Habits of a Transforming Heart: Staring
This article is part of a larger series called Habits of a Transforming Heart. You can see the other articles in the series here:
How Will God React to My Mess?
I wonder this, as tears line my face. I’m so messed up. I stare at the ground, not wanting to move or do anything. It wasn’t just this new found depression and anxiety. It was the shame of all the things I’ve done wrong in my life piled on top of me, kicking me while I was down.
I was staring at my faults, and I just couldn’t look away. I was sure God couldn’t see anything else either. To be honest, my imagination of God is often of a peeved old man with a long beard and a brooding dark scowl like Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, disappointed in me and waiting for me to pull my act together and try harder.
Cue an innocuous passage from Scripture that ambushed me one day in my devotions. I was sitting there, minding my self-absorbed business, when—WHOOSH— 1 John 1:5-10 shot like bright arrows into my night.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:5-10
These verses pierced the heart of my false image of God. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” No darkness. This passage urges me to try to imagine a heart with no darkness in it.
I think of the most beautiful and winsome and “light” people I know and how they treat me gracefully when I mess up. Then I times that by the infinitude of God. How beautiful and holy and awesome that heart brimming with light would be. How attractive. This is the heart that is in control of everything in the universe.
God wants me to be like him in his beauty and holiness and awesomeness. To share in his joy. Even his attractiveness. Jesus made this possible even when my darkness disqualified me.
God did not give up on us even when we were sinners. He could have. But Jesus’ coming and dying for us proves that God, holy and formidable in His beauty, has a look of bright compassion on his face toward sinners. Sinners like me. How much more will He love us now that we are reconciled because of Jesus? Now that we are fully His? When God gazes at us He sees His Beloved.
Imagine what correctly imagining God’s heart will do in my own heart over the course of time. In yours. Imagine what transformation will be unleashed by staring at the beautiful love lighting up the face of God as He turns towards us.
A habit I’m trying to “make stick” this year is simple but powerful. I take a promise or truth about God from Scripture and “stare” at it. I meditate on it, personalize it, pray it, or journal about how it pierces my heart and imagination. I hold it in my mind’s gaze, inviting God to use it to change me.
The transformative nature of this habit is far-reaching. For if we know how God truly feels about us, mess and all, we can begin to reflect His expression in our everyday lives much more accurately.
The more we stare at the bright, compassionate face of God, the more our own dark, condemning scowl will melt into compassion when we turn inward to ourselves or outward to others. To reflect the expression of God toward the world and to act with Him for others’ best interests, this is truly to bear the image of God. This is how to fulfill the purpose for which we were made. It all starts with staring.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Cor. 3: 18 NIV
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. – Psalm 27:8 NIV
Further Reading:The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge