Once in while, you come across something which just grabs you. A work of art, piece of music or a picture. Maybe it’s the progression of chords in a song, the way melodies interact with each other. The work of art could be an old oil painting from an artist long gone which captures an expression or scene, or it could be a spontaneous picture you stumble across on the internet. For whatever reason, we are captivated and something in our soul is awakened and time stands still.
Recently I found just such an image. Janelle Hanchett, who writes the Renegade Mothering blog, seems to be some kinda of Instagram ninja … I dunno. In one image, there is so much going on between two people who seemed frozen in time.
Here in all it’s glory, is the picture which has set me off:
(Image Credit: Janelle Hanchett)
I’ll say now, that the rest of the post is just about what was triggered in me when I saw this picture, just that. No comment on what happened before, or what happened after. Maybe I can see stuff in the picture which wasn’t there in the first place, but that’s the thing with looking at someone else’s work.
The first thing which struck me was the daughter’s gaze towards her father. I see trust, love, awe and wonder. From the father I see peace, love, acceptance and some kind of deeper connection which I still can’t quite put my finger on.
I’m gushing, I know. Sue me.
The thing is, a penny dropped when I realised this picture captured, for me, the way our relationship could be, should be, with Father God. They say that God is love, and this is pretty much all I can see in the picture. Love from Father to his child, and love – even adoration – from the child to the Father. I am also reminded of something Jesus said,
Let the children come to me, and don’t try to stop them! People who are like these children belong to God’s kingdom.
I can actually really imagine the carpenter from Nazareth sitting down at some point with a neighbour’s kid and having just the same conversation which Janelle’s husband and daughter are having here.
Some people have got this idea of God either being a grumpy-beardy-tyrant on a cloud hurling lightning bolts at pretty much anyone who gets up his nose, or on the other hand a benevolent yet distant and doddery old man. The problem is that neither of these fit with the notion of “God is Love”.
A couple of things which kill dead any desire to be this close to God are fear and guilt.
Fear, that we are not good enough. Fear that we are too bad, too dirty. Fear, of the stomach churning scared variety, of God himself. Sure, an awareness that we have screwed up at some point is pretty much an integral part of the human condition, but to let that turn to a fear which prevents us from drawing to a loving and forgiving Father, is just wrong. And this fear, it’s doesn’t come from God. Since God is love, it can’t. I would suggest that it is God’s enemy, the Devil, stirring up these feelings. A healthy respect and a sincere reverence, yes. But fear? No.
Guilt, over what we have done. Guilt for what we haven’t done. We feel like someone on trial for every mistake we ever made, for whom even the smallest misdemeanor carries a guilty verdict and the sentencing is harsh. Sure we make mistakes and make wrong choices, but depending through which lens we examine them, we face them in different ways. We either feel convicted, or condemned.
Let me quickly unpack that from a Christian perspective. Condemnation is the sickening guilt which squashes us, and leaves us feeling that we will never be clean again. Conviction is the realisation that we have missed the mark (sinned) of what our lives should be like. Condemnation will serve only to drive the wedge between us God ever deeper, where as the realisation of a failure, a conviction, gives birth to desire to apologise, make things right and turn around to look again into the Fathers eyes and feel His breath on our face. As with fear, I would suggest that feelings condemnation are also from the enemy. If I understand my bible correctly, it is God’s spirit, a spirit of love, which pokes our conscience and draws our attention to a convictable issue which needs to dealt with.
These sins, as they are called in the bible, do separate us from God (we can feel this if we are honest with ourselves) which is why God will point out the things which need to change. Why? Because He loves us and wants the best for us. He wants us on His lap and in His arms.
So .. back to the picture. Scroll back up for a moment and soak it up. I’ll wait here for you ..
Why would we not want this? What is stopping us from having a moment like this with God? Now that fear and condemnation are out the way, why not just ask God for a hug? Nice thoughts, but how? Jesus was taken back to heaven 2000 years ago, so His arms aren’t really here any more.
One of my first ‘spiritual’ encounters with God was in my early 20s. A friend was pretty sick and I asked that God, if you are real, maybe you could do something. I didn’t really believe in God at that point. I was completely grabbing at straws and had no expectations of what should happen next. Pretty much right away, it was like the room filled with someone’s presence and in myself, I felt that someone was hugging me. I couldn’t feel any arms around me, but it felt .. I felt .. in me .. like I was being held. Some kind of calm or peace .. took me completely by surprise. I hadn’t even done any real “God I am sorry for blah blah blah” prayer, but He came and hugged me all the same.
For my part, I find the easiest way to get close to God is through a song or by prayer, talking with Him. Whichever way I choose, I know that God is always ready for me clamber up onto his lap just as I am. When I am there, I show Him my grubby hands and He wipes them clean.
Why? Because God is Love. He loves me. He loves you. He’s not keen at all on the things we do wrong, they do keep us apart – but He is more than willing to clean us up and give a fresh start so we can look deep into each other’s eyes.
I’ll just leave this here …