One of the foundational points that I make in my new book, Sonshift, is that discipleship is about discovery. It’s about us discovering God as He truly is, and then discovering who we truly are in Him.
In fact, I will add here that true discipleship starts here. But we’ve made discipleship about studying the Bible rather than having the Bible study us–accumulating information and learning how to behave like a “good Christian.”
God wants to “look under our hood,” so to speak (or “bonnet” for you Brits), so that we can discover what’s going on inside of us, but we would rather have Him look under everybody else’s hood. The reason for this excursion into the deepest part of our soul is that God doesn’t want to make you a “good Christian,” He wants to reveal His life in you. For He has put you in His Son and intends to transform you from the inside-out so that you see everything, and everyone, through His eyes.
The problem is, up until we start this cooperative process with God, we only really see Him (and everyone else) according to our own reflection. And if we never move beyond this place, we will never experience the life that God meant for us. Instead, we will become religious. It will be about self-preservation rather than incarnation. And when it’s all about us, it can never be truly be about Him…or anyone else. Even our most sincere altruistic attempts at serving and loving others will still really be about us.
I spend a whole chapter on this point, and share practical pointers to help you successfully navigate this process with God. Here is an excerpt from the opening section in chapter three (Disciple Shift):
“She looks at herself instead of looking at you, and so doesn’t know you. During the two or three little outbursts of passion she has allowed herself in your favor, she has, by a great effort of imagination, seen in you the hero of her dreams, and not yourself as you really are.” – Prince Karasoff (Stendhal, Le Rouge et le Noir, p. 401, 1953 Penguin Edition, trans. Margaret R.B. Shaw).
When we first come to God, we don’t see Him as He truly is. We see Him as we think He should be.
We’re really only looking at an image of ourselves. We see Him as the God of our dreams who has come to rescue us, but not as He really is. Like Narcissus of Greek mythology, our heart is steadfastly fixed on our own reflection that defines everything we do and everything we think God should be in our lives. We are powerless to break this self-absorbed gaze by ourselves.
Only Christ can free us from our reflected selves.
It’s not that we haven’t truly come to Christ in this state, we have. But the only image we can see of Him is according to what we need Him to be for us. This is not intentional on our part; it’s the way we’ve seen everything in our life up to this point.
And God is very kind and patient on His part to meet us here in this place.
This is the same interpretative lens by which we’ve learned to evaluate all of our relationships. We may dream of finding “true love,” which means someone who will be exactly the way we want and expect them to be.
In other words, they should be…us.
They should think like we think and respond the way we would respond. And when they’re not us, there’s a problem. This reflective lens—let’s call it our “acceptable”—is at the bottom of most marital arguments. And when God, or anyone else in our life, deviates from our expectations of what they should or shouldn’t be, we respond with a whole host of negative emotions, which then creates varying degrees of anxiety. All of our conversations with God, and with others, are really about us—what we feel, how we are treated and whether or not people accept us.
Because our existential universe revolves around us, we define God and all our other relationships through this narcissistic lens. God is good if He does what we think is the right thing to do. We are at the center of our universe, the star by which God and all our other relationships must orbit.
Some of us are better at hiding these attitudes than others…at least for a while. While most of us begin to realize eventually, at least in small part, that this is a dysfunctional way to live, some more rare, willful, and stubborn souls can actually keep this up their entire empty lives, leaving a trail of relational brokenness in their wake.
Our Disciple Shift, then, is about no longer relating to our own reflection, and calling it God, to beginning to see Him as He really is. It’s putting an end to the transactional arrangement we think we’ve made with Him and allowing Him to walk right into the middle of our deepest pain, sadness, and alienation.
It’s allowing Him to help us progressively muddle through our darkness and confusion and into His glorious light already residing in us.
Sonshift: Everything Changes in the Father’s Embrace (p.65-67)
© Copyright 2015—Mel Wild