God’s Grace: The Door To Lawlessness Or Freedom?

I wanted to share a excerpt from Jonathan Merritt’s interview with Tullian Tchividjian (Grandson of Billy Graham). It is a fantastic interview with several insightful and thought provoking discussions. I have only listed the first question and response, which is chalk full of valuable thoughts to ponder. I would suggest reading it through the lens of examining your own stance on grace vs. obedience, rather than exclusively focusing on the church’s stance, especially since you and I are critical parts of the church. I hope and pray that this compels you to run more aggressively into the arms of our loving father.

JM: One criticism that has been leveled against the church is that we’ve been more concerned with behavior modification than with grace. Am I correct in saying that you believe this is a valid criticism?

Tullian Tchividjian: There’s no question that for far too long the church has been primarily concerned with external change. Preachers are afraid of grace because they think it undercuts obedience and encourages apathy. If Jesus paid it all and it is finished, if the judgment against us has been fully and finally taken care of, aren’t we opening the door to lawlessness? This is what Judaizers were afraid of: they didn’t like Gospel of free grace because they thought people would get out of control. If God is not mad at me and if he will never love me more than he does right now, then why can’t I party my way through life? The underlying fear is that unconditional grace leads to licentiousness.

While attacks on morality will always come from outside the church, attacks on grace will always come from inside the church because somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe that this whole thing is about behavioral modification and personal moral improvement. We’ve concluded that grace just doesn’t possess the teeth to scare us into changing. As a result we get a steady diet of “do more, try harder” sermons; we get a “to do list” version of Christianity that causes us to believe the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian. So we end up hearing more about “Christian living” than the Christ.

We think this will be what gets people to clean up their act, to fix themselves, to volunteer in the nursery, to obey, to read their Bibles, to change the world–but it actually has the opposite effect. A steady diet of “do more, try harder” sermons doesn’t cause people to do more or try harder…it makes them give up. Legalism produces lawlessness 10 times out of 10.

The fact is, that the solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God. Only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The route by which the New Testament exhorts sacrificial love and obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home. Charles Spurgeon nailed it when he said, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I beat my breast to think I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so and sought my good.”

Enjoy the entire interview HERE.

tangled knot

Untangling A Knot

For most of my Christian life, I would have told you, just as I told God, that I had no other gods before him and that Christ’s work on the cross completely saved me. It has been both painful and freeing as God showed me a life strategy I was actually living, revealing that, underneath it all, I doubted his goodness and doubted I was truly worthy of his love. In it all, though, God is showing me the depths of his grace, rewriting how I see people, situations, and myself.

Several years ago I experienced a deeply disappointing and confusing situation that shook my life in profound ways and resulted in a career change. I won’t go into details, but I felt not only misunderstood, but also abandoned and devalued. I suspected my motives were being questioned behind my back. Former coworkers pulled away, leading me to suspect my reputation was being defamed by rumors. It hurt deeply. A door was closed and I was on the outside. It was confusing and exceedingly painful—especially because I thought I was acting honorably and in the best interests of the organization in which I served.

I entered into an extended time of personal evaluation and reflection to try to wrap my mind around what happened. The whole thing felt like a train wreck, and I felt pushed off the track. Part of me just wanted to feel better. But part of me wanted to understand how this happened; I had observed similar situations unfold for others in different organizations. It was such a confusing jumble.

In short, I found I needed to sort out four important points:

  1. Forgiveness—I need to recognize that something wrong actually happened. I did experience an injustice. What happened wasn’t right. There was wrong in the actions of some as well as the inactions of others. It is correct to clearly recognize an injustice as a precursor to forgiving others and letting go of my own inner demand to see them “pay”. I needed to entrust them, as well as myself and my career, to God.
  2. Compassion—Without diminishing the wrong suffered, I need to acknowledge there was brokenness operating in all parties, including me. This hurtful event was not just about this one situation; it was a product of years of painful experiences and misunderstandings unrelated to me. The event wasn’t as personal as it felt. I don’t know all the struggles that were being experienced by the other parties, but I’m sure they were more significant than I considered. When seen with a clearer perspective, I’m sure all parties would regret some of their actions/inactions. Without excusing the injustice, I need to see the other parties with a measure of compassion and patience. If I was in their place, I may have acted the same way they did.
  3. Learning—There were several things I need to learn. I recognize that I contributed to the entire situation in multiple ways—over multiple years. In the midst of it, I was blind to how my actions and words made it difficult for others to express opposing perspectives. I allowed misunderstandings to persist. This train wreck, combined with the reflective experience God brought, became a “second master’s degree” in lessons learned to make me a better leader and a better person. While it was painful, ultimately I thank God for the learning opportunity, even while I sincerely hope never to repeat it.
  4. Locating My Identity—Even after working intently on forgiveness, compassion, and learning, there was more: I was left with a confusing and painful remnant. The train wreck left me feeling thwarted or blocked. This part of the knot was much more difficult to untangle. This “remnant” kept inflaming the injustice in my mind and made it necessary for me to re-forgive over and over again. I felt as if I was walking in deep mud and it was impossible to gain solid footing again. I’m discovering some uncomfortable things:

A significant part of why it hurt so much to go through that experience is that I had too much riding on my service in that ministry context. I was building a significant portion of my self (my self-righteousness) on my performance and on what others thought of me. It was a “functional idol” in my life—and I was attempting to use it to fill a heart-need that only God could fill: telling me who I am and what I am worth.

As I have discovered this subtle idolatry in my life (shrewdly interwoven into my efforts to excel in Christian service as a mission leader), I have unmasked a doubt of God’s goodness dwelling deep in my heart. Effectively, I had built a life strategy that depended on my good efforts and others’ positive responses to feel good about myself. Wrapped into that was a prideful assumption that I could impress God, and more subtly that I somehow needed to impress him in order to experience his embrace.

My heart breaks in repentance as I recognize what, in reality, I have been believing: that the Gospel is not enough, so I had to make up the difference with my own “good Christian service” and exemplary performance. How something as horrid as thinking that the Gospel was not enough could drive something that looked so good is sobering, but it is the truth. My repentance is deep and ongoing as I continue to unearth deeper roots of this anti-grace belief in my heart.

In the midst of the repentance, I’m discovering genuine rest. Jesus has completed the ultimate work! I’m enjoying knowing God and being known by God. It’s refreshing. He is easy to be with. He enjoys being with me. I can tell he is smiling (the way I smile when I think of my grandchildren). And, I can fully engage in work and service because it is no longer about securing my reputation; it’s just about being who God made me to be and living out of a heart that is grateful for grace!

practice not perfect

Not Your Mama’s Practice

My soul is messy and crowded with things that have no business in here. Man, there is a lot of dross; you know, that stuff we long for God to burn up in us so we can be pure and holy and useful (Proverbs 25:4). It feels heavy and I feel sluggish. I want that junk out and I want it out now.

Actually, it feels more like, “I want them out,” like there’s a bunch of hooligans running amok in my soul. They grab fistfuls of cookies without asking, sneak peaks at things not meant for their eyes, yell foul and unkind words, knock over furniture, scratch and tear up the woodwork, and upset and upend the quiet, good me I long to be. I am trying to boss them around, tell them we know how to behave, they know better, my soul knows better.

I am full of broken instincts and behaviors, failed best efforts and renewed resolutions. They are all ill-behaved children who refuse to listen to parents and reason.

I am hoarse from yelling, “Out, wearying worries and useless tail-chasing! Out, old, worn thinking ruts and circular thought patterns! And I’ve got a stick I’ll use on ya if you come back this way!” Maybe if I just threaten the broken, failed parts of my soul and thoughts and choices a little more, get really good and fed-up and determined, it will finally work.

Maybe I will finally not be so broken.

Part of me so wishes it worked like that. I get bossy and take control, and even pray some more and ask God some more, and hope something goes “BAM!”: I am the repaired, good Christian I long to be.

Interestingly, God seems in no hurry to turn things upside down and shake out the garbage all at once. Even if I get fed up with it all at once.

Instead I get practice sessions at being a new creation in Christ. And while I am confident that, in terms of salvation and being seated in the heavenlies, the whole “new creation” thing happened instantly, I believe that in terms of refining me in the flesh in which I still walk, it certainly did not. It appears I have the opportunity in that sense to be a new creation every day.

Make that every hour.

Okay, every minute.

Maybe even every 3.8 seconds.

And it’s not the “Practice Makes Perfect!” kind of practice I know so well, either. It’s not the ruler-on-knuckles piano practice, the shoot-hoops-till-fingertips-are-bloody basketball practice, the play-till-you-can’t-stand-or-see-straight football practice, the write-this-word-1000-times-till-your-fingers-cramp spelling practice. The goal is not perfection the way I have always thought of it, no errors ever, no fumbles, no fouls. Never a missed note, nary a turnover.

It’s the practice of believing and and walking with my Good Dad, the Holy God who says, “I am pouring out grace and opportunities and grace-laden opportunities for you, my daughter, to both see who I am and be like I am. No matter how your last effort turned out, and no matter how this effort turns out, I love you. It’s unshakable. I am shaping you. And I am unshakable. I’ve got this, and I am your practice. Walk intimately with me in delighted, active trust and love, and I will burn up the dross, sometimes quickly but often slowly and in a way that reveals more of you and more of me. I will do it as you practice receiving and living in my love and grace that have the only real power to bring change, that you may see more of me in every interaction, every moment, both in you and out of you, toward you and toward others. I am your never-exhausted, never-weary, alive-in-the-Holy-Spirit-in-you, practice of love.”

So, what’s my prayer now, if I drop the stick I’ve been shaking and swinging at myself, and let my Loving Father be my practice?

Now I pray for the grace and courage to show up. Show up, and practice bravely believing all God has done, is doing, and will do. Practicing taking off my armor and opening my soul to its depths to hear, know, and feel all he says, all he is, and that his grace and love bring real change, lasting change. My coach is never tired, never exasperated. His inexhaustible love that desires and welcomes me right where I am even as he works in me is my first practice stop. The basics, the piano scales, free throws, and line sprints of my soul, so to speak.

Honestly, I have never been good at practicing anything, really. Flute, volleyball, softball, algebra equations. I want instant results now and I don’t like “failing”; even my friends have noted, I just don’t play games and sports I can’t win. I want guaranteed success and I want it immediately.

But I am starting to get the picture that for my soul, practice isn’t my performance; it’s remembering who my coach is.

In 3.8 second intervals. Over and over and over and over again.

in god we trust 600x400

Putting God In Our Debt

It’s outrageous to think we could actually put the God of the universe in our debt, but at times I have pursued exactly that without even realizing it. At times I have thought that if I performed well and did what he wanted, somehow, he would “bless” me. Which is code for: give me what I want (the selfish desires of my heart). I came across a blog post from Tullian who also wrote some insightful thoughts on this subject. I hope it’s as freeing to you as it is to me to consider that we are totally and forever in his debt. Enjoy.

The Liberating Impossibility Of Repayment

resized_creepy-willy-wonka-meme-generator-oh-you-can-t-pay-me-back-yet-i-see-you-got-your-nails-done-and-is-that-a-new-outfit-3df07fOn an episode of the second season of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) discovers that Penny (Kaley Cuoco) has gotten him a Christmas present. Angered, he reminds Penny that the “foundation of gift giving is reciprocity,” […]



God Rendered Speechless

A few years ago I had a colleague who introduced me to the writings of David Roper. David’s list of accomplishments is long and his reputation excellent. He is also a very generous man, and gave permission to the education ministry I served with at the time to use his materials in our discipleship courses. The colleague, who was (and is) a dear friend, also assured me that David would be most pleased about having his blog entires shared.

I first saw this post in late 2008, when I was in an early season of learning to be loved by God … just straight up loved, no earning, no merit, no striving. It was early days for me of wrestling with a call to Christian obedience and service, and a longing to have a heart at rest that could trust that it was loved by the Father, no matter how well my ministry projects went or how many times it seemed I had to learn the same lesson over and over and over.

It’s a sweet gift to visit David’s thoughts again as I now serve with a ministry whose focus is to help move people’s hearts into the confidence that they are fully cherished by God right where they are, and that our obedience and following after Christ is completely generated and motivated by his incredible love and our response to it. It’s never about my owing what I could not possibly pay, and never about his exhaustion or disgust that I have not come far enough.

His love is enough. 

So, from David Roper, something wonderful to ponder.

Lovesick and Dumbfounded

Carolyn and I often spend our quiet times reading from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, an Upper Room publication (If you’ve visited Shepherd’s Rest you’ve seen the copies in each bedroom.) The Old Testament passage for this morning was Zephaniah 3:17.

With apologies to Zephaniah and Bruce Waltke, my old Hebrew professor, here is my translation…

The LORD, your God is with you—
your hero, mighty to save!

He takes great delight in you.
He is speechless with love for you.
Every time he thinks of you he breaks into joyful song!

Zephaniah 3:17

I’m awed by the notion that God takes great delight in me and breaks into song each time he thinks of my name. But it’s the phrase I render, “He is speechless with love for you” that captivated me.

The verse is usually translated, “He will be quiet in his love,” or in some translations, “He will quiet you.” But the verb doesn’t suggest tranquility or rest. It actually means, “to strike dumb.”[1] And since the verb is in parallel with other verbs that suggest God’s strong emotions (“takes great delight,” and “breaks into joyful song”) it must point to what He himself feels.

I wonder then: Could the analogy be that of a lovesick swain who is bowled-over, flabbergasted and dumb-founded by his love for the beloved-so overcome with fondness that he is tongue-tied? Is God, in some inexplicable, anthropomorphic way, “struck dumb” with love each time he thinks of us? If so, to be loved like this is, in turn, to be rendered speechless. As Isaiah would say, “I am undone.”

And who is it that God so loves? One who is strong and able, brilliant, and breathtakingly beautiful? No, it is one who is “weak and the weary… who takes refuge in the name of the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:12).


[1] Jenni-Westerman, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.

baby-surprise (2)

God Is Not The Least Bit Impressed

When speaking during a retreat or at one of our Aphesis Group weekend experiences, I will often strongly exclaim, “God’s love and delight for us is deeper than we can ever imagine … however, he is not the least bit impressed with us.” The looks on people’s faces tell me this sometimes sounds confusing. But in reality, our love and affection for our children works the same way.

After only two years of marriage, my wife Renee told me it was her deep desire to start having children. This caused a lot of anxiety for me. I told her I wasn’t ready to be a father; I had enough love for her as my wife but I didn’t have enough love in me for a son or daughter. Reluctantly, I gave in.

Less than a year later, we were in the birthing room at the hospital. With my doubts still very much intact, there I was waiting for this child I didn’t have enough love for to be born. Then it happened. My first daughter arrived. Something happened to me in the first moment of my daughter Savannah’s birth. Love flooded my heart for her. Within the first minute of seeing her I declared to my soul and quietly to the world, “I love this little one with all my heart…I would die for this little girl. If anyone threatens this little one, they will feel the full weight of my wrath.” All doubt about having enough love and about my being a father quickly faded.

Why? What happened?

It’s simple, really. When I saw Savannah for the first time, it took only seconds to realize I was looking at a reflection of my image and the image of the woman (Renee) I adored, and love poured into my heart. Savannah reflected the image of us! She was a product of our love and delight in each other. The births of each of our four children had the same effect on me. To this day, I am as moved and amazed as I was in those first moments. My children are now all adults, but as I look at them I still see this blend of my image and my wife’s image. Its effect on me is still the same. I’m still crazy in love with our image bearers.

At first sight I fell in love with my daughter Savannah; however, I was not the least bit impressed with her. She couldn’t stand up, walk, talk, work, or really do anything of use. As a matter of fact, her deficits far outweighed her assets. She produced all kinds of smelly disgusting messes and didn’t add any productive value to our new family, yet our love and delight in her was deeper than words can adequately express. Our love and delight was not because of her potential or what we thought she would become; our love and delight was in who she was to us AS IS!

It is only after I became a father that I could begin to grasp the mystery of God’s love and delight in me. I am a reflection of his image! God is not the least bit impressed with me or my abilities or what I can do, just as I was not impressed with Savannah’s abilities or what she could do. I’m convinced God is not impressed or favorably influenced by ANY of our gifts, abilities, or accomplishments. He does not love us for what we can do, but rather he loves us with the love and delight of a Creator and, even more so, the love of a father and mother who see in their offspring the image of themselves. God the Father’s love and delight for us goes as deep as his relationship with his Holy Son Jesus. The thought is mind blowing, astonishing, profound, and humbling. Those moments that I can move this thought from my head to my heart are transformational.

 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one  I in them and you in me so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

  John 17:22-24

Bill Belichick

Disappointing God

dis·ap·point verb \ˌdis-ə-ˈpȯint\ : to make (someone) unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected

Psalm 14:3 … there is no one who does good, not even one.

I often feel like I must be such a disappointment to God. Like he must have a pained look on his face whenever he thinks about me. I wonder, is this accurate, or just an assumption informed by my own shame?

When I examine the definition of “disappoint”, I see an element of failed expectations. While the Bible teaches that God has a very high standard—perfection—the standard itself is distinctly different from God’s expectation of us. If his expectation of me was perfection, he would be overwhelmingly disappointed with me and every other human ever to walk the earth, with the notable exception of Jesus. In fact, it would seem logical that God’s expectations for all of us include failure. That seems counter-intuitive to me, but how else can you explain his intricate plan to redeem us at such a high cost to him? I don’t believe he is surprised by my need to be rescued; because his rescue is motivated by his deep love for you and me, he is heartbroken when we turn away from him. It’s this heartbreaking, this incredible love, that moves him to act in a redemptive manner toward us.

But isn’t his heartbreak basically the same as being disappointed? I think not. On the surface they sound almost interchangeable, but on closer examination they are significantly different. When God is heartbroken, he is outwardly focused on the subject of his heartbreak (you & me). Where there is disappointment, the primary focus is inward (self). Since I am often more inwardly focused, I tend to be more predisposed to disappointment than heartbreak. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for me to falsely project that God must be disappointed with me. This can taint my entire view of his motives in relationship to me. I end up with shame about who I am, which is in direct opposition to God’s perspective about who I am (Romans 8:1).  When I remove this dirty lens and see God’s heart with a clear eye, it’s overwhelming to me. He is warm, inviting, open armed, loving, and merciful. He delights in me. Yes, delights!

When Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”, I don’t hear disappointment, I hear a breaking heart. This is the heart of God seeking our redemption out of his love for us.

Dear Father, please remind me that my failures do not surprise you, but they do break your heart. Remind me of your loving, merciful demeanor which enables me to come out of darkness and walk in the light with you. Amen.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

individual evaluation perfomance

What does God desire from me?

To be perfectly honest, the question that I really want answered is, “What are the minimum requirements for avoiding hell?” so as to avoid getting the following error message at the end of my life:

Sound familiar?

Check it out:

“Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)

Apparently, the rich young ruler has some sense of Jesus’ authority, but he, and often I, completely misunderstand what Jesus is like. Somewhere deep down, I doubt that God is truly good. Jesus first responds by providing a subtle hint that He has a lot more authority than a “good teacher,” and then more directly reminds the rich young ruler that God is the source of all good. Next, he proceeds to create a disorienting dilemma for the rich young ruler by telling him what he needs to do in order to be “perfect” or “complete”—which, of course, is impossible for any human. It’s interesting to note that Jesus never directly answers his question about the requirements for obtaining “eternal life,” but says if he keeps the commandments he will enter into “life.” I suspect that the nature of the rich young ruler’s original question doesn’t align with God’s nature (“What…shall I do…(to) obtain eternal life?”), even though many of us have the exact same approach.

What does seem to be perfectly aligned with everything in God’s nature, though, is him connecting with us in a personal way. Jesus makes a very personal appeal to the rich young ruler inviting him to join his eclectic gang. It is not a guilt-induced threat, “Follow me or else …”, but rather an invitation to experience real life, the way that it was intended to be experienced. It was an invitation to connect relationally; to know and be known. Obviously, the value placed on earthly treasure was an issue for this man, but I wonder if there isn’t an even larger issue at play for the rich young ruler — and me: the issue of responding to Jesus’ invitation to connect in a deeply personal way.

You see, “doing life” with Jesus on a daily basis requires vulnerability. When I join his gang and choose to relationally connect with him, it means that I am willing to open a dialog with him about my personal thoughts and inner life. For many of us, this idea makes us want to breathe in a bag. It requires us to put our heart in his hand, which is an extremely vulnerable position, putting to the test our willingness to actively trust him. Is he really good? Is he really trust worthy? Will this active trust in God’s goodness result in pain as it has with every other human relationship?

Knowing God and being known by him is not necessarily pain-free, however, he is the only person I have found that brings a lasting healing, freedom, peace, and joy. He is good, trustworthy, and loving. Always.


Connecting the Dots about My Busyness

I really enjoy reading something that jogs my thinking and challenges my heart. This morning I picked up Daily Office by Peter Scazzero (a companion book to Emotionally Healthy Spirituality) and read John 7:3-8 where Jesus is getting pressure from his brothers to make himself known at the Feast of the Tabernacles. Jesus chooses to wait. Scazzero said, “Jesus moved slowly, not striving or rushing … He waited patiently for his Father’s time during his short ministry. Why is it then that we hate ‘slow’ when God appears to delight in it?”

For me, that is a great question! Those that know me would say that I get a LOT done. And quite frankly, I enjoy getting a lot done and I like to do it quickly. Hmmm …

Scazzero references Eugene Peterson to answer his question:

Why is it that we hate “slow” when God appears to delight in it?

  1. I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands of my time are proof to myself and to all who will notice, that I am important—so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed.
  2. I am busy because I am lazy. I let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. It was a favorite theme of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us.

As I was processing this, I think there is something deeper at work here. I believe that a third reason exists. I am busy because I am lonely. I fill my day with worthy causes so I don’t have to feel the pain of being alone. I’m more comfortable working alone than with others because I grew up in a context where work was valued over relationships. Standing and talking was not acceptable. Working and talking was somewhat better as long as it didn’t hinder the work. Working hard and putting all my concentration into the work was praised.

Yet, I know that we were created for relationship. Adam had his work but he still felt the pain of loneliness. So, God created a relational one for him.

Lord, help me search my heart. Make my head connect with my heart. Let my love for you praise YOU for the way I am made. Let me not seek busyness to “prove” myself. Instead let me embrace and rejoice in how you have knit me together. Let me not hide behind others, letting them do what YOU created me to do. Do not let my work fill the loneliness and replace relationships.

Lord, give me eyes to see and a heart to understand. Let me live more intentionally, connecting with you moment by moment throughout the day and hearing your heart and your love for everyone I meet.

Photo by Kathie Slusser

What’s Behind the Door?

I’ve been praying for a friend for the last 16 years. I’m praying for her salvation, for her to know the one who made her and loves her beyond measure and reason. She’s a dear friend of the family and several years ago she had a conversation with my dad about God and faith. She expressed curiosity and a longing to know if something more was out there, but she wasn’t convinced that it was actually worth pursuing; what would she find? My dad told her to just push on the door; if there’s a door in front of you, push on it and see what’s behind it. It can’t hurt to find out what’s behind the door. She has started hovering around the door a bit more lately, but is still tentative to actually press in. She and I had a recent conversation once again about faith and I reminded her of my dad’s words. I invited her to be brave because God can be trusted. “Just push on the door.”

In another conversation about two weeks later, I shared with a different friend about several decisions that I’ve been wrestling with. As we talked, I was surprised that when I slowed down to look at why I was having a tough time making some choices, there was fear underneath my indecision and immobility. Fear of failure and embarrassment, fear of being unproductive with my time, fear of being off track (okay, wrong) about what God actually wants. As we spoke I said, “I don’t often ask God very specific questions. I tend to be kind of vague and just say ‘Wonder what you’re up to God. I wonder what you think about this.’ I don’t ask him to actually show me things, to actually answer me.”

Standing outside my car door, my gentle friend smiled and said, “Because you’re afraid he won’t answer.” My eyes popped open wide and a grin fell across my face as I shook my head. Suddenly I saw it.

I, too, am afraid to push on the door. I, too, am afraid that he won’t be real enough, personal enough, invested enough, caring enough. The instincts in my heart that I can’t always see and name still influence how I see him. And I don’t always press in to find out that he is good and that he can be trusted, the very thing my heart most wants to know.

Friends who speak his truth, who remind me of who he really is and how he sees me, help me come back to his presence. And God himself never stops pursuing my heart. I have growing and learning to do, just like the precious friend for whom I pray. We both get a chance to push on the door and see more of who he is, how he loves, and what grace overcomes.