Many people fear that God will leave them, but you have a very good reason why this will not happen. God has a reputation to uphold. A reputation of perfect love.
Deep, deep down, I think one of my greatest fears is that of abandonment. That I will be kicked out of the tribe, the family, the grouping, I will be alone.
Like a leper cast out of the town, I will be on the outside whilst everyone else is enjoying community on the inside. The party is going on, but the door is shut and bolted to entry.
Dig into the deep longings of your heart, and I think you will find a similar fear. We were created to enjoy a party going on, not the sterility of an isolation ward.
Yet, so many live in a fear of God leaving them. They have a deep belief that God, having become so fed up with their sin, lack of obedience, trust, and failure, throws the hands to the skies and shouts, ‘I’m done, they’re out of here.’
Maybe a threat of ‘being kicked out’ was held over them from a young age.
Punishment for not getting it right. Threats, condemnation, rules, black and white, you’re ‘In,’ or you’re ‘Out.’
Possibly at a young age, they experienced a deep loss. A death, a parent walking away from the marriage, a belittling of genuine pain. Healthy, God-designed attachments broken and torn away.
Rejection can get its hooks into us at a very early age. Only love can pry it loose.
Returning the favor
I think we often make God into our own likeness.
French writer Voltaire writes this.
In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.
We create an image of what God is like from the scraps of our own experiences.
Taught or caught?
We get taught certain theologies about God’s nature (head knowledge) but so often, what we deeply believe (heart knowing) is caught through the experiences of our lives.
We remain in the old belief systems until we have caught, or we catch new healthier beliefs.
What beliefs have you caught that actually need to be thrown back as they are either undersized or something never intended for eating?
Promises, promises, promises to never leave.
I could fill this page with verse upon verse of scripture about God never leaving us.
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8
But do these verses touch that core fear of the heart? Maybe they do on a very cognitive basis, but what does the heart need to hear?
You’ve seen promises get broken. You’ve broken them yourself. So now you’re not too sure about being reliant on a few words uttered.
Looking beyond my shame and guilt
I believe that God uses us as flawed mirrors of themselves – Father/mother, Spirit, Jesus.
We discover new facets of what God is like through the expression of themselves through their greatest creation – us.
When someone who knows my pain, shame, guilt, darkness, depression, anxieties and yet still chooses to love and welcome me into themselves, then I smell the aroma of perfect love.
I catch something of God.
As a pastor, coach, friend, I have had the deep privilege of hearing some of the most terrible things that have happened to people. Actually, once I had a counselor say to me that God has given me the gift of being able to walk into the very dark places of people’s lives and having nothing sticking to me.
When I have listened to the darkness of others, I have been an ambassador of Christ. I have represented God’s ‘I am with you’ reputation.
When I have given the invitation to look bad in the face of love, often people have caught a new vision of what God is like.
Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
We all know what a reputation is, don’t we? Often it’s negative. That person has a reputation for not being trustworthy, for doing these bad things, of failure.
The writer of proverbs says this.
A good name [or reputation] is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1
A good reputation is important in life. Consistency, reliability, faithfulness. All qualities that built trust and confidence.
God also has a reputation to maintain.
In the oldest book of the Bible, Job, we find a man who must have questioned whether God had abandoned him. His life of seeming blessedness had been destroyed.
Anything of material wealth, health, or supposed blessing had been stripped from him.
Then his so-called friends and family told him to abandon God. To walk away. They misrepresented the nature of what God was like. They were smearing God’s reputation.
At the end of Job’s story, these friends are confronted by God about their words, their folly.
After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.”
So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. Job 42: 7-9
God’s reputation of faithful commitment to his creation, the apple of his eye, had been smeared and tarnished.
There is a reputation to be upheld in the heavenlies of our God being faithful to his creation.
Have you caught it yet?
God rejecting you would be like the ocean rejecting a fish. A ‘vomiting out’ on the shoreline of a fish, something that was designed for swimming and breathing in water. You wouldn’t last a minute.
You were made to be living in the full contact presence of a loving threefold dancing family. It’s just we aren’t always aware of it.
The prayer of awareness
Spiritual formation is an evolving awareness. We start with some assumptions about what God is like, and we evolve. Exposure to the new replaces the old.
We ask for more awareness of what God is like to seep into our souls.
Like the friends of Job, we often misrepresent what God is like. So we ask for forgiveness, and God makes it right because God is infinite love and forgiveness. God has a reputation to maintain.
As you pray, ask God that you may catch more of God’s delighting presence around you. That the old beliefs that are holding you in fear will be replaced with new beliefs of eternal inclusiveness to God’s heart.
Quotes to consider
- Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel
- The furious love of God knows no shadow of alteration or change. It is reliable. And always tender. Brennan Manning
- We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr.
- Like faded paintings on the wall that one never sees because they’ve always been there, so are the assumptions that govern our lives. D. Riddell.
Questions to consider
- Caught or taught? Some of your deepest beliefs. Were they caught or taught?
- What grows awareness of God’s forever presence in your life?
- What happened in you when you read the words ‘God rejecting you would be like the ocean rejecting a fish?’