There are certain fundamental questions of life that deserve our undivided and purposeful attention. We spent three days on three very important questions. Our first full day, Tuesday, we explored the question “Who is God?”. Our answer and understanding of this question profoundly effects how we live our lives.
Prayer and Worship
To prepare our hearts to this question, we began the day with prayer and worship. We began each morning singing a beautiful song written by Gord Johnson and recorded by Steve Bell called Everything We Need which had these simple but meaningful lyrics:
In the morning Lord we do look to you, for the strength we need just to make it through. Have mercy
In the evening Lord we look back and say, it was in your strength that we made our way. Have mercy
You are everything we need. Feed us Lord.
We were led through a liturgy with responsive readings where we affirmed the glory and goodness of God. Included in the liturgy was a recitation of the Nicene Creed which is a doctrinal statement of Who is God first adopted at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and subsequently revised in 381 AD at the Second Ecumenical Council. It is a wonderful way to confess to the foundational truths about who God is. We ended by singing the classic hymn Holy, Holy, Holy.
After a tasty breakfast, we began to look more closely at “Who is God?”.
Our Picture of God
We were blessed all week by some amazing teachers. Our first teacher for the topic of Our Picture of God was Trevor Hudson.
Trevor is from South Africa and has been involved in pastoring Methodist churches for over 35 years. He is a gifted speaker and has such a sensitive and passionate way as he shares about God. I have included a Chapel Sermon Trevor did in 2017 in case you would like to experience a little of what I experienced as I listened to Trevor speak at the retreat
The quotes above set an appropriate backdrop for this talk. It is so true. How we think God thinks of us will impact almost everything about us. In my head I may know God is loving and merciful, but when I picture or experience God, what do I see? For example, my picture of God for much of my life was Him as a stern teacher. With that picture, how do you think that impacted my life and my relationships, how I read the Bible and prayed? I lived in a way like life was a test without knowing for sure what the grading system was. Therefore I tried to be perfect and perfection became my aim even though that wasn’t really apparent to me. It was more of an underlying driver. When I read the Bible, I read for information as if studying for an exam. In prayer I often felt more like I was unworthy and appeasing vs experiencing a personal relationship. In marriage, if I thought my wife was criticizing me I would react in anger as if whatever I did was never enough. I think the end result of one who is driving to be perfect is the sense of being a disappointment. So when my picture of God is distorted, it really does affect everything!
Sadly, we seldom take the time to really think about our view of God. Life is busy and full of distractions. To really explore our picture of God takes time and bit of solitude. Our lives today do not lend themselves to this type of exploration. Or perhaps, we know there is something deeper but we go to these distractions because it is easier than to go through what can be a thought provoking and painful reflection.
Here are a few things that Trevor said that really resonated with me that I hope may be an encouragement to you as well.
- We need a picture of God that we can abandon ourselves to. I found that statement to be so inspiring. When my picture of God is true and lines up with how scripture describes Him, I can totally envision myself running to Him with abandon. And in that movement toward my Heavenly Father, I experience great freedom. No compulsion to perform, no sense of disappointment. Rather an experience of love, acceptance, joy, and delight.
- The first task of spiritual formation is to heal our image of God. Speaking from experience and looking back on my own journey, I have experienced the most growth when I have operated with a clear and true picture of God. When my picture is distorted, even a little bit, I do not experience Him in the same way.
- Take time to identify your default picture of God. This is so important. For several years of my life, I lived life with my default picture of Him as my stern teacher without really identifying that distorted view. It felt like the truth. What a lie of the enemy! Once we identify the default, that default loses its power as we experience healing and know God as one we can run to.
My goal is to not make any individual blog too long and am I now realizing trying to summarize a day or even one talk in a blog is not going to work. So I am going to stop here for now and leave you with a couple of things to ponder. My next post will include some ways we can find healing of our picture of God.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to read this post and joining me in my retreat journey. I am honored that you are here. So let’s take a few minutes to close our time together by pondering a couple of questions. You may find another time may be better where you have more time to be quiet and sit with these questions with God. Lets pray for each other as we meditate on these questions that God will help us see Him in all of the fullness of His nature. Blessings and peace to you.
- What is my default picture of God? How would I put words to it and how does it impact my life?
- What would my picture of God look like that would compel me to run to him with abandon?