Definitions of God
The many responses to the last two blogs surprised me—but didn’t surprise me. I am thinking that we have all gone through much of our Christian lives believing one or more definition of who God is. Where do these definitions come from? For some (by no means all), the definitions of God—the “Father”—hearken back to our relationships with our own parents. My Dad was an amazing man, an amazing Dad in so many ways. My Mom and Dad never had a fight in front of us, so my sisters and I got married thinking that couples always got along. Well, you can imagine what that wrong definition of marriage did to the poor men we married—what an expectation we had for them. I will never forget the first real fight we had in marriage and I thought immediately that divorce was next. My Dad was an amazing caretaker. When one of us was sick, he would sit with us and tend to us for hours, while my Mom made Jello and let us sip on 7-Up and ice cubes. Together they were wonderful caretakers when we were sick. Again, imagine the shock in marriage to learn that I was on my own—my husband slept soundly through any middle of the night nausea when I was pregnant, and he was helpless and even indifferent when it came to my little aches and pains! The shock of it all! My Dad never yelled at us or lost his temper. He worked long hours on the railroad, came home and worked long hours on our little alfalfa farm, and also worked long hours just tinkering in his workshop. He always had time for us, and his family was everything in the world to him. I never saw my Dad lose his temper and throw a tool across the room, or slam his fist down on the workbench when a project didn’t go well.
Our Definitions Carry Into Every Part of Our Lives
My sisters and I went into the marriage relationship with these definitions of marriage firmly ingrained and fully expecting our husbands to match the definitions of what a husband and father were supposed to be like. Two of us ended up in divorce. And my definitions of what God was supposed to be like carried over from what my Dad was like. My Dad modeled God’s personal care for us, His provision for us, His detailed care for everything in our lives.
My Dad also left me with some faulty definitions of God that God has had to unravel over the years. He loved us so passionately that he had very high expectations of what children were supposed to be like and when we failed to be the ideal and perfect little children (most particularly when we reached the teen years), his disappointment in us created profound shame and guilt, at least for me. I never felt I was able to measure up to this invisible standard of perfection that he held, and so I eventually gave up. Our relationship suffered. Mom modeled unconditional love and that was God’s saving grace for me. Interestingly, Mom was the disciplinarian in the family and when we misbehaved she went to the peach tree for a good switch. Most of the time we were already wailing in tears as she walked back into the house peeling off the leaves. But immediately after the punishment, it was all forgotten. She could yell at us and discipline us, but her love was absolutely unconditional—there was never shame attached to the discipline. Never once has she talked about our rebellious years expressing the pain it brought to her—her response to this day is “They came back to the Lord. And they came back better!” Dad’s punishment was the silent treatment. Sometimes we never knew why he went silent, but we knew we were to blame—we had let him down.
I went into my relationship with God carrying some baggage based on my model of conditional love. Based on my definitions I could feel God’s love and acceptance as long as I was behaving the right way. When I misbehaved—which was my nature to do—He would go silent and I would have to win back His favor, but still He would keep a list of all past mistakes and He was always out to catch me doing wrong. My Dad loved us—that was absolutely true. But in his own learned definitions, because he loved us and did so much for us, we sort of owed him our devotion and obedience. Doing the right thing was not because it was right to do, but because it made him feel that he had done a good job as a parent.
Only Jesus Christ Can Change Our Definitions of Him
You can see, just from these experiences, how I personally can lift off the pages of Michael Wells’ definitions many that fit my own life and relationship with Jesus. Over the years, in my new life in Christ, Jesus has painstakingly unraveled these wrong definitions one by one. It is so important to Him that we know Him, that we believe Him and all that He has told us about Himself. I was forty years old before my definitions began to change. I will never forget the impact Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV) had on me: “He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” It hit me like a lightning bolt from Heaven. He accepts me! I don’t have to earn His acceptance—He made me acceptable! When I fail, He doesn’t stop accepting me. He did it all for me! That’s powerful stuff. I will never forget the first time Colossians 1:27 penetrated my unbelief: “And this is the secret: Christ lives in you.” God “willed” to make known this mystery of all the ages, to ME! Christ is in me. Not just walking alongside of me, not “helping me out” but in me, living exactly His life through me. 2 Peter tells me that because of this fact, “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). His divine power has given me everything I need to live the life—not someday—right now!
No wonder He was working so diligently to get me to unload all of the baggage of my wrong definitions of Him—He was ready to dump down on me the most amazing revelations of who He really is, and who I really am in Him and there was no room in my soul and spirit for both of these things to coexist. He had to become my all in all—He had to have all of me. The baggage had to go. What did I do next? I said Yes. Go ahead, do what You want to do in me, through me, instead of me. What a journey!
It Is God’s Good Pleasure to Change Our Definitions of Him
It is time for us to get serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ—it is time to stop believing in Him and to begin believing Him! Just as we must learn to let go of our preconceived expectations of the perfect mate and marriage and set them free from our high standards of excellence, we must let go of our preconceived definitions of our marriage relationship with our Bridegroom, Jesus. He does love us and has a wonderful plan for our lives; it may not be what we were expecting but oh, the excitement of following Him even when we know not where He is taking us. When we have set our mate free from having to meet all of our expectations, we can begin to enjoy them—for who they really are. Jesus wants us to enjoy Him—He enjoys us!
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
“ … having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5).
“… having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself…” (Ephesians 1:9).
“… for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure…” (Philippians 2:13).
“… and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
(Stay tuned for more to come)