7 New Ways to See God, if You Can’t See God as Father

Last week in LASTing Peace we talked about how we see God. So often, in the confidential rooms of counseling and group therapy, I’ve heard people say that they have a hard time seeing God a loving Father because their earthly father was neglectful, abusive, absent, drunk or a myriad of other things.

In the video, I tried to touch those feelings and untie the knots of anxiety that strangle so many people who believe in God and want to know Him but struggle with the truth that He really loves them. There’s only so much you can say in a five minute video, so today I hope to flesh out that concept and offer some more encouragement.

Just the smallest of recaps, and please go listen to this video if you haven’t yet, but I told you there are times in the Bible when God even reveals Himself through mothering characteristics: He is nurturing and protective.

God sometimes uses seemingly contradictory terms to describe Himself in an effort, I believe, to push our minds outside the boundaries of human personality, so that we can imagine a God who contains all qualities. For example, He is both the lion (strong and defensive) and the lamb (gentle and peaceful). He is both the shepherd (guide, protector, nurturer) and the sheep (the sacrifice for our sins). Jesus also calls Himself the Son of man and the Son of God, a door, a vine and the Bread of Life.

Personally, I think God gives us so many angles, analogies and perspectives because He knows that one image will not make sense to all people. He so longs for a relationship with each of us on a personal level that He has opened all His heart, displayed the smallest measure of all the aspects of His majesty so that we can each taste of the His goodness and anticipate the wonder of all He is and does for us: More than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

So, if you’ve struggled with the concept of God as your Father. I invite you to let that description go. Here are a few more ways that God refers to Himself throughout His Word. In time, maybe you will be able to see God as the perfect Father you never had, the Father you always longed for. If and until then look to Him as:

Master (Adonai)—This one is actually my favorite and I explain why in the video.

Your Rock (Yahweh Tsuri)—solid, unchanging and reliable

Your Healer (Yahweh Rophe)

The King (Melek)

Your Righteousness (Yahweh Tsidqenu)

Your Husband (Ish)

Your Dwelling Place (Maon)

One week from today, we’ll take a brief look at a very special way that God reveals Himself. Till then, rest in the arms of Yahweh Shalom (He is your peace).

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Marital Counseling in the Context of a True Story

By the time a couple finishes the first round of premarital counseling, most are willing to admit that marriage requires, and affects, personal change. All will affirm that marriage involves cherishing and being cherished.

However, only after the rings are exchanged, the threshold crossed and the first dinner bloopers endured, does light dawn on the truth that these aspects of marriage are not only true, they are nonnegotiable and they are mutually dependent.

Jane Kirkpatrick’s trilogy, Emma of Aurora, The Change and Cherish Trilogy, is a fascinating, didactic work of historical fiction. In her remarkably accurate account of the life of Emma Wagner Giesy, Kirkpatrick quietly unveils the perils, the promises, the possibilities and the purpose of marriage.

Emma Wagner Giesy’s life was fraught with perils. She had a strong mind and a ferocious sense of independence. Neither bode well for her in the ultra-conservative, communal Christian colony in Bethel, Missouri, where she grew up. She fell in love with Christian Giesy, during a Christmas morning church service in 1851, as she studied him across the isle dividing male and female worshipers.

Her subsequent marriage to Heir Keil’s right hand man, immediately set her at odds with the colony’s undisputed leader. Tension simmered as Emma worked to manipulate the men in her life to respect her wishes, something unheard of in the patriarchal colony. But she won more battles than she lost and eventually found herself the lone woman accompanying her husband and a small group of scouts westward to find a new homestead for the growing Bethel colony.

Perils of loneliness, physical pain, rejection and exhaustion assaulted Christian and Emma’s marriage. I watched as Emma and Christian changed, almost imperceptibly, learning to cherish each other in spite of their differences.

God’s promises prevailed over and over in this true, rich story. Kirkpatrick uses Emma’s voice to recall Scripture frequently. Familiar Biblical texts became Emma’s lifeline when her husband seemed distant and unfeeling. At the same time, Emma and Christian’s vows to each other endured continuous refining fire, but emerged stronger.

At risk of giving away Emma’s darkest, most transformational peril revealed in Book 2, I’ll simply tell you that through Emma’s story, Kirkpatrick helps the reader to understand God’s promise, “All things work together for the good of those who love Him”, often requires that we believe, “With God all things are possible”.

Finally, Kirkpatrick’s uses Emma’s story to show the purpose of marriage. God designed the union of man and woman in marriage to be unlike any other relationship. The aggravating truth of our stark differences can make marriage one of the most difficult relationships. But it is through the pain of changing that we understand how much God cherishes us. It is in learning to rest in our Father’s love that we become able to accept the differences of others, gently accept God’s changing us, and become able to cherish another human being.

This book is an excellent, unparalleled read. Kirkpatrick develops vibrant, multi-dimensional characters. None is flawless and the reader’s loyalty vacillates, even occasionally leaving the heroine.

The conclusion left me with a deeper self-awareness. It cultivated introspection, an attentiveness to the changes God longs to make in my own life. At the same time, the book left me with peace, a confidence that I am cherished, even as I am changing.

Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em, Missing Peace Chapter 7

I honestly don’t remember how long I saw Kathy Hoppe. It didn’t take me long to figure out how to play her. She seemed able to read my mind, sometimes to even know how I felt before I could identify my emotion.

Kathy knew why I wouldn’t eat, she said. I was trying to control things in the family. I felt overlooked and less important, talented, special or desirable than my sisters. There was too much pressure to perform as the “mature oldest daughter” that everyone thought I was. I was lonely, living in a small town having been homeschooled for so long.

On the physical level, she prescribed a nutritionist and instructed me to write down everything I ate. “And I don’t want you to do more than 30 minutes of exercise each day.”

I simply had to be smarter to beat her at her own game. Controlling Kathy’s opinion of my recovery became a new challenge, a new high. I snuck jumping jacks in after bedtime, in the dark, in the bathroom. I walked the long way around things, always stood and bounced my knee with purpose and passion.

“I really think we’re making progress,” She would say one week, while perusing my list of 2000 calorie days, only about half of which was true.

But my body betrayed me. My weight continued to decline, albeit slowly. I had taken up jazz dance because it put a time limit on my official workouts, which placated my parents and therapist. I had to get knee pads for some of the moves because my bones dug into the hardwood floor. We had one dance that finished with us laying on our backs. I got bruises on my spine.

Pretty soon Kathy started making threats too.

“I’m suggesting that Abby try an inpatient program,” Kathy told my parents during a powwow session. “What we’re doing isn’t working. Abby, I’m afraid you’re not being totally honest with us about what you’re eating and how much you’re exercising. In an inpatient program, they can monitor all the variables constantly.”

October. A month before my most dreaded holiday of the year. Our family of six left the house under a steel colored sky and drove mostly in silence toward Laurette. Laurette is the only inpatient treatment facility in Oklahoma for eating disorders. Generally, it was a psychiatric hospital; their program targeted at anorexics and bulimics was brand new.

I was numb walking through the heavy sliding glass doors behind my parents. Dad drug my small suitcase. There must have been tons of admission paperwork, but I don’t remember anything until the supervising nurse led us to my room.

All the walls in the facility were light yellow, a dull lifeless color. Fortunately, one wall was replaced by windows looking out into well cultivated gardens, with a goldfish pond.

It felt like a surreal tour of a haunted house, as the nurse led my family, her clueless captives, toward the room that was to be my whole home for the next 30 days. Doors lined the way on every side. They locked from the outside with a reverse peephole. A three digit number marked each room’s address.

“I need to go through your suitcase,” she said.

“Why? We packed according to the directions in your literature. She only has one soft-sided bag,” my dad informed her.

“Thank you for being attentive to the rules, but I need to go through it and check for anything dangerous.”

Apparently, there are numerous life threatening items that we use everyday. I watched helplessly as the nurse broke the glass out of my cosmetic compacts. I felt my dignity crack and crumble as well. She confiscated my shoe laces. Finally, she stood.

“OK. You can put all of your things in that dresser over there. After that, you will need to say your goodbyes so the doctor can do your admissions checkup.”

My eyes blurred and my hands shook as Mom and my sister, Jennifer moved all my t-shirts and jeans to the dresser. Rachelle held my hand and watched with me in silence.

Daddy drew our family into a group hug and prayed.

I don’t know what he said. My heart was saying, “Don’t leave me. Do you hate me? Won’t you miss me? How can you abandon me here? What’s going to happen to me?”

Laurette was not for me. The eating disorders program was underdeveloped so they lumped all seven of us eating disordered patients into the group therapy sessions with schizophrenics, suicide watch patients and drug addicts. I recall one high school age boy telling about a wacky drug trip he’d taken before being admitted. Another man threatened to beat the counselor with a chair.

For 72 hours I was on phone restriction. But the moment I was released for my first phone call, I held the receiver with a death grip.

“Mom, Dad,” I choked on tears. “Please don’t leave me here. I’ll do anything. I don’t belong here.”

They must have still loved me. They came to rescue me.

The Old has Gone, The New has Come

A misconception about abusive relationships is that the person in the relationship is the only one who suffers. Sometimes, that’s where conventional therapy and intervention fail, addressing one person, searching for one cause, praying for one solution. For me, lasting peace did not come until I admitted the impact that my relationship with Ed had on my whole family. I had to listen to their hearts, absorb their pain and practice giving and receiving forgiveness.

To read more of this story, find me here: at Haven Journal. This is a series of three pieces, all of them have been published by Haven. I hope they encourage you.

Trial of Trusting

God has used numerous people and resources to teach me. Those have been as diverse as a Christian mentor, an atheist friend, a book about finding my own appetite, a biography of an exercise addict, my little sister, a website, an inpatient hospital, a horse, a dog, a gym, a journal, a cup of coffee.  Go figure. He is the creator of all things and everything (whether it wishes to be or not) is at His disposal. (Ps. 50:10-11)

Tuesday morning was my first morning back in my house, in my prayer chair with an unlimited amount of time to seek God’s face. (Only Brave’s bladder would signal the end of my revelry!)

I have shared some with you this week about how God has used Finding Balance and Constance Rhodes to teach me. Did I mention that many of the experts on the website were professionals working at Remuda Ranch when I was there?

One of the biggest hurdles for me in my recovery was wondering if I could trust those who were instructing me. How did that nutritionist know what would or wouldn’t make me fat? How did that counselor know that I shouldn’t be exercising? How did I believe that any professional had my best interest in mind? And then, when I was absolutely exhausted by the anxiety that was devouring my mind, I wanted someone to teach me the ONE thing I needed to do to be well. I wanted someone to just tell me what to do!

Guess what? As I wondered who actually knew what they were talking about and who I could trust, God revealed something to me. As I sought His deliverance from my eating disorder HE WAS TRUSTWORTHY to give the right words to my advisors. I could trust the people and resources that He was choosing to lead me away from my path of destruction.

Are you anxious about a change in your own life? Are you worried about seeking advice and who you can trust? I can promise you this, if you are humble enough to listen to Godly counselors, you CAN, YOU MUST trust their advice. Finding Balance is one such Godly resource. Listen to God’s promises to teach you:

Behold you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Ps. 51:6

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Ps. 90:12

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit guide me on level ground. Ps. 143:10

Please, don’t flounder in fear. I promise you that whether your hurdle be an eating disorder, an addiction to pornography, self-harm, depression, anxiety, marital stress or a simple need for wisdom – God can be trusted to teach you wisdom in the inward being and you can trust the counsel of those who love Him.

Flicker of Hope for Us

A spark or glimmer

Nearly died last week.

Tonight it’s flicker

A tiniest peek

Of hope for tomorrow

Faith in love.

 

Before my heart

All but above

Despaired of here and him.

And us and dreams.

But with the breath of

A Creator with

Hands of love and

Plans through pain.

And a will that’s not my own.

 

Inhale.

A fresh, awakening frost

To my lungs

A stinging hope for two

As one.

 

Relationship is a fragile thing. Especially when it is sworn to survive anything and everything, to never expire. When you can’t tire of the other, and no matter how wounded you are you can’t escape – not without dying.

Recently, my most intimate relationship, my marriage, has been tested. I feel as if I have been walking on a tightrope made of glass. It hurts, but falling might hurt even more. And regardless, I will fall sometime. Circumstances must tilt too far left or right and I will inevitably plunge to one end or another.

But God.

God has filled my lungs with a stinging deep inhale. Again, it hurts. But suddenly, I’m alive, awake and aware that when I fall, to the left or the right, He will catch me.

Here with you, I am completely vulnerable and honest. If I can’t humbly share my pain and failures, how can I adequately describe the depths to which God went and continues to go to rescue me? Recently, I finished a 12 week group counseling course with Marsha Means, MA. I urge you, beg you, if your marriage is teetering on a high wire, if your hand is on the door knob, or your heart is more lonely with your soul-mate than it’s ever been before… get help, find courage, you’re not alone. 

Using A Broken Body and Bloody Heart

I am so broken. In many ways, I feel like I need to set myself on a shelf somewhere in the corner of life and wait until I’ve healed. Once my cracks are glued together, my bruises faded and I look presentable again – then, then I can serve. Surely God has no use for a weepy, tattered Christian. Surely God has more dynamic, charismatic individuals who can make a deeper, splashier, more memorable impact on the world.

My marriage stings, my ego smarts. I wrestle with compulsions, pride, addictions, envy, loneliness, fear and a myriad other maladies that may not be obvious this very minute. Due to my foibles, I was stunned and not a little nervous when God began calling me.

Recently, I finished a round of group therapy for wounded spouses. It was a conference call setting. I have only met one of the three women that I shared with over those 12 weeks. Each one of us has similar stories. We have each experienced similar offenses. Each one of us felt impotent, needy and unqualified to handle our own pain, much less minister to the needs of anyone else. That’s where God surprised us.

The group moderator wisely guided our conversations using provocative questions and homework. Then, she used us to teach each other.

“D,” how would you advise Abby in this situation?

Quite honestly, when the group began, I listed to D and J tell the summary of their stories. Not in a million years did I think I would learn from them – they were just as broken as I was!

At the same time, I began taking a Bible study at church called, Enhancing Your Marriage. My first impulse was to keep my head down and avoid having to admit the fragility of my marriage. Two days after our first class, the group leader called me and asked if I would facilitate a small group. The Holy Spirit insisted that I should accept the responsibility.

I met the six other women the following week, and discovered that their individual relationships were thriving compared to my own. Then the Holy Spirit began to insist that I share my vulnerabilities, my weaknesses, my pain and His sustaining grace in the midst of it all. I hope that I have been of some encouragement to the other girls, but certainly their responses to my role as small group leader have challenged and graced me.

That’s what God does. He pares us down, whittles us and refines us until we feel like there is nothing left. When we are at our weakest, then He places us in the most strategic places.

Remember the simplest definition of a mentor is “advisor.” Verbally, I am in no place to offer advise to any other broken human being. But perhaps, when I am weakest – willing to shut my own mouth – God admonishes and encourages His people through me. Praise the Lord!

P.S. If your own marriage is struggling due to the offense of a spouse, there is hope. There is tomorrow, there is grace and a future and a hope. If you need help, please consider this resource: A Woman’s Healing Journey.