Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Proverbs 27:19 As in water face reflects face, So a man's heart reveals the man.
Most people tend to minimize the factors that impact their fellowship with the Lord. We seem to have the sense that if we just discovered the right key, it would settle it. The reality is that the size of the tangle surrounding our recovery and restoration to union with God is massive and profoundly difficult. No one, including me, wants to hear that, but it is true. Bear with me while I give an overview of why I say that, and you can judge for yourself.
There are two huge areas that influence our separation from God and cause us to continue missing Him. One is comprised of the principles and elements that came into our nature as a result of the temptation and fall of man. Every generation since Adam and Eve has wrestled with them. The second massive influence is the accumulation of wounding and confusion that have occurred during our life in a fallen world, which we try to figure out using the principles and elements inherited from the fall. These two broad areas combine to produce the size and complexity of the tangle. There is actually no way to separate them, but for the sake of understanding, we have to talk about them in pieces.
Beginning then with where the separation happened, we see that Adam and his wife were living in a condition of complete openness to God and each other, experiencing no shame or disconnection (Gen. 2:25). They were happy with God and His provision for them, and happy with each other.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
The serpent comes into this scene and begins to question if God said what He said ("Has God indeed said…"), and His motive for saying it ("For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil"). He offered them their own "knowing," and the deceitful promise that their knowing would be as extensive as God’s. The serpent implied that knowing was something God had unfairly and selfishly kept from them, thus questioning and discrediting God’s integrity in order to help them choose with the more "truthful" serpent.
The word, yada, means to know (properly, to ascertain by seeing, Strong’s says). Do we walk by faith or by sight? The shift that happened in the garden moved them from faith to sight. It was an enormous shift and too subtle for them to see or unravel. Wilson defines "knowing" in a similar way, and adds the following significance: To perceive, to be sensible of, by sight, by touch, but chiefly in the mind; to come to the knowledge of by seeing, by hearing, and by experience. They were moved from dependence upon and agreement with the Lord into their own capacity to know and judge based on their experience. To this day it remains our primary way of knowing, and we could say that it is now the only way to know that is considered "reasonable." There were two choices presented to them: Knowing themselves by what they could see and assess, or knowing with God, based on His faculty for knowing. Presenting as a good idea the shift to our own limited faculties was indeed "cunning."
The Way We Know as a Result of the Fall
In Genesis 3:6 the Scripture goes on to say that "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate." They are gone— over into a swamp they could not define, and from which they had no means of freeing themselves. Once there, they could not get back. Judging by our own faculties and trusting our own sight became the new way of "knowing."
This kind of knowing is now one of the huge factors in how we miss God.
Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."
On the basis of our own knowing we can say, and be very convinced of the truth of our argument: "If God is good and loving, then why do terrible things happen to us?" The underlying logic is: I know what it ought to look like if God is real. It doesn’t look that way, so He must not be real. There is no factor here of our own involvement in the terrible things, the miserable choices made by others acting toward us destructively, the conditions that have raged for generations, or the accumulation of sinful behaviors that have shaped the whole environment in which we live.
Judges 6:1,6,11-13 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years.
So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.
Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree…while …Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!" Gideon said to Him, "O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying , ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."
Gideon, talking to the Lord who has appeared to him, is still saying that He has forsaken them! However, despite Gideon’s view of things, the Angel of the Lord continues to lead him and Israel into victory and restoration, presumably because they changed their approach and cried out to Him. Our way of thinking can lead us to say, in effect, that unless the Lord conforms to our concept of Him, He is certainly not going to get our allegiance—that is the most treacherous and unfruitful place for our "knowing" to lead!
Source of Approval and Authority
In the course of transforming how we know, another shift was occurring. Their source of approval and authority was also being transferred. The change began with them listening to the serpent and acting on his deceit (deceit = led to a false judgment and so to false hopes—Wilson). But it ended with them listening to each other: "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife…" (Gen. 3:17). Jesus also said something like this to His disciples:
John 5:44 "How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?
One of the most difficult things for us is to let the Lord overrule the messages and "truths" we have received on human authority, and on which our approval from man rests. I cannot count the number of people, who, when they hear something from God that differs considerably from what they have heard from man, say, with Nicodemus (John 3:9): "How can these things be?" That’s how convinced we are that what we have seen and invested our belief in is True. Even God has difficulty changing it!
Then, when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool (breeze, wind) of the day, "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 3:8). "Hide" means to conceal oneself for the sake of security. They go into hiding, concealing themselves from the presence of the Lord for the sake of security! They hide physically, staying away from His presence. Are there not a million ways to attempt to hide from Him, in the midst of His creation? In the conversation with God that followed their hiding, it is evident that they were also hiding their hearts from Him (as though we could accomplish that)!
He does not settle for the hiding, but calls to Adam and inquires: "Where are you?" Obviously, this is not because He does not know, but because Adam does not know. All he is able to "see," or all he will acknowledge seeing, is that he is hiding because he is naked. That is a rather superficial description of his problem! But the unwillingness and fear to be seen by God, and the belief that his security rests on not being seen, does point to the size of the disaster that swallowed them up.
Hiding physically and especially internally is now a universal means for trying to accomplish a sense of safety. It truly does seem that our most viable security is to hide. Yet, the outcome of concealing ourselves is responsible for adding a great difficulty to the already formidable work of healing our hearts. This is simply because you cannot heal what is hidden away. We are afraid to come out for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the lack of safety we find in each other—anyone who is hiding their heart from themselves will certainly not know how to be a safe environment for yours. The greater difficulty in the healing process now is not whether God wants to or will heal our hearts; it is whether we have the courage to uncover our hearts, to come out of hiding, so He can. The process of coming out of hiding takes by far the longest time in the healing process.
Responsibility Lines Scrambled
The fourth area to talk about is what happened to responsibility lines in the temptation and fall of man. Adam was with Eve during the temptation, watching , we can only presume. He did not say: "Wait just a minute, dear; something is not quite right here." He agreed and participated, not seeing the deceit either, but when questioned about it by the Lord, he blames God and Eve (Genesis 3:12 "The woman You gave me…"). Eve has a similar defense; the serpent deceived her, which is true; but she chose to believe the serpent instead of God. The beginning of restoration is taking responsibility for our part in what happened. Learning depends upon that, healing depends upon that, and forgiveness depends upon it. But, being "chiefly in the mind," we easily find all kinds of reasons why we are not the guilty or responsible party. Blaming someone else succeeds only in confusing them and delaying considerably the light to our own heart; and blaming God simply separates us from the One who can restore us.
Fortunately, God does not accept their arguments. As uncomfortable as it is to be pulled up short in these areas, it is our only hope. He says: "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’…." In the generations since then we have refined the art of holding others responsible for our choices, but there is the same bottom line for responsibility lines that God applied to Adam and Eve. It is this:
You are responsible for who you listen to and believe.
There is great mercy and patience toward our blindness and tremendous understanding of how deceit works and the fact that we are no match for the serpent. BUT, He does not withdraw the basic responsibility that His created human beings have to listen to and believe Him above all other voices.
John 10:3-5 "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."
It is a good thing that He persists in this, as we are not able to until He arranges a way for His light to break through.
Reordering responsibility lines is a massive work in itself. It calls for humbling, if we are the one doing the blaming; it calls for courage, if someone is giving us responsibility that belongs to them, and great honesty to correct the scramble in either case. These are major adjustments that are called for in every individual life, family structure, and organization.
This is a thumbnail sketch of four primary elements from the fall that continue to cause us to miss God. They will be discussed individually in the chapters that follow, as there is much to be said about the role they play in our healing and unity of heart with the Lord.
Wounding in Life: The Second Great Breaking
I think it is safe to say that with people running around on their own steam, believing their own perceptions, judging one another on that basis, and setting criteria for acceptance by their personal legacy in life, we are going to see rather extensive wounding. With wounding comes anger and reaction, which produce more wounding. Since we do not receive conviction, take responsibility, or humble ourselves very graciously or quickly, we can expect to see that healing the wounds and restoring unity with God and each other will be difficult at best, and it will sometimes prove to be impossible. This is not because God would not support any of His children in going there, but because we tend to harden our hearts and defend our position instead of humbling ourselves, softening our heart, and settling for the Lord’s compassion on our condition.
There is a huge spectrum along which wounding happens. There are wounds of neglect or insensitivity or oversight, with which virtually everyone wrestles to some degree. There are more massive wounds from full scale abuse that manifest in rage being poured out on the innocent, or physical and sexual abuse inflicted on those who have no choice in being misused. Depending on the degree of breaking, there is a potential lifetime of continuing recovery from these wounds, IF the person knows how to address them in some effective way. The means and combinations of wounding by which hearts have been broken are endless. What we need to see is that in a fallen world no one gets to adulthood unscathed.
This is the vast difference between a psychological and a theological view. A psychological view holds that some people are broken. A theological view holds that, because of the way we are created and the fallen condition of that image, brokenness applies to all. If we saw one another as all in recovery, there would be a different level of compassion, which is an environment in which it is somewhat safe to come out of hiding. As it stands, we have to find someone who has allowed the Lord to exchange their judgment for His compassion and let them walk alongside us while we find our way into the kind of security in the Lord where the whims and messages of man no longer break and diminish.
So the Size of the Tangle Is?
Time to return to the question we started with about the size of the tangle, and the suggestion that it is rather massive and quite difficult to resolve. The reasons for it being so formidable are:
The four huge elements of the fall and the wounding of hearts they produce are all entangled together differently in each life.
Because everyone suffers from the same broken condition to one degree or another, we are all being put back together, and the Lord has to use our broken vessels, full of our own ideas, to be His voice and hands in bringing restoration.
We believe we can and should know, and so spend a sizeable portion of our lives trying to get through to wholeness on our own.
Since this tangle surrounds us like thick debris, we cannot see and hear the Lord through it. He is the only One who looks on it with complete understanding and is committed to saving us out of it. We do not see it as us being buried and blinded, but rather interpret it as: He has left us, or for some reason refuses to respond. With our limited sight, that seems like a true assessment.
Until we find assistance in clearing the debris enough to hear Him and learn to stay in His presence, we wrestle through many avenues that are less complete or effective than His Spirit in restoring our hearts and lives in Him.
Time With the Lord
The only thing that remains in this chapter is spending some time with the Lord over what He is saying to you in it. To do that you will need to print the chapter (if you have been reading it online). On the website there are "Printer Friendly" buttons at the beginning and end of the chapter. Spend some time with the following questions. Think of this time as learning to hear all the way through with the Lord.
Personal Application Questions
Lord, remind me of the points that were standing out for me when I read through this chapter. (If you highlighted them in any way, go back and reread those portions and write them down here. It would be a good idea to highlight in future chapters).
If there were more than three points, look at the others, asking these same questions:
What are You wanting me to hear in the first point that stood out, Lord?
How would You have me respond, Lord?
What do I need to see in the second point?
I want to respond, Lord… how?
Ask similar questions about any other points you wrote down.
Then do the response identified for each point, actually do it (or begin to, if it is an ongoing directive from the Lord), and notice what happens when you believe and act on what the Lord lights up and directs.
Connecting Hearts to God