Thursday, July 9, 2009

Clearing A Clouded Heart

So I left a rather cryptic status post on my Facebook yesterday about clearing the lies from my clouded heart, and I got just enough response that I figured I'd better clarify before everyone started thinking I'd gone emo on them or something.
Anyway, the realization I had that my heart was "clouded with lies" stemmed from the devotions I've been doing in a bible study lately, entitled "The Disciple's Prayer Life" (). Anyway, it was talking about our perceptions of God and his character. It stated that he created us for fellowship primarily, and that just didn't sit well with me. It's not that I didn't believe it, at least intellectually, but rather that this conceptualization of God's character just didn't mesh with the picture I've held of him in my heart. It asked me to describe how I viewed God, and I had to sit and think about that for a moment. Finally, a concise description came to mind: I view him as a general. I recognize his authority and power, and I feel indebted to him for the salvation and blessings he's bestowed on me, so I serve him as obediently as I can. But when it comes to cozying up to him and being buddy-buddy, the idea strikes me as foreign as a soldier cuddling up to her superior on the couch while watching chick flicks. Just doesn't seem to be realistic.
So that got me thinking. They say your first and greatest impression of God comes from your father. Well, there were two takes I could have on this. My father, the one who raised and cared for me is anything but the military type. He was very loving and caring and treated me in every way as his own beloved daughter. But I don't think he is the one who formed that God-image for me, unfortunately. I think that image stems from even farther back, from my biological father.
My mom got pregnant with me when she was about my age, and she wasn't married yet. It's a typical story nowadays, but it must have been terrifying even then. So the first thing they did was tie the knot. But my biological father was not exactly the "responsible, settle-down-and-have-a-family type". He was in the navy, and was, as far as I can tell, a bit of a charmer, probably a bit egotistical and the like. When he found out my mom was pregnant, his first instinct was to go for an abortion. I try not to blame him for that, because I have never been in his shoes, and he doesn't have the same outlook on human life as I do. Nevertheless, it's hard to think that upon your first conception, your own father was already looking for ways to get rid of you. Regardless, my mom (my heroine) nixed the abortion idea and went ahead with the pregnancy. Bill (my biological father) really wasn't all that "present" during my birth and early infancy, despite their marriage. My mom always gave me the impression he would rather be out drinking or partying than at home playing the part of Mr. Cleaver. So, inevitably, the marriage failed. My parents split up and went their own ways, and my mom took the entire burden of parenting upon herself. Several years later, she met a funny, goofy guy at work, who she later married and had a son with (i.e. my precious little brother). That is the man I call "Daddy".
All this is merely information gleaned from my mom's recollections to me, usually imparted with anything from flippancy to abject disgust and bitterness. I think my mom is still dealing with the scars Bill left on her heart and soul. I wouldn't blame her. But my earliest memory of my first father was from after my real father had already taken the job. Bill didn't keep in contact very well (okay, like at all) during the early years of my life, though my mother never revoked his right to visit and spend time with me. He just didn't seem all that interested in having a kid. He seemed, however, to have a sudden change of heart when he started dating a children's author who loved kids. All of a sudden he was calling to ask if he could take me to the park to ride a pony or up to the mountains to play in the snow. He was suddenly into this "daddy thing". And I was loving it! I still remember the name of the pony I rode: Pepper. Is that pathetic? I had so much fun being the center of attention of this charming and fun-loving man who called himself "Daddy Bill" and his fair-haired lady friend.
But somewhere along the line, Bill's relationship with the author must have fallen apart, because I stopped seeing him anymore. He just sort of faded back out of existence. Eventually I think I just stopped asking about him. Then, one night, after my family had moved to Idaho from our sunny California home, I had a revelation. Shuffling quietly into my parent's bedroom, I stood in the doorway and asked my sleeping mother a life-changing question: "Mama, is Daddy Bill my real daddy?" My mother, too asleep to be tactful, and probably not even aware of the import of my question, simply answered yes, and told me to go back to bed. I cried myself to sleep that night. Thereafter, I had a definite sense of always being the "stranger" in my family, the odd one out, the child who didn't exactly belong. It wasn't that my parents treated me any differently. But now I knew who I was, and the identity I formed from that information was alienating.
I'm not trying to tell you a sob story here, but merely give background. I came to Christ at sixteen, after a turbulent battle with depression, something that has continued to plague my life since, and will probably always be something I deal with. But despite the love poured out on me via the message of God's only son being sacrificed for my sins, I still carried that sneaking suspicion with me that God was in some ways very much like my original father figure. This connection jumped out at me the other day. All this time, despite all the ways He has blessed me and shown me his care and regard for me, I still tend to think of God as a general or commander, who recruited me into his army not based on his value for me personally, but merely because he viewed me as an asset for getting his own way. And obviously, I don't project the desire to impress the ladies onto my Heavenly Father. But how many times must I have simply assumed that God merely wanted me on his team so I could increase his kingdom or bring other's to the faith?
It may sound ridiculous, or, who knows, it may even sound exactly like what you suspect of his motives. Who knows how many of us have gone through life believing that God was the divine carbon-copy of our own fathers: that he wanted to use us, like our fathers did. That he only wanted us as a trophy or a servant, like our fathers did. Or, God forbid, that he didn't want us at all, like so many girls with absent fathers must suspect.
How did we go so wrong? The most basic and well known verse declares God's abundant love for us: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world [or use the world, or abandon the world], but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17 He loves us! He wants to be with us. Yes, He desires us for other purposes as well, to spread the light of his gospel to the nations, to administer hope and healing to a broken world, to feed the hungry and free the captives, but above all things, let it be known that he first and foremost created us and sent his son to die on that brutal cross because he LOVED us and wanted to be with us. What a powerful truth to clear the lies from our hearts!

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