I was doing all the “right” things. I read my Bible every night—even a chapter a day, I threw up some prayers, I attended and served at an awesome church, and yet I found myself more and more empty. It was like my prayers hit the ceiling. I was growing in self-righteousness and not into deeper relationship with the Lord. I had a lot of Bible knowledge, I did church things (but with the wrong heart and motivation), and I was just…. drifting, reaping the fruit of my self-righteousness.
In The Crossing’s recent sermon, “My Jesus Ain’t White“, Pastor Clayton Hentzel preached that we create God in an image that WE are comfortable with and understand. I found that to be so profound and it mirrored the lesson the Lord has been unfolding for me this past year. He started to show me that in so many areas in my faith I had a mental ascent—a disconnect between my spoken beliefs and how I actually treated God.
Sure, if you asked me if God was merciful I would have told you YES! But when I actually prayed, it was as if God’s mercy applied to everyone else and not to me. I believed with my mouth that God was loving, yet I treated Him as if He were cruel, as if I was bothering Him and disappointing Him in how I approached Him in my prayer life.
This was something that was subtle… yet I was aware of it enough that I found myself quickly shoving this thought or feeling down, then cleaning it up to what I knew to be biblically right, before I handed the thought over to Him.
This became such a pattern to me that I had grown so comfortable with it. The rapid process made it hard to even discern that I was doing it. After another night of what felt like fruitless attempts at prayer, I desperately prayed that God would show me where the breakdown was between my heart and my head. I fell asleep and that night I had a dream unlike any I’d ever had before:
I found myself as a servant in line at the wedding at Cana. I was holding a large clay jar full of water and there were several servants in line in front of me. Each servant at their turn handed their jar to Jesus and he poured out their water and it turned into wine. Servant after servant went before and finally it was my turn! I went to hand my jar to Jesus, but as I did He completely disappeared before my eyes.
Immediately a feeling of rejection, shame, and self-pity washed over me. Why did he disappear on MY jar and not anyone else’s? And then I recognized it….the wrong thought. So in my panic I went into my process of trying to correct what I just clearly thought…but before I could do that… Jesus began to materialize again before my eyes. He had caught me in my wrong thought—and the look on His face was one of understanding, compassion, and pure love. He took my jar and poured it into wine.
As I partially awoke, I realized, I don’t have to clean up my wrong thoughts before the Lord. He knows them anyway. I cannot fix them on my own to make them acceptable. He takes what I have and purifies it.
I woke from this dream into another. In this dream, I was pregnant (but I didn’t know it yet)… and the Lord showed me that there was a little “life” growing deep within me. I woke that next morning with the full realization that the pregnancy dream was a metaphor that God was doing something in me that other people couldn’t see yet and even I couldn’t see. I wish I could say that I woke from these dreams and immediately my prayer life was rich…. but it wasn’t. I had a deep rut in relating to the Lord that I would slowly and intentionally walk out of. I woke with the realization that I was being self-righteous, that I anticipated rejection from the Lord, and that I nursed self-pity.
A few weeks later, I had lost my keys… again! As usual, I reached the end of myself and prayed that the Lord would help me find my keys. As I did, I started to feel embarrassed that here I was again asking for something… and I felt like the Lord stopped my in my tracks. The “lost keys prayers” were my BEST prayers. And you know what? I was honestly offended. Why?!
Those prayers were my most child-like. In them, I had nothing figured out, was the most vulnerable, and recognized that only God could help.
And the rest of my prayer life came into focus. I spent so much time trying to clean myself up and not surrendering it to God that I was in complete denial that I needed a Savior and Lord. Sure, I said with my mouth that Jesus was my Lord, but I wasn’t treating Him as Lord, but more like a cruel master that I needed to show my most polished self with hopes to be accepted. I am already accepted, but I wasn’t praying like I was.
Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Salvation is not a package deal. He died for all so I guess that includes you, too. NO. He died for us while we were still sinners and did nothing to earn it. We didn’t have to clean ourselves up before we accepted Jesus. He is not interested in saving us and then leaving us to our own devices. We are not just another check mark in His book. No. God is not like us. He invites us to know Him – the real Him – not the one we’ve pieced together in our heads.
But you cannot hear His still, quiet voice if your mind is booming with voices of self-condemnation and self-pity. Those voices are not the Lord’s! Your mind must be quiet with the full assurance that He will lead and help you. Ask Him who He REALLY is and ask Him to show you the disconnect between who you have believed him to be instead. Who are you REALLY treating Him as? As He shows you, REPENT for treating Him that way. Trust Him for who He says He is. “I AM.”
He is not your creation or collection of experiences. He is not that god. He won’t fit into your box or honor your wrong thinking. Let Him re-teach your heart so that you can experience fully the true heart of God. A GOOD Father, a GOOD husband to His Church (that’s us!), a GOOD Friend, and a GOOD and CLOSE Counselor.
He is gentle,
slow to anger,
rich in mercy,
abounding in love,
and eager to hear from His children.
Are you adding attributes to God that aren’t His? REPENT (which is to ask for forgiveness for treating Him that way and to decide to no longer do that) and accept His invitation to trust Him.
You are accepted and loved, Friend! Why reap fruit of self-righteousness and self-protection when a wholly loving and all-powerful God wants to change you from the inside out? Whether you have never served Him or served Him for decades, ask Him to reveal to you places in your heart where you believe a lie about Him. God is NOT your earthly father, your husband, your boss, or your judgmental friend. God is who He says He is. And He is GOOD. Go deeper, get closer, and experience intimacy with the One who made your soul.