He’s Not Like That

He’s Not Like That  

Short story based on a dream  2-12-20

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“I felt bad that my faith was not stronger, but I didn’t condemn myself over it,” I assured the older lady sitting next to me. “I know God is a forgiving God, and He understands my struggles.”

“That’s good. You didn’t know God then like you know Him now.” Vanda smiled at me.

“I’ve also discovered that one reason it was so hard for me to trust God when I first started walking with Him was because I was looking at Him like I looked at my earthly father. I think it might be the same with others. How we see God the Father is affected by how we see our earthly fathers.”

“That’s great insight. You need to share your story at our next meeting. People will be encouraged by that.”

I considered it, and then agreed. God had done so many things for me; it was time for me to do something for Him.

For the next few days I pictured myself telling a room full of people how I had come to know God.  I was excited that my story would touch so many people. Maybe it would have great impact in their lives, freeing them to see God as He really is, and enabling them to receive the steadfast love He has for them.

Only it didn’t turn out that way. When the meeting started, there were only four of us. An older man and his wife, Vanda, and me. I was disappointed, but I had agreed, and so I began.

“I was raised in a devout Catholic family. That becomes important later on. We moved frequently through my early childhood. Life changed about the time I entered fifth grade, when we moved away from our large extended family. A few years later my dad lost his job, and got moody. He became increasingly critical and judgmental towards us and towards church. We went to church each week, but it was more of a ritual than anything else. To me it was just bunch of rules that was supposed to bring us close to God, to make us pleasing to Him. There was no life in that but I gave it my best shot during my early teen years, becoming very religious with lots of rosaries and masses. I felt no closer to God and church was too cold for me, so as soon as I could, I quit going.

Life was painful. Broken relationships, confusion, and a extremely poor self-concept resulted in a deep depression that grew deeper throughout my teen years. After high school graduation, when things got as bad as they could get, I gave up. I knew I could not help myself, so I asked God for help before crying myself to sleep at night. But during the days, I ran from anything to do with Him. It was like a game of tag, and He wasn’t going to let me get away. He set me up to have an encounter with Him during a movie I pretty much felt forced to watch. He changed my life, and I began to walk with Him.

He did so many small things – constantly doing things – to show me He loved me. I look back and can’t believe how much trouble I had trusting Him. I know now that it was because I was viewing Him though the lens of the various glasses I was wearing.

One was my father-lens. My dad’s inconsistent attitude towards me – acceptance one day, rejection the next – led me to believe God’s attitude would also be inconsistent. Sure, He loved me on those days when He did something for me. But what about the other days?  And what about when I disappointed Him?

I had a church-lens. The church’s focus on rules and rituals influenced how I viewed God. Things had to be done in the correct way or God wouldn’t be pleased.

And then I had the me-lens. I saw God the way I saw myself. When I was feeling happy about myself. God was happy with me, too. I was acceptable to Him. But I was not acceptable to Him on my bad days any more than I accepted myself on those days.

That was years ago. Many years of struggling to get past those lenses to see God as He really was.  And now…” I paused. I was going to say I no longer struggled. But was that true? I had to be honest. Honest with myself; and honest with these people, as few as they were.

“And now it’s the same. Only different. Deeper. I no longer question whether God loves me. But is He taking care of me when things look bad, and I can’t see Him working?  I no longer believe we have to follow a bunch of rules and rituals in order to get close to God. But am I saying the right words when fighting the enemy? I no longer believe God sees me as I see myself. But I find myself running away from Him when I’m feeling bad instead of running to Him, thinking I’m not acceptable when feeling that way. I guess I haven’t really gotten past my lenses. I just put God’s lens over mine.”  I sat down, disappointed in myself.

No one spoke for a few minutes.

“Well, don’t feel bad. We are all wearing our own lenses under God’s lens.” Vanda said. “It’s okay. God understands.”

“I know,” I responded glumly. “I just don’t like that they’re there.”

“Then get rid of them.”

Get rid of them? Easier said than done.  “How do I do that? I’ve tried for years, and yet they are still there.”

“I’ve heard if you don’t use them, they will slowly shrink away until they are gone.”

I brightened. “That’s it! I’ll just choose not to use them!”

Over the next week I had plenty of opportunities to choose. And I devised a process to help me intentionally look through God’s lens instead of mine. I couldn’t wait to get back to the group to share it.

Finally it was time.

“Remember last week when we talked about choosing which lens to look through? I figured out how to make that work for me. I hope it works for you, too.

The first thing I did was identify which lens I was looking through whenever I thought about God. Often when a doubt sneaks into my mind, it comes as a vague, uncertain feeling. It’s like trying to look through two lenses at the same time. Things get blurry. So putting that feeling into words helped clarify the thought. And that helped identify the lens. If it was a dad-lens, religious- lens, or a me-lens, I made the conscious choice replace it with a God-lens. I reminded myself He was not like that, and replaced the faulty thought with truth from the Bible.

Here are some thoughts I’ve had this week, and how I handled them.

 

“God won’t help me if the problem is my fault.”

He’s not like that.

Hebrews 4:16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

God’s love is conditional on what I do or don’t do. If I skip my Bible reading, He will withhold His love”.

He’s not like that

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.

 

“God criticizes me for my failures.”

He’s not like that

Romans 8:1  There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

“God makes promises, but He doesn’t always keep them.”

He’s not that

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

 

“God doesn’t understand me.”

He’s not like that

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and know me!”

 

“God will get angry at me when I deliberately misbehave”.

He’s not like that

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

 

“God is too busy with His own plans to get involved in the smaller things in my life.”

He’s not like that

Philippians 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

 

“God is far away, watching from a distance to see how I handle things in my day to day life.”

He’s not like that

James 4:8a Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

 

“God is punitive, quick to administer punishment for my mistakes.”

He’s not like that

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 

“God is not concerned about my mental health.”

He’s not like that

3 John 1:2  Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

 

“God does not care about what I care about.”

He’s not like that

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you

 

“God expects too much from us. We can’t do it all.”

He’s not like that

2 Corinthians 9:8  God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

 

“God may or may not hear me when I call to Him.”

He’s not like that

Psalm 34:17  When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

 

“God can get impatient and cranky.”

He’s not like that

1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it’s not irritable or resentful.

 

“As you can see,” I told the group. “The enemy is busy planting seeds every day. But we don’t have to let them grow. God’s Word is a powerful way to combat those seeds before they can grow into a lens. The bottom line is this: God loves you better than you know. He completely accepts you as you are, delights in you, and wants only good for you. Even when you stray or give in to sin, He is quick to forgive when you ask because of His great love for You. You can’t do anything to lessen that love, or anything to increase it. Once you grasp that, doubts will no longer be a problem.”

I sat back down, leaving them to reflect on what I had just shared. And then from deep inside, I heard the Lord whisper, “Are you listening?”