One of the best books I read last year was Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners & Sufferers. It was a thoughtful gift from a friend during a season of personal mourning, and as I was winding slowly through the story of God’s love expressed in the Bible and interpreted by some very passionate Puritan theologians, I couldn’t help but think about how much it resonated with the first Coracle Fellowship Retreat, “God Loves You… No, Really!”
A particularly striking passage described the difference between living for the heart of Christ and living from the heart of Christ.
Living for the smile of God vs. living from the smile of God.
Living for our union with Christ vs. living from our union with Christ.
If you’ve had the chance to be a Coracle Fellow, perhaps you’ll remember this great quote from Thelma Hall capturing the same idea in a different way:
“There remains within us a love that can be awakened by the sheer grace of this love’s desire for us, if we fully accept it. Yet, as we all know, we find this incredibly difficult. Perhaps this is why the observation has been made that most of us seem to assume that union with God is attained by laboriously ascending a ladder of virtues, which finally fashion our holiness and make us fit for him. In truth, the reverse is far more accurate: the great saints and mystics have been those who fully accepted God’s love for them. It is this which makes everything else possible.”
We are Christ’s beloved. Full stop. And yet, sometimes we struggle to remember that foundational reality. So, we practice our belovedness. As Ortlund puts it,
“The battle of the Christian life is to bring your own heart into alignment with Christ’s, that is, getting up each morning and replacing your natural orphan mindset with a mindset of full and free adoption into the family of God through the work of Christ your older brother, who loved you and gave himself for you out of the overflowing fullness of his gracious heart.”
As we enter the fall season, it is likely that our lives will get “noisier” with new rhythms– work, kids, church, school, etc. How can we practice our belovedness in Christ when so many other things are encroaching on our time and attention? I would suggest two possible ways:
- Make space for a rhythm that will draw you deeper into the beauty of God’s story.
One rhythm we are providing this fall is our new “Essential Christianity” Online Course– a 9-week journey exploring the expansive beauty of our faith for any and all who might need it. Bill is really excited to teach this course, and both he and Karla would love to have you join them for this first class! (You can get a first look at Bill’s Essential Christianity Book Here)
- Find and repeat a few simple practices which will help you start from God’s love.
Our friend, psychiatrist Curt Thompson, argues that consistent repetition of these sorts of practices actually reshapes our “neural networks” so that, over time, it grows easier to see ourselves as God sees us. He has provided one such practice Here. Two of our “Space for God” recordings may also be helpful to you in this– One by Ken Wettig drawing from Jesus’ baptism, and One by Marissa Salgado drawing from Jesus’ invitation to abide in him.
I hope these resources will help you come into a deeper awareness of God’s love for you, even in the midst of a busy fall!
Painting: “Baptism of Christ” by Dave Zelenka, 2005.