How will you bow?

Lets start with an exercise: Think about your best image of God. Who is He? What is He like? How would you describe Him to a 3-year old? For the past few weeks I have been reading the book of Job and although this will be at least the third time I have read this book, I am seeing it from such a new perspective. Job talks about God’s superiority and sovereignty in ways that are both awe-inspiring but can also leave you feeling very helpless before this powerful God. He says things like:

“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; those he imprisons cannot be released. If he holds back the waters, there is drought; if he lets them loose, they devastate the land. To him belong strength and insight; both deceived and deceiver are his. He leads rulers away stripped and makes fools of judges. He takes off the shackles put on by king and ties a loincloth around their waist. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows officials long established. He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders. He pours contempt on nobles and disarms the mighty. He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light. He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them. He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; he makes them wander in a trackless waste. They grope in darkness with no light; he makes them stagger like drunkards.” Job 12:13-35 NIV.

Job and his friends described the God-man relationship in a manner where God is this inapproachable powerful being. They described God by his deeds; the things they had seen or heard or imagined Him do. Similarly, the Israelites’ perspectives of God versus that of Moses were very different. The Israelites looked to God for things: the meeting of their physical needs of food, water, shelter; protection from their enemies; healing from diseases and so on and so forth. The Israelites only knew God for his deeds but Moses’ relationship was different. He actually knew God for who he truly was.

He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel.

Psalm 103:7 NLT

Job’s characterizations of his relationship with God so far (up until Job 12 that is) is nothing compared to our modern-day- live-under-grace characterizations. While everything Job says about God’s nature is truth, God still invites us by virtue of grace into relationship where we can know him for who He truly is . Unfortunately instead of grace giving us the advantage of a deeper relationship where we can know God beyond our needs, many of us relegate God to the position of all powerful being who we call upon when we cannot figure out things for ourselves. This genie-in -the-bottle mentality pedaled as the essence of Christianity and preached as the “prosperity” gospel (although many of us will not deign to admit that we treat God this way) only serves to rob us of having a deeper connection to our amazing God.

This week in church the pastor made a statement that inspired this post. Now for some mental exercise:

Come back to your image of who God is and picture this: You are standing before God at the end of your time here on earth and then in enters Jesus in all his majestic splendor. In accordance with the scripture says that “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…Phil 2: 10ESV” you WILL bow, but how will you bow? Will you bow in reverent worship and recognition of the great King with whom you had formed a relationship with while you walked the earth? Will you bow in excitement that you’ve finally made it across the other side of eternity and you can finally get to see the full image of God who had been showing glimpses of himself to you all through your journey on earth? Will it be like meeting a date for the first time after years of zoom calls and facetiming? OR will you bow in abject terror of this God because your “genie” turned out to be nothing like you imagined? Will your knees buckle at the realization that you missed out on the great opportunity earth afforded you to get to know God and now you are in the presence of a stranger? Would you bow in shame, pleadingly asking for mercy?

So here’s the question of the week: How will you bow?

Yours Truly

P.S. The food box is going great! I will do a post about it in a few weeks but for those of you eager to hear about it: it has inspired something within the community and people have anonymously thrown in cans of food. Thanks to all who have donated so far and to all who have encouraged me through prayer and kind words. Together, we are on mission for God!

The big “V”

Vulnerability, the big V is something that you seldom see in churches. As far as I know…church leaders have never sinned in their lives! They never get discouraged…! They never feel like God has let them down…! Oh, and they do not get sick…! I grew up with this mentality of being a Christian and especially as one who was involved in church leadership. I always had to have it together and be well-composed especially for those who look up to me.

I recently listened to a TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability and I will summarize what I learned and how I apply it to my walk with God.  From Brene’s research which spanned over a decade she discovered that:

We are hardwired  as humans for connection however, there is one thing that unravels connection in society and this is shame. Shame is simply a fear of disconnection. “Is there something about me that if people knew then i won’t be worthy of connection?” [This reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they sinned; they hid from the presence of God because they were filled with fear and shame].

Shame is universal and is underpinned by vulnerability. Vulnerability is not comfortable or excruciating but it is necessary, and yet people struggle with it so much. According to Brene, we deal with vulnerability by numbing the grief, the shame, the fear, the disappointment, but unfortunately, we are not wired to selectively numb some emotions and leave out others. When we numb all the bad stuff we also numb joy, happiness, peace. We make the uncertain certain- so religion which used to be “I believe in faith and mystery” becomes “I am right, you are wrong. shut up!” We pretend that everything is ok and that the things we do does not have an impact on others.

Through her research, Brene discovered another set of people: A group of people who live life wholeheartedly and have a strong sense of belonging. What she found that those people had in common were that they had courage (to be imperfect), compassion ( to be kind to themselves first, and then to others), connection (the willingness to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were) and finally vulnerability.

Brene discovered that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and unworthiness but it also is the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging,  and of love. After listening to this talk I wanted to see what the bible says about vulnerability and I was led to many scriptures but I will highlight a few:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Romans 7:23-24
  • 2 Corinthians 13:4
  • James 5:16
  • 1 Corinthians 2:3-4
  • 2 Corinthians 11: 27-30
  • 2 Corinthians 4: 7

If you read those scriptures you will see a common trend. Vulnerability is about declaring our weakness before others and before God. This allows God’s grace to flow. When we are weak, we leave room for grace to pour in. I will take Brene’s conceptualization a little further to say vulnerability is the birthplace of grace. It is the portal that allows us to receive more of God’s grace in our lives.  I am reminded of a parable of Jesus:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. Luke 18:9-14 NIV

The pharisee would not allow himself to be vulnerable even in the place of prayer to take a hard long look at his life. And when you contrast the Pharisee with the tax collector, the tax collector encountered grace and was justified (for we are justified by grace through faith.. Romans 3:23-25). I believe Brene was on to something here: those things that bring us shame, fear of disconnection, and unworthiness in other words those things that make us vulnerable are the things that we need to be the most real about with ourselves (because you cannot lie to yourself), to God (because He knows all things) and to others (because vulnerability in the place of confession with prayer, brings healing)

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Yours Truly.

P.S. you can listen to the Brene’s TEDtalk by clicking here