God is not who you think he is; he is who he says he is. – Clairice Fluitt
I have heard it said that the most important thing about a person is what he or she believes about God. What we believe about God directly affects how we think, act, relate and behave, and oftentimes our beliefs are really distorted. The third section of Theodyssey focused on the beliefs and images that we hold about God, specifically looking at how we relate to God as Father. If the most important thing about me is what I believe about God, then perhaps that was why this section was so challenging and transformational – it completely changed what I believe about God.
When I finally got real with God, I had to admit that I had some very false images about him. Here are just a few: God is inconsistent and can’t be trusted. God will leave me hanging when I need him. God is withholding good things from me. God feels distant and is always disappointed with me. Can you relate to any of these? Or maybe add a few of your own? If this is how I picture and think about my Heavenly Father, then you can only imagine with I think of myself or how I live my life.
But one night in our group meeting, we reflected on this Scripture:
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’
Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’
Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.’” (John 14:6-10)
I think it’s very common for people to feel closer to Jesus, like he’s their “buddy” or friend or compassionate teacher. But God is a cold, distant, authoritative disciplinarian who doesn’t care if we’re hurting or in trouble. How do these two different pictures match up with Jesus’ words to Philip? Answer: they don’t.
Think about these words from Gregory Boyle: “Jesus spent his ministry freeing people from evil and misery. This is what God seeks to do…Jesus loved people others rejected- even people who rejected him. This is how God loves…And Jesus died on the cross of Calvary…This is how God saves” (Is God to Blame?).
See, we have known God all along.
I think God knew that we would struggle with distorted images of him, whether we developed those from relationships with our own fathers, false teachings we heard in church or other life circumstances. I believe that God graciously gave his son not only to save us, but also to show us who he really is. To show us that he can be trusted, that he loves us tremendously and unconditionally, that he longs to heal and help us. There really is nothing more important than that.