“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24).
God’s presence will be comforting and undeniable, because He has chosen to dwell within us. We experience His indwelling in our minds through the person of the Holy Spirit. This is a moment by moment process as we draw closer in knowledge, walk in obedience, and over time develop a deep and secure attachment to Him. The more secure our attachment to God the greater our sense of well-being and confidence.
Transformed security does not happen as a person takes on new factual information or by the strength of willpower. Dr. Curt Thompson, a research psychiatrist and neurologist, in his book Anatomy of the Soul says, “Transformation requires a collaborative interaction, with one person empathically listening and responding to the other so that the speaker has the experience, perhaps for the first time, of feeling felt by another…This interpersonal interaction exposes these functions of the mind and facilitates the integration of various layers of neural structures and brain systems, which in turn creates new neural networks. The firing patterns of these networks, though previously potentially available, did not exist before such interactions took place… While the term earned secure attachment is used by researchers to describe an experience between two people, essentially it is the process through which God wants to take all of us. The details and process will differ according to each individual’s life, but by allowing his story to intersect with ours, God is moving us all from deep places of insecurity to security.”
It is as the apostle Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has begun a new creation process with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God is at work restoring His creation, “Do not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2).
“If we suffer from insecure attachment, looking to God’s story in its fullness gives us the opportunity to move to a secure means of connecting with him and others.” (Curt Thompson, p. 138).
Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is the story of God’s desire to be with us, culminating in the life of Jesus. He is with us – exemplified in His name, Emmanuel. He did not come to just be with us physically; He came to be even closer in the presence of the Holy Spirit. “In Jesus, God comes not simply to be in the same room, but rather to walk right up to us, look us in the eye, touch us on the shoulder, and speak our names out loud, smile, and share a drink with us, all the while engaging, persuading, challenging, inviting, convicting, and empowering each of us, loving us into new creation.” (Curt Thompson, p. 139).
As we view life from our insecure and unconnected place we have a difficult time believing that God gives us security. At times we may believe, but our avoidant patterns that have developed from childhood cloud and distort, leading us to ignore God, or respond to Him in ways that leave us disconnected from the life of joy Jesus describes in the Gospels.
Why is it that even though we say we believe in God’s love for us that we don’t experience that love transforming our inner lives or our relationships with those we love?
We agree with the idea that the Holy Spirit is able to transform us just as it tells us in our Bibles. At the same time, we don’t often sense God’s transforming power at work within our hearts and minds. We are really good at responding, with our correct theology, when someone asks us how God views us and reference those passages that say we are sinful, depraved, and wicked.
Scripture is many things; it evokes and reveals the parts of us that are wounded, healed, delighted, resentful, affectionate, or sad. Our reactions to the Bible are rooted in our life stories. We may have been forgiven and enlivened by the story of grace and adventure. On the other hand, we might have been on the receiving end of Scripture being used as a bludgeon by a parent or authoritarian church leader. The way we approach Scripture is often biased by our stories.
God is in the business of changing our stories from poor to rich, from harsh to gentle, from rigid to flexible, from sadness to joy, from shameful to confident and free. In order for God’s story to penetrate our hearts, we must do something that is not always easy to do. We must pay attention.
We must pay attention to those parts of God’s story that we are most likely to ignore or don’t like to hear. The passages we might be prone to ignore and just glance over are those passages where God says that He “delights” in us.
Luke chapter three is the story of Jesus’ baptism. Luke records, “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also has been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily from, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”(vv.21-22).
These verses focus on Jesus’ experience of hearing His Father’s voice. The voice of the Father draws attention to the fact that Jesus is loved and pleasing to the Father. We see in the context of the Gospel confirmation that Jesus lives His life in a way that is pleasing to God. (Luke 2:52).
Jesus’ life was a response to His awareness of God’s affection for Him. Jesus’ behavior follows God’s pleasure. God is pleased; that is who He is as God. Jesus responded with behavior that was reflective of one who is supremely confident that He is infinitely loved by God. Jesus lived His life in fearless response to His experience of God the Father who continually pays attention to His creation and takes great joy in its presence. Consider reading Psalm 139:1-12, 17-18 with this perspective in mind. If we lived believing this was true would we like Jesus be free of anxiety and fear? Would we be comforted, and feel deeply cared for and protected?
Take some time to sit in God’s presence and imagine that God is calling you by name and saying, “You are my beloved child. I am so pleased with you and glad that you are mine.” Be open to God’s voice; linger in His presence. What does it feel like to allow yourself to experience God looking at you with tenderness and love?