be no need for the cross. The cross offers us “condition free” forgiveness. Interestingly enough we have the tendency to put conditions on God’s forgiveness. We weigh our sin on a scale and determine what is eligible and what is not. Forgiveness is not conditional, it is a gift. It’s as if we are telling the gift giver when He does or doesn’t have the right to give us a gift. A gift is a gift because some chooses to give it to you. I believe there is a demonic army whose full time job is to turn our sin into shame. Why? Simply put, shame has the power to drive us away from God when we fail. Believing I don’t deserve forgiveness produces shame, and shame is a roadblock to intimacy. Score one for the enemy! If he can’t keep us from believing in God, he attempts to get us to believe wrong things about God.

Forgiveness is the most beautiful expression of God’s desire to intimately connect with His creation. Refusing to give power to shame allows us to take the accusations of the enemy and turn it into astonishment at the goodness of God. Saying no to shame and yes to intimacy is a double whammy sent the enemy’s way.

We have a dog named Cooper. For those of you who have met him you can attest to the fact that he is a pretty cool dog. Unfortunately, no dog is free of imperfection, and Cooper is no exception. Cooper’s vice is food left on the counter (packaged or unpackaged). If he can see the food, the food is in jeopardy of being consumed. Cooper, however, is no dummy. He knows that stealing food from the counter is forbidden, especially food that is packaged. A ripped package on the floor is evidence of his crime, and he is seasoned enough to conceal his actions, or at least delay their discovery. Cooper’s latest brush with crime was taking a loaf of bread off the counter and dragging it into our formal dining room (we rarely eat there) and dismantling it in the furthest back corner. It’s a remote location that is shielded by a table and six chairs. Unless we are looking for something in that room, it is highly unlikely that we will immediately notice his offense. However, Cooper’s offense doesn’t leave his mind. He seems to remember what he did, and intentionally avoids contact with that portion of the house. Once we discover his little mess, we make it a point to call him in the room and communicate our displeasure with his choice. Years ago he would come running into the room wagging his tail and ready for affection. It was hilarious to watch his reaction shift once he made eye contact with his mess. His memory is triggered and he quickly hangs his head and looks away. He nervously licks his lips and makes every effort to not look at us or his crime. I typically change my voice to a low disappointed tone and say Coooooooperrrrrr…….”What is this?: Coooooooperrrrrr…….. “What did you do?” As I scold him he inches closer and closer to me, head down, lips licking, and tail nervously wagging. His head nudges my leg as is to say, “I’m sorry, are we good?” Interestingly enough, Cooper stays away from his sin but not from me. The minute I look at him and change the tone of my voice, he pounces all around the room, eventually jumping up and putting his legs around my waist, giving me a hug. His countenance changes as he receives his doggie forgiveness. Point being, my dog is quick to recover. The minute he sees an opportunity to re-establish relationship with me, he does.

He looks way too cute to be a criminal

I find myself approaching God the same way Cooper approaches me……head hung…..tail nervously wagging…..no eye contact. Funny thing is that I don’t think God is saying Steeeeeevvvveee…..”What did you do?” I don’t think He changes the tone of his voice, or points to the mess I have made. Unfortunately, guilt and shame lead to a wrong assumption of the Father’s heart. This assumption conceals His true heart with a misguided perception of His character. My journey has been filled with well-meaning church leaders and Christians who have reinforced my skewed perception of God. (I am confident I have done this to others as well). This mindset causes me to retreat from God. I don’t want to be in the same room as my “sin,” even more so with God there!

It has taken me years to discover this pattern of running from God. It has been a vicious cycle of disconnect based on an inaccurate view of the Father’s heart. It is an extremely powerful lie that the enemy places in my mind. Jesus didn’t suffer the cross with any “performance clauses.” My failures do not make the cross any more or any less available. My triumphs do not make the cross and more or any less available. My willingness to accept the free gift of the cross is the cornerstone of intimacy. Intimacy opens the door to a limitless supply of the presence of God. It is an invitation, as such, to his “real” heart for me. His heart is good, and it is for me! My modus operandus needs to shift from merely believing it, to living from it.

I was talking to a friend a few months ago about this very issue. I was expressing my struggle with shame and disconnect. I asked him how he deals with brokenness in relation to his intimacy with God. He shared with me the contrast between Saul and David in the Old Testament. Both were kings, both were chosen by God, both were anointed, and both had direct access to the Father. Both Saul and David made significant mistakes. The difference, however, between Saul and David is that Saul ran from God, but David ran to God.

History would indicate that things turned out a little bit better for David. Did David sin less than Saul? Probably not, he did some pretty bad stuff. David was called, “A man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:13,14) Perhaps he acquired this title based on his relentless pressing in to the heart of God. Right now I’d say I am briskly walking to the Father. I’d like to run, but this is a new way of thinking for me. Freedom is around the corner. I’ve lived most of my life trying to be good enough for God. I think that’s going to change. It’s time to start living from the goodness of God.

This is how the Father receives us

As I was typing this blog I purchased the new Bethel CD on iTunes. I was approximately halfway through when the song below began playing. At first I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics. Subconsciously I connected a few words and felt the nudge to replay the song and “really” listen to it. Was it an unlikely coincidence? I doubt it. The Father is a master at reinforcing his truth through a myriad of ways. As always I hope that my journey brings hope to your journey. He is good. He is for you. That is a good thing. Now the real journey begins…..live from it!

FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD (LP)
YOU HAVE WON ME

Verse 1

Grace you’ve shown me grace
You’ve lifted my shame
Drawn me with loving kindness
Washed whiter than snow
You have redeemed and made me whole

 

Chorus

Jesus you have won me
You have broken every chain with love and mercy
You have triumphed over death
And you are worthy of glory and praise

 

Verse 2

Love you’ve shown me love
By leaving your throne
By bleeding and dying on a cross
That wonderful cross
That took all my guilt and sin away

 

Bridge

Shout it out and lift up one voice in worship
Sing it out until all the earth can hear it
Jesus is alive and He saves He rescues and saves
 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

April McGowan October 28, 2012 at 10:01 am

Very nicely put, Cousin. Beautiful.

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Gloria Solstad October 28, 2012 at 10:01 am

That was an amazing testimony of God drawing you back to him thru his love. We have traveled much of the same path Stephen, by being programmed to live our lives performanced based, not only with God but with others and ourselves. I have been experiencing the Father’s love from a love base not performance base and it is truly (in the process of) transforming my life. I always have to be careful that I extend that same unconditional love to others as well (that is not always easy). God has called us to walk in love because He is love. Guilt and shame puts us in bondage but perfect love casts out fear and breaks the bondage. May each of us experience that freedom to run to the Father because His arms are always open to receive us.

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Glenn October 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

Thanks for this! -Glenn

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Peri Cunefare October 28, 2012 at 10:43 am

Steeeeevvveee – you have a beautiful writing style that “speaks straight into the heart” of the reader. Amazingly simple content, yet so powerful and so absorbing. I pray you see this as God’s gift and that you continue to express yourself by writing.
In “His”care,
Peri Cunefare, Rancho Bernardo-San Diego
PS – I love animals & I easily could visualize your Cooper in handling his little sin:)

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Gloria Solstad October 28, 2012 at 11:59 am

Thank you for sharing your journey. You have so portrayed the love of the Father in an amazing way. Keep sharing to a world that needs to see and experience our Father’s love. You have a wonderful gift keep writing.

Mom

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Ginger Masted October 30, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Proud of you for continuing to press into the relational intimacy that the Father longs for with us. It is no small endeavor and highly opposed. However, it is THE THING that makes life worth living. To be fully known and fully loved. Running to Jesus with you Steve!

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Richard Fagerlin November 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm

“Saying no to shame & yes to intimacy is a double whammy sent the enemy’s way…” Good stuff Steve. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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dad November 4, 2012 at 6:32 am

Penetrating.I burn for that Love as I work alongside you in the kingdom. Good reminder. Donkey, dog,… How and even thta he speaks to you, me,… is love.

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jeff November 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I really like this post. One of the great tricks, though, is distinguishing there is even a problem.

So often the voice inside us seems like the bastion of sanity or represents what we’d be if we tried harder. The voice positions itself as our coach, helping us reach higher heights. Sometimes this is true and we ignore it at our peril. Call it the Voice of God that we don’t want to hear. But sometimes…not.

Ultimately, there’s a point where we become aware of the voice’s effect. Has our “coach” led us into higher heights or merely been a front for sustained damnation? That’s never easy to to see right away. Only when we finally determine the latter are we ready for Steve’s brilliant post.

No one else can do this work for us. It’s ours alone to do, and it *IS* hard. Anyone or anything that promotes shortcuts is selling snake oil.

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