It has been a long time since I have written a blog. It is not because I have not had anything I have wanted to say. I have concluded that there are too many voices competing for our attention; I do not want to write unless I have something that I believe is profitable for our spiritual journeys.
Recently I was on a retreat where the total focus was on prayer. After I returned from the retreat a friend asked me what the experience had been like. I struggled to answer her because my heart was full with all that I was processing from an amazing encounter with the Lord.
We have all, to varying measures, been deeply wounded at some time in our lives. These experiences can make it difficult to trust God and believe that God desires to be close to us. When the Israelites were exiled in Babylon, wounded and feeling abandoned, the prophet Isaiah brought words of comfort. Isaiah 49:13-15 filled their hearts with encouragement with such words as, “Can a mother forget her nursing child…and have no compassion on the son of her womb…though these may forget, I will not forget you…behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”
Our God does not forget when our love fails; He is always ready to love and heal us.
Brennan Manning, an author who has known his share of suffering and recovery, says it this way: “You must be convinced of this, trust it and never forget to remember. Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death endures forever. In the end, it is the one thing you can hang onto.”
What does it mean to embrace God’s love for us? The idea that God loves us will upset all our false beliefs as we accept and believe the truth that we are good because God created us. It is hard to accept but we must belief this goodness despite all the evil that has been done to us, the evil we have done, and fight the devil that plagues us. We must discipline ourselves to rule over the voices in our heads that tell us over and over again that we are worth nothing.
Our ability to lean into God’s love for us can be helped and hindered by the pictures of God that we carry with us. Helen Cepero says that, “The way we name God tells us a story not only about our understanding of God but about how we see ourselves in relationship to God. If we name Jesus as our shepherd, then we will see ourselves as sheep in his pasture. If we name God as our lover, then we will be named in that relationship as the beloved.”
I experienced a new way of God naming me during the prayer retreat. I have over the years used a breath prayer to keep me focused on God and to help me not be consumed by my own negative thinking. I used Psalm 23 verse one, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” I would pray this verse and pray that the Lord would help me not to be ruled by the ruling “wantsies.” Over time the prayer changed to “Lord help me not to be ruled by thoughts of power or position.” When I was on the prayer retreat in a time of solitude and silence the Lord brought me to a new place in His love for me. He modified the prayer to what He wants for my heart. “I am the Lord your Shepherd, I shall never leave you wanting.”
As a young believer I would try hard to please God while in the same moment fight the feelings of unworthiness. Being with Jesus in this new way as a friend meant valuing myself in a new way. It changed our relationship to one of mutual enjoyment rather than only personal obligation. It fills my heart with joy and comfort in knowing that as Isaiah 43:3-4, “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; …you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you…”
Take some time with your journal and think of a name for God that has been personally important to your walk with the Lord. Write this name in your journal, and tell the story of how He has met you in this name. What effect has this name had on you as a son, daughter, disciple, or beloved child? Take a few moments to thank God for the gift of this name and for the relationship that has grown out of it.