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A couple weeks ago, I had a group of Arab women over to my new apartment for the first time. I clarify that they’re Arab, because Arab women are some of the most hospitable people in the world. Their houses are spotless. They always have a meal prepared for you even if you arrive unannounced. So it was like I was having a group of fashion experts take a look at my closet. I was sure I would not measure up, but later they texted our group whatsapp touting how clean my house was and how good my food tasted. #winning

It’s a vulnerable thing to have people in your home. They are free to look through your kitchen cabinets, judge the books on your shelves. You may not measure up to their standards with your food or your hostessing skills. Sometimes I catch myself putting my relationship with God in this context. I’ll find myself avoiding talking to Him about something, asking for something, because it feels like an invitation for Him to be a little closer than I’m comfortable with. 

When I choose vulnerability with God, when I choose to share things that come from the deep part of my soul--my fears, hopes, dreams, sinful tendencies--it’s possible we will be disappointed. Maybe He doesn’t care, or worse, maybe I will be shamed because of them. Sharing things with God means we’re inviting Him into a more intimate part of our souls. Sometimes people, especially many Christians and Muslims I’ve interacted with, are happy to serve God. It’s like we go to His house and do the chores for Him and exchange pleasantries at the beginning and end of the day. But inviting Him over to our home would be a different thing entirely. What if He doesn’t like the books He sees on the shelf? What if I cook the meat poorly and it’s tough? What if my toilet isn’t as clean as I want it to be? He might be disappointed in me. He might look at me and see that I am not enough. 

Ironically, the fears that we have when other people visit our homes have no place when we are talking about God. Even though He is perfectly Holy, the King of the Universe, He wants to be invited over when our house is in serious need of Marie Kondo. He wants to come and see the dirty corners and enjoy the flavorless “Italian” meal you’ve made Him. 

I know this for two main reasons. The first is the life of Jesus. He spent time with messy people. He literally went to the homes of the most unacceptable folks. He loved those messy people well--taking most of His time to condemn the people who pretended to have it all together. The second reason is Scripture. The Bible is full of verses about God’s desire to be let into our messiness and take part in its redemption. One of my favorites is a simple line in the book of Romans that goes, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There’s no concern about getting things perfectly in order beforehand. Jesus gave His life for people who can’t keep it together. 

The invitation is there for all. We can go on believing that God doesn’t care about our problems, or we can come to Him with a cornucopia of disaster, and let Him lovingly help us through it.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Imagination is one of the most powerful resources we have for communing with God. He gave us the ability to imagine things that don’t exist so that we can know Him--the one that is more real than anything else, but wholly beyond our understanding. As a result, images are a huge part of my prayer life. I wanted to share one in particular with you today. 

There’s one image I’ve been reminded of a lot lately. It’s a little silly, but my images often are. :) A little over a year ago, almost every time I would spend time trying to listen to God and sharing things that were on my mind, I would see this picture of myself in a manhole with my arms spread out over the ground preventing myself from falling completely into the hole. Also in this picture, I saw Jesus trying to push me down into the hole. The whole thing had that feeling of one of those funny spy/crime movies with Melissa McCartney.  I could hear myself in this image whining to Jesus, “I don’t want to go. Don’t make me do it.” And He’s going, “Just do it already. Just trust me. Just get down in there.” I’m not sure I’m adequately representing the tone here. It might sound kind of harsh, but it always made me laugh because it just seemed so ridiculous (anybody else into dark humor?). He wasn’t being mean. I was just annoyed. 

During that time I was going through therapy and some intense spiritual transformation. I’d often be feeling apprehensive about taking a next step, and then I’d get this picture of the manhole and know that I needed to let go of what was holding me back and just drop in. Sometimes that was easier than others. Sometimes I’d imagine myself rolling my eyes and dropping in. Other times I’d be crying and shaking with fear and Jesus would gently peel my fingers from the pavement promising that it was going to be okay. 

Since then, I’ve had other images that have stayed with me. Sometimes they are static; other times they change as I take steps of obedience toward what I feel God is calling me to. Sometimes I think God gives me these images as promises or sort of memories so that I can more clearly remember His faithfulness and what we’ve been through together. Serving an intangible God makes these pictures invaluable to my visual mind.

So what about you? Do you have a picture that describes the way you’re interacting with God right now? Is it funny? Is it gentle? Does that feel strange to even think about? Take some time and close your eyes and allow your imagination to do its job. You might learn some things about how you’re feeling toward God and how He is speaking to you.


The other day I was reading this interesting article about women in the early days of Islam and how they were an integral part to the history and expansion of the religion. I’m intrigued by this, because in many ways the story of Christianity is similar. So much discussion about early male leadership, when much of the practical success of the religion was because of women--especially women Jesus chose to include in His inner circle. As I was reading the article about Islam, I stopped in my tracks when I read this quotation from Rabia Al-Adawiyya, a Muslim ascetic, who lived in the 8th century:

“O Lord, should I worship you for fear of punishment, then burn me in hellfire. Should I worship you for reward, then keep me out of paradise. But I worship you only for you. So, do not withhold from me your Eternal Beauty,”

It makes me think of Psalm 84 where the psalmist declares, “My soul yearns, even faints for the house of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God.” And then later the author adds, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my Lord than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For better is one day in Your courts, Lord, than a thousand elsewhere.”

These statements make me wonder how much of my relationship with God is transactional. It can come in so many forms--trying to get something good in my life from God, hoping God will help one of my friends if I do certain things, or even that I will become a more Godly person if I do certain things. I never want to discount the importance of regular intercessory prayer or daily spiritual practices. Yet, it is so easy to lose sight of the purpose of my faith.

I am not a Christian so that I can live a good life, help people, or even to help other people become Christians. I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus is, to borrow Rabia’s words, the “Eternal Beauty” of God, which He has not withheld from me or anyone else. My faith, my religion, exists so that I may know God as His child and even His friend. Jesus is the one that makes that possible. Many religions teach that to enjoy God’s presence and friendship, I need to do so many prayers each day, read so much Scripture, delay gratification, dress a certain way, or even punish myself for my wrongdoings. Yet the beauty of my Christian faith is that Jesus did all the things required for me to be close to God. He clothes me with His beauty so that I can dwell in the courts of God all my life. 

It’s almost unbelievable. God doesn’t want my worship if I’m trying to get something or avoid something. He wants my worship, because He wants me. As I worship Him, I get to experience the surpassing eternal beauty that is the love of Christ. 

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