Value in Belief
Believe in... That is something I have been trying to understand and unpack all of my life. It is one of the most nebulous concepts that I have encountered in Christianity with all sorts of people insisting that their religious explanations are the definition that I need. But most of them are simply platitudes stringing together a lot of religious phrases, texts and traditions that have very little relevance to real life, at least for me.
So I keep searching for real clues and insights to help me better clarify this most important exercise, for Jesus seems to think that it is of utmost importance in everyone's life. It is one of the most crucial things we are supposed to do in order to come into right relationship with God which is vital if we are ever to begin experiencing eternal life. And this eternal life thing is not just about living for a very long time but is about experiencing the deep kind of satisfactions that only come from experiencing the joys of discovering what it feels like to live as your heart was originally designed to live.
As I was driving down the road this morning thinking about something I cannot now remember, it occurred to me that once again I was evaluating something in life on the basis of how it would affect what others might think about me. The more I am learning about these things the easier it is for my conscience to alert me when my thinking is faulty and I sensed that I needed to face this habit squarely while it was in my field of focus. I needed to confess this lifelong desire for others to think well of me because I depend on it to increase my own sense of value.
And that is what I am starting to become more aware of lately – the fact that my sense of value is based largely on what others think about me much more than a real sense of what God thinks about me. Yes I am familiar with what ought to be, but I am talking about what really is, and until I get in touch with what honestly really is deep in my heart I cannot cross the bridge between what my heart believes and what my head is learning about what I am supposed to believe.
One of the things that is proving to be a clue for me in this issue of believing in (?) is the issue of where my sense of real value is derived. I am increasingly aware that I need to pay close attention to anything or anyone that tends to prop up my sense of value and worth. And the more honest I am able to become about what my feelings depend on for my sense of value and identity the more sources I realize that I am depending on to help make me feel valuable. I know intellectually that this is what false gods are all about, but it is a fact of human life that is unavoidable for all of us. That is why the first two commandments deal with false gods because it is the first issue we need to become aware of and face if we want to get serious about reconnecting with our Source of life.
Some of these concepts are one thing to figure out with my head but a completely different thing to begin to believe with my heart. It seems that there are a great deal of truths that my head is discovering over the past few years that my heart is just now beginning to sense are actually true. But it is also in those moments when my heart suddenly jumps up and says, “Yes, now I see the profoundness of what you have been saying for so long!” that I feel like my life is beginning to have a little more congruency. And that is a very good thing right now because I am becoming more and more aware of areas in my life where I am not very congruent with my own professed beliefs.
I feel that I need to become more aware of the areas in my life where I am in fact depending on other sources for my sense of value and identity. I realize that quite possibly nearly all of those sources right now may be other than God as my primary source, but I still need to be honest enough to become more fully aware of those areas of dependency. As the light of truth becomes more clear inside of me it will continue to expose more and more of these faulty crutches of value and I can then bring these dependencies to God in honesty, confessing them to Him and asking Him to heal and correct my thinking. I want to see more clearly the underlying reasons why I am still depending on others for my sense of value, what lies I still believe deep down inside that makes these false sources so attractive for me even though many of them may not be working for me that well. I want to grow and mature in my dependency on God as my only source of identity and value but I want to do it at the heart level, not just in my intellectual belief systems.
I think this has to take place each time the Holy Spirit alerts me to thinking processes going on in my heart that are trusting in faulty gods to make me feel good. It may be in wanting others in a church to think well of me, it may be fear of what family members might think of me, it may be even in negative ways rooted in fear of what my foes or enemies may construe to be factual about me that drives me to live or behave in certain ways. No matter the situation I need to better perceive when and how I am trusting in other ways to feel important, valuable and accepted other than truly believing that God cares deeply about me in every aspect of my life. I have to internalize much deeper into my psyche how God can properly replace any other reason I am using to take care of my sense of being valued, needed, trusted, appreciated and cared about.
I am almost too familiar with the cliché (at least for me) that God loves me. I am so jaded by this phrase that it had almost totally lost any and all potential meaning for my heart up to a few years ago. In fact, I came to realize that I could make myself properly claim to believe that God loved me but my heart has always been very suspicious that He really didn't like me very much. Since love has often been emphasized as a principle by the people I grew up around far more than an emotion, it was easy to believe that while God might claim to love me it seemed to be a sterile kind of love devoid of any real transforming potential effect for my heart. It was more along the line of a duty, that He was obliged to take care of me in fundamental ways because He was supposed to. But beyond that I have seldom felt any affection from God until a few years ago when I began to venture into a whole new arena of allowing God access into the emotional side of my life.
I am glad to say that I have been learning at least in small ways to allow God to reveal Himself to areas of my brain that were before more or less off limits to Him because of my upbringing. However, I still feel very deficient in having a vital and vibrant relationship with Him like I sense He desires for me to be a true witness for Him. I strongly sense at times that my sinful nature is all too dominant in controlling my deeper belief systems. I find myself taking charge in my life when things become too threatening even while at the same time crying out to God to not let me be overcome by my selfish desires. I still feel very much like a Romans 7 kind of person longing for much more of an experience closer to Romans 8.
I feel like I still have not grasped the essence of what I wanted to capture when these thoughts first grabbed my attention this morning. Sometimes I feel compelled to just pull over and write things down when they seem so vivid to me but often there is a lack of time and/or material to do so. Then when I finally do get a chance to write out what I was feeling so intensely the intensity and clarity is gone and I struggle to remember the core essence of what was so vivid to me previously. This seems to be one of those times.
Anyway, it always still seems to help for me to write out these things because it helps to raise them to a higher level of awareness for me in the future. Just taking the time to process and try to put into words different things that come to me seems to place them into a different area of my brain where they are more available for others things to access and connect to later on. In this case I feel I may be more likely to be aware when I am once again feeling compelled to alter my actions or words to accommodate some source that I am depending on to make me feel worth something when I should learn to turn to God to be that source of value for me. I think this is a lifelong process of becoming aware and in turn seeking God to replace other false sources of value. That is part of what the process of sanctification is probably all about.
Sometimes I sense that even my writing may at times be a desired source of hopeful value-attainment for me. But then when I realize that nearly no one ever reads these things I can rest in knowing that I did not start out doing this to get attention but simply as an open place for me to process through my own growing pains and encounters. Writing for me is not to try to say what others may want to hear but more to report what is going on inside myself. Why I do this in such a public manner sometimes baffles and even frightens me (that is likely based on what others think of me for sure), but for whatever reasons I am still doing it. There very likely may come a day when I will terribly regret it when someone decides to research what I have written over the years with full intent to indict and incriminate me. But all the more reason why I need to learn to trust God with my reputation and believe in Him to be my sole source of real value and identity.
As I have been studying the book of John over the past few months this issue of believing in Jesus has become more focused in my awareness. As a result I am more likely to pick up on clues that help me to better understand what it may really be talking about. I really do want to believe in Jesus, to have a real saving belief that goes much deeper than just a profession as most people are content to have. I become very frustrated at times at the shallowness of the belief I feel I have sometimes but I am still pressing to allow God to deepen my belief as well as make me much more aware of what saving belief really is and what it is not. I want to experience the kind of belief that can give me boldness in humility, courage to replace my enormous fears, peace to replace my uneasiness in too many situations and love to replace my destructive selfishness.
So one thing that is becoming at least slightly more clear to me is that to believe in Jesus is to believe in Him as a truly reliable source of value and identity for me, so much so that I can be weaned away from every other inferior source that I now depend on. I am clearly not there right now but my desire is to move into that kind of relationship as soon as possible. I have to trust God to order my life and arrange circumstances to bring that about as it is impossible for me to change my own heart. However, I can choose to cooperate with His leading in my life and choose to let go of my incessant desire to take over when things seem to become too threatening for me.
The only way I think my heart is going to let that happen is when it becomes more aware of God's real desires to love and take care of me at all times. Then it can relinquish control and will be willing to accept His will instead of my desires when things look frightening. I am clearly becoming more aware of the enormity of my internal resistance to His desires for me but I truly believe that my only hope is to become more aware of His heart and the real truth about how much He values me and has done to give me an amazing new identity in Christ. I want to grasp this truth at such a deep level in my heart that it will explode into every other area of my life and will electrify every relationship and encounter that I have with other people.