Joy restores our vision

How we see ourselves has a lot to do with how we see others and how we see God. We were made in God’s image, but making God in our image is a deeply ingrained human habit. Why is this so? As I’ve said before, when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit something terrible happened. They hid from God because fear was now painting God’s face with the serpent’s brush. 

What’s always interesting to me about this passage is God’s side of the conversation:

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?  (Gen.3:8-11a *)

First, notice that Adam and Eve are the ones hiding and God is the one searching them out. Second, Adam’s reaction is one based in fear because his eyes were opened (to Satan’s interpretation) and he now saw himself and God in a whole new light. God’s will became rules to be obeyed and punishment for infractions rather than a loving Father wanting what’s best for His children.

This is how sin, the tragic flaw, which is erroneous thinking “that results in a series of events and unfavorable circumstances leading to destruction,” entered into the world.

Adam went from being a cherished son to acting like a religious orphan.

And we’ve been trying to appease God with religion ever since.

Our mimetic imaging problem

I mentioned before, from a Dr. Jim Wilder lecture on Joy Strength, that relational bonding happens in the first several months as the mother bonds with the child through smell, taste, temperature regulation, touch, visual, voice tone. Dr. Wilder goes on to say that babies will duplicate what they experience, and this will get hard-wired into their brain in how they see themselves as adults. If the person they’re looking at has a great deal of joy present, their brain structure connected to joy will begin to grow and expand, and they will have a great capacity for joy as well.

On the other hand, if the person they’re looking at is angry or emotionally detached, their ability for joy will be greatly diminished.

This mimetic imaging also affects how we perceive God and relate Him to others. In other words, an angry person will tend to project an angry God.

But we don’t need to get mad for God. Jesus actually gave us everything that mattered to Him in this passage:

29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 *)

Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength only really starts when we finally see that this is exactly how He loves us (John 15:9-12; 17:23).  Then we can grow in our capacity to receive His love. And this imaging repaints our image of ourselves.

You see, we do love others the same way we love ourselves…and we also hate others to the degree we hate ourselves.

I think a lot of theology over the years has been written by well-meaning but wounded souls projecting their issues on to God. We have angry preachers emphasizing the wrath and anger of God while totally missing His heart.

Indeed, I’m sure we all do this to a degree based on our own issues. But if God is angry, He’s only angry like a good father who hates to see his child being abused and bullied. His “wrath” is against injustice and oppression.

11 God is a fair judge, a God who is angered by injustice every day. (Psalm 7:11 GW *)

The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed. (Psalm 103:6 *)

But His love and patience and mercy are even for those who’ve made themselves His enemies.  (Matt.5:43-48).

Our reclamation

This is why Jesus came. To reverse this human tragedy…to save us from ourselves.

The Cross of Christ was meant to heal us. We were enemies of God in our own minds. We were the ones who needed reconciling, not God. We’re the ones still counting sins against each other while God is not (Col.1:21; 2 Cor.5:19-20).

When we let God heal our fickle and wounded hearts with His infinite and unconditional love, we’ll start to love ourselves, and then we’ll finally be able to love others the same.

And that’s really been my point all along. Once we truly understand God’s heart for us, we won’t hide from Him anymore because of fear and shame. When we turn our hearts toward Him we’ll find nothing but love which drives out all the orphan-hearted fear in us. We’re healed in His presence because it’s there where we find an infinite supply of joy waiting for us.

11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 *)

* New King James Bible translation unless otherwise noted. All emphasis added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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10 Responses to Joy restores our vision

  1. Another good read. Thanks again.

  2. Lily Pierce says:

    Great post. For whatever reason, I was really struck by the statement that we hold our sins against each other when God doesn’t (when we repent). Very true!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Lily. It is a crazy thing to consider. 🙂 Understanding what God has already done and the grace by which He relates to us should affect how we treat one another. If grace doesn’t lead to us extending grace to others, we still don’t understand grace.

      Btw, you said (when we repent), which is true but often misunderstood. Let me expand what I mean.
      According to 2 Cor.5:19, and other places, God has already dealt with our sins (all of them were in the future on the Cross), so this is essentially saying we’re already forgiven. That’s taken off the table, so to speak. The way I see it, the question in the New Testament is not with whether He will forgive us but whether we will believe and trust Him. We “repent” (change our mindset or “re-form” our thinking) by believing in what God has done for us, with us, and to us, trusting in Him and living our lives in this new way. We are saved by putting our faith in His grace (Eph.2:8), not by making sure we’ve kept up on our sin tally (sounds exhausting to me!). That only leads to legalism and judgmentalism (I’m behaving better than you!) Again, living out our lives this way should not only lead to godly behavior (Titus 2:11-12) but gracious behavior toward others.

  3. Jodi Woody says:

    Good word Mel. I had to share it. This time of year there are people who are hurting and need His love.

  4. I enjoyed this, Mel. Joy restores our vision! Yes, it can literally give us the eyes to see ourselves as we really are. “As you judge, so shall you be judged.” That’s not a threat, it’s just wisdom, an insight into our character. And sure enough, what we tend to dislike in other people is often going to be the things in ourselves we have not yet been forgiven for or have not yet resolved. We tend to project our hidden things onto other people and even onto God Himself.

    Faith can get really fun when you start to discover that God is not “you” or your projections at all. Perhaps it’s a bit like being surprised by joy, but a few times I’ve been completely caught off guard, not even expecting the revelations that have come. I just know that’s not really my own wisdom I’m hearing, that’s not my personality, it’s not even how I often imagine God to be.

    • Mel Wild says:

      “Faith can get really fun when you start to discover that God is not “you” or your projections at all.”

      Amen! It’s the adventure of a lifetime! Not only is God not the god of our projections, but we’re not the person of our own projections either. We become our true self when we are healed, made whole, and learn to live from joy in our heavenly Father’s embrace.

  5. Cindy Powell says:

    “Once we truly understand God’s heart for us, we won’t hide from Him anymore because of fear and shame.” Amen. There is so much that is good in this post, but I think if we were to get this one thing—it would change everything. That basically sums up what I have always considered to be THE biggest thing I have going for me when it comes to constancy in faith—because I’m secure in His love, I run to Him in my brokenness, rather than away from Him. Makes ALL the difference. So good! Christmas joy to you and yours, Mel!!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen, Cindy. We must start by getting rid of our pagan ideas about God (by repenting, changing our mindset). He’s a good Father and we have infinite worth to Him. He desires to be with us way more than we desire to be with Him! He’s proved His love and our value to Him on the Cross. And this understanding drives out the orphan fear in us. His love is the most real thing in my life, the strongest evidence of God there is as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

      You have a very blessed Christmas overflowing with joy, too. 🙂

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