I recently had someone completely misinterpret what I had written in one of my posts. At first I was upset, wondering how she could have thought I meant or implied something that I hadn’t. But after thinking about her background and some of the hard times she has experienced in her life, I realized how she could have thought I meant something completely different than what was written. All by simply reading between the lines through the lens of her own experiences.
It reminded me of how, while working as a social worker, I was encouraged to listen to clients’ stories and gather their personal histories with the underlying willingness to start where the person was at. Meaning: What someone believes to be their reality, is their reality, whether it’s true or not. They will operate their daily lives from that vantage point. As social workers, we were told to start where the people saw themselves and their situations and move from there.
What we believe about ourselves, others, and the world around us is powerful. And it will dictate our thoughts, behaviors, and even our feelings.
I was reminded of this again this morning while reading my Bible. And I was challenged by the question: What do I really believe about God?
- Because if I grew up with an abusive father, I may have trouble believing that God is loving and good.
- If I grew up in a religious organization that told me God was all about rules, waiting for me to screw up, I may have a hard time believing that God is gracious and merciful, instead trying continuously to earn his favor.
- If I have had relationships where people have hurt or betrayed me, I may have a hard time trusting that God will not do the same. I may struggle to be honest and vulnerable with him.
- If I’ve lost loved ones or struggled with prolonged illness, I may wonder if God is really good or if he really cares.
And these thoughts, based on the lens of our own experiences, may all be valid. It is okay to wonder things and have feelings. But let’s not let these be our stopping point — what if, instead, we used these places of hurt, confusion, or mistrust to be our starting point? What if we honestly go to God with our questions and ask him for the answers? What if we allow the truth of God’s word to become our new perspective, our new lens?
Because here is some truth from God’s word:
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” 1 John 1:3
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.” Psalm 103:8-13
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
These are just a few of the promises of God. And I am challenging myself this week to begin to assess what I believe to be true about God by holding it up — not to the lens of my past experiences, but to the lens of God’s word, which is always true. And it’s powerful enough to change my thoughts, attitudes, and responses to him and to those around me.
Won’t you join me? How has your belief about God changed over time?