As a girl I dreamed of being in ministry for Jesus with my husband one day. I had really admired the pastor and his wife at the church I grew up in. Also I saw my parents teach Sunday school together and I met other ministry couples that inspired me by the way that they served God and blessed people.
When Bill and I got married in 1986 I secretly hoped that my dream would come true since we both were starting careers as Christian psychotherapists and serving in leadership positions in church. But I compared myself to Bill and his success in ministry and felt I didn’t have much to offer. I concluded, I don’t have anything special to add. I’m unseen. I’m inadequate and unworthy of God’s love.
It seemed God just wanted me to serve him quietly as a wife and a mother. Of course, I knew this was important, but I so I gave up on my dream for many years. Until 2007 when God provided for Bill and I to attend a spiritual direction training program together. My mom agreed to watch our children for us to do this. I was so excited!
I Ventured on God, Hobbling Along
But shortly after we started I broke my foot! I was afraid that at the next week of training I’d be stuck inside and wouldn’t be able to enjoy the river and the grounds I loved. I was afraid I’d be in pain and too distracted to listen and receive from the teachings and groups. I was afraid I’d be lost and unseen again.
Instead I ventured on God, daring to believe that He loved me and I looked for evidences of His love in my circumstance. I found it all over the place! We were given a cabin with a great view of the lake and trees so even though I couldn’t hike, I was able to enjoy sitting on the deck. And I kept finding that people wanted to care for me. They found a wheelchair and pushed me to the river, to the bookstore, and to the meetings. They affirmed me for how good I was walking on the crutches (I was hobbling!) as they walked slowly beside me. At one point I realized that I didn’t even feel any pain in my foot anymore!
I wanted to trust these experiences as God’s blessings for me, that he was a loving Father to me. Of course, I “knew” that to be true, but deep in my heart I had some mistrust that needed emotional healing.
Healing a Damaged Image of God
You may know that A.W. Tozer says that the most important thing about us is our image or idea of God. It pretty much determines how we feel as we relate to God, ourselves, and others. We all tend to pick up mistaken ideas about God when people we depend on hurt us or we project our sin onto God. Often our distorted images of God lie hidden in our unconscious and that’s where they do the most damage.
One session we were given some artist’s renderings of the Father and Prodigal Son from Jesus’ parable to meditate on during our afternoon of solitude and silence. The idea of this was very appealing to me, but I didn’t like the pictures. One was religious, another was African, and the third felt distant.
I prayed, “Lord, I don’t relate to these!” I kept trying to meditate and pray, but I couldn’t connect to God as my loving Father.
Then towards the very last half hour of my solitude time I sensed Jesus say, “Well, what would you like this picture to look like between you and me?”
Immediately, I recalled a memory of being at church with our family. Bill was coming up the sidewalk and Jennie was right beside me. When she saw him coming her face just lit up and she went running towards him! She jumped into his arms for a big hug and hung her hands around his shoulders as they looked at each other in shared adoration and love and joy.
“That’s what I want it to look like!” I exclaimed. And the Lord seemed to reply, “Well, show me.” So I drew “The Loving Father and Prodigal Kristi” on the left. That’s what I want my relationship with my Heavenly Father to look like! That’s what God was showing me through the kindness of my friends!
I learned that even with a broken foot and an unsure heart I could run and jump into Jesus’ arms and He’d embrace me in Abba’s love! And so in the eight years since then I’ve kept this picture by my bed and I use it as a prompt to pray and to minister further healing to my image of God.
I encourage you to spend a little bit of time interacting with the Lord about how you see Him and inviting Him to show you just how much He loves you.