I was recently talking with my spiritual director, who guides me in my relationship with God by talking with and listening to me so I can become more Christlike. He asked me what I like doing in life, particularly what makes me come alive, and how people would describe me. He then asked me a very pertinent question. He said, “If God was sitting in a chair as a third person in this conversation, what would his impression of me be as I’m talking?”. What my spiritual director was getting at was my view of God and how I perceive how God sees me. 

If you’re anything like me, you beat yourself up mercilessly, you catastrophise, and you put standards on yourself that you wouldn’t put on your worst enemy. For most of us, our inner critic nags at us day and night, and we don’t do anything to stand up to it.

Surrender

PICTURE: Pricilla Du Preez/Unsplash.

This fills many of us with shame, which can lead to depression, anxiety and a low sense of self-worth.

My spiritual director wanted me to see that God is not my inner critic. In fact, God is not even remotely like my inner critic.

"What if God really does want us to live with joy, an enjoyment of life and joy within whatever circumstances we are experiencing? What if St Paul was right when he said he had actually learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11)? Not that he was happy with terrible circumstances (after all, he did write at least four of his letters from a Roman prison!), but he wasn’t going to let his circumstances dictate his attitude toward life."

To the contrary, what if God was gentle with us? Not in the weak, passive sense, but in the safe, warm and loving sense? What if God was sitting there listening to you and his impression of you was that He is smiling and is just wowed by you, delighted in you?

What if God really does want us to live with joy, an enjoyment of life and joy within whatever circumstances we are experiencing? What if St Paul was right when he said he had actually learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11)? Not that he was happy with terrible circumstances (after all, he did write at least four of his letters from a Roman prison!), but he wasn’t going to let his circumstances dictate his attitude toward life.

Victor Frankl, in his classic book, Man’s Search For Meaning, talks about this. He says that the one thing no-one can never take from you is your attitude. In the book, he says that those in the Nazi concentration camps who had something to look forward to survived better than those who had less to look forward to. Hope is a huge driver. It sustained people in the most horrendous circumstances any human had probably ever been through. 

Our view of God determines our view of ourselves and of life in general. If we view God as warm, loving and totally for us, we will learn to live with less fear. We can relax. We will learn to take more calculated risks in our lives. We will trust more and learn to surrender to God and a Christlike way of living.



Surrender was what drove Bob Pierce when he founded World Vision in the 1950s. One of his prayers back then was, “Let my heart break over the things that break the heart of God”. He was referring to God’s broken heart over the immense poverty in the world, but Pierce’s prayer can equally be applied to our own personal lives. 

One of the most dangerous yet transforming prayers we can pray is to ask God to break us, to bring us to a point of surrender, where we accept that the joy and life that God offers is much more liberating than what we have been living.

It’s only in the last couple of months that I’ve started praying this prayer again, after many years. It’s a prayer of almost desperation, a prayer you pray when you’re tired of being mediocre, when, at your age, you can see more clearly that it’s high time you made a change to realise your potential and that you’re being called to live more of who you really are. 

For years I was too scared to pray this prayer when it came to mind. Why was I scared? It was because I didn’t trust that God would be completely with me through the process, and I was comfortable enough in my current state at the time.

There is a song we used to sing back in the ‘80s and ‘90s which talks about this. The words are as follows:
Spirit of the living God
Fall afresh on me
Break me
Melt me
Mould me
Fill me
Spirit of the living God
Fall afresh on me

Are we courageous enough to pray the words of this beautiful and subversive song? To be moulded into the image of Christ, to surrender, to have the attitude of “your will, not mine, be done”? If you’re not, pray that you will. God will answer your prayer over time. Keep persisting. Ask God to give you a holy dissatisfaction with life. That’s not a morbid, depressive thing. It’s an attitude that there is so much more than what we are currently living and that God wants to take you there, to give you the abundant life that Jesus talked about.

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Another reason I was scared to pray that prayer for years was because I was scared of how I would feel after I prayed it; that I would again feel the ache and emptiness I have experienced in the past when I prayed that prayer and became disillusioned with faith. 

You might have similar baggage. Keep praying; keep asking God to disrupt your life. Remember, Jesus caused a crisis wherever he went. But also remember that whatever Jesus does, He does because He believes in us and wants to lead us to a richer, more joyful experience of life. He’s not holding a gun to your head; He’s actually offering you life beyond your wildest dreams. Sure, it will be tough at times, but the payoff will be more than worth it. It will be life, the life you’ve been looking for all these years, possibly without even realising it.

Living the life of a follower of Jesus can be confusing. That’s why it starts with faith. It starts with the stubborn conviction that God is good regardless of our circumstances, regardless of whatever we are going through. 

The gradual development of this stubborn faith will eventually remove our fears and give us strength to keep going despite what we feel, even if we don’t feel the presence of God with us. 

Trust God in you. God will still be with you, and you will start to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ. This is what it means to be on the road of personal transformation.