Read an Excerpt
From the God We've Made ... to God With Us
By Brian Hardin
Tyndale House PublishersCopyright © 2015 Brian Hardin
All rights reserved.
Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.
NEIL GAIMAN, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
I have seen the best of you, and the worst of you, and I choose both.
SARAH KAY, "AN ORIGIN STORY"
It's all about you. And it's all about what you do next. It always has been. I know you've been told otherwise your whole life — but it is. It has to be. Your life can be no other way.
Does that sound somehow ... wrong? Stay with me.
Where you've been and where you're going can only happen with you involved. What you do with yourself only you can decide, but make no mistake — this air in your lungs, this next beat of your heart, the stirring in your chest when he or she walks in the room, this life — it's yours. Yours to unfold, unpack, screw up, crash, revive, stumble through, master, flourish, thrive in, discover. It begins with you, and if it ever ends, you'll be there. It's yours to steward and yours to give away, and no matter where you go, you are there.
Maybe God is everywhere, but being created in His likeness makes you like Him in fascinating ways. You are omnipresent to yourself.
Let that one bake in for a minute.
You are everywhere you are. God's image is embedded in you. It is as inseparable from you as you are from it. You are a constant, living reminder of who He is. You can look away but you can't get away. You can purify yourself or you can destroy yourself but you can't escape yourself. Nor can you escape God. You're made this way. You're made for God.
Perhaps you had no control over your creation, but you have momentous control over what you create. There's unbelievable power inside that. You matter. Really, you do. You are a creator. You fashion what becomes of the world you live in. You are finely crafted in the image of the Almighty, and He is beautiful beyond description. He has unquestionably created beauty within you. You are His absolute masterpiece.
That you are here is a gift. A beautiful, extravagant, decadent, overgenerous, excessive gift. Something precious given by One who is hopelessly in love with you. Desperately enamored of you. Fascinated beyond words with you and longing to collaborate in what comes next for you. God is so invested in you that He put His own breath in you, molded you in His image, and stood back and said that you are "good."
God was dreaming about you before you ever showed up. When the attraction and rhythm and motion of your parents' union was complete, God was there providing the spark of life that has become you. You're supposed to be here. It's a good thing that you are, because there's a lot riding on it.
God didn't just stop with the gift of life, though. How could He? When you've fallen in love with someone, everything, everywhere reminds you of that person. You can hardly walk down the vegetable aisle in the grocery store without wanting to buy them a ripe red tomato or a head of broccoli just to show them you can't get them off your mind. God has heaped gifts on you that are beyond extravagant.
You've been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to tell you the truth. You have the gift of the Holy Scriptures to guide your every step and decision. You have the gift of a gorgeous, lavish, exquisite planet to live on. You've been given the gift of companionship. You may have the gift of precious children. You've been given the gift of an existence that will never, ever end. You have the gift of God's own Son. And that's barely scratching the surface of the generosity that God has bestowed on you.
Think about ears. What a gift! Without them you hear no music. No soft lullabies, no tender word from a friend's lips, no ecstasy of a lover. And what about the mountains? Oh, their beauty as the sun dips toward the horizon and engulfs the snow-capped peaks with fire, dancing and crying out worship beyond words! And think of eternity. A span of time that cannot be described by time at all. A never ending. A forever that insists and persists, promising discoveries that cannot even be imagined. A bottomless, topless, naked expanse waiting to be filled with the radiance of every experience we will ever have. And this has been placed in your heart.
Then there's love and water and green and coffee and toes and paint and sex and water lilies and chocolate and skin and dogs and motor oil and vitamin B and the smell of a newborn baby and rain and London and almonds and silk and bread and wine and the endless, endless cup of salvation. Gifts that are so extravagant and so endless that they can't possibly all be named. And they are all for you. You are beyond precious. You are beyond cared for. God has loved you well.
Maybe hearing this is like a cool sip of water when all you've been doing lately is swallowing sand. Maybe it's the other way around because you can't find any sign in your life that this could possibly be true no matter what the Bible or anyone else might say. That's okay too. No matter where you're going, you arrive by putting one foot in front of the other.
And right now, maybe one page after the other is just as important.
So if all of this is true, why do you feel so empty inside? Why the struggle with anger? With depression? Why does every day feel the same? Or why does what is true feel as if it's not true at all?
There's a hunger that never quite goes away, right? An itch that doesn't quite get scratched. Life isn't working quite as it's supposed to, especially if we're supposed to be loved by God.
We think we know a lot about many things, including God. And we've created a box or a frame for this knowledge because it gives us some sort of context to explain what is unexplainable. But what if all that knowledge won't fit in the box? What if we get a bigger box and it still won't fit? What if all that we think we know has been forced into the wrong frame? We can keep looking at the picture, knowing there is something off about it, or we can take it down from the wall and reframe it.
We need to rethink what we know about God and how we relate to Him. Then perhaps we can reframe the relationship. Maybe we can give it something a little roomier. Possibly a bigger frame for our understanding of God will mean a bigger life for us. Probably if we get just a glimpse, just a taste of what's really going on, we're going to be fed up with the narrative that's been passing for our life. It won't be enough. You probably already know this. It's been the problem all along, hasn't it? You'll want to restart your story. A new story that feels like you. One that fits you.
And that's where we start.
GOD'S RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU
So if life is such an extravagant gift, what are you supposed to do with it? As believers, we filter this question through the lens of a relationship with God.
If I were to ask you how you know you're in a relationship with God, what would your answer be? Is it because of a prayer you spoke or portions of Scripture that you've read? Is it because you're around a lot of people who seem to be in such a relationship, or a feeling that you have inside or a theological formula you're following? Does God want to be in a relationship with you? How do you know this? Does God know who you are?
As you begin to consider these questions, slow down a bit. Ponder your answers. Be deliberate. This is very important. These questions will begin to uncover what you think you know about God and your heart's posture toward that knowledge.
"A relationship with God" or "a personal relationship with Jesus" are phrases that have become almost cliché over the years. It's shorthand for saying we are "believers." But can we be believers and not have a relationship with God? In his letter to Hebrew believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire, James said, "You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror" (James 2:19, NLT).
Most of us would say that we want a "growing relationship with God," but has this become just another of the clichés? What do we mean when we say this? Growing or deepening any other relationship involves both people. So what does that look like with God? What is it He wants from us? And how do we know for certain that we're in such a relationship? These are the things we're going to explore together. But I have to tell you, our conclusions may be different than you think. And it's going to take the fearlessness to really look at yourself.
At the beginning of this story where it's all about you and the God who loves you, we have to agree to be honest. A frank conversation can bring some of the most valuable and treasured guidance for life — and we never forget it. So I'd like to have an honest discussion. No more of these conversations where we dance around what we're really trying to say.
I had a discussion recently with a man who is greatly concerned for a friend who is obese, diabetic, and consumed by and with food. The reality is that if change doesn't happen, the friend will likely die young, leaving behind people who love him and an incomplete story filled with what could have been. The man was considering how to broach the subject with his friend. It's a tough call, isn't it?
Most of the time, what we're willing to say is very subtle. We don't want to step into someone's space and create confrontation. We don't like to question individuality or freedoms. And in most cases this is healthy. At a minimum, a person who lives his or her life giving endless advice lacks the understanding of nuance. People have their own stories and reasons for the things they do. It's wise to be cautious about touching the tender parts of another person's life.
I thought a lot about my conversation with the concerned man. In that situation, it would be easy enough for him to soothe his conscience by saying, "Boy, white flour and processed sugar are really bad. They are actually the leading cause of a lot of disease." It's much harder to look someone in the eyes and say, "You're going to die if you don't change."
Don't worry. I'm not going to tell you that. But you might end up telling yourself. It's your life. It's all about you. How you live your life, how you flesh it out, is your story to tell. All the twists and turns, all the drama and intrigue and the thousands of tiny and bulky choices of each day are yours to make. You decide whether to eat the moist, creamy chocolate cake or stay focused on your fitness goals. You decide whether to drink too much and go to bed with a stranger. And when you wake up and step on the scale, you get the result of your choice one way or the other. If you yawn and roll over to find someone you don't know, well, you get the shock of your own choice.
All these little decisions become your life. You get to write the chapters with your days. You get to interact with the drama and tension that comes your way. And eventually you may come to a point where you realize you don't even like your story anymore. But what happens if you decide that with the remainder of your time, you're going to live a brand-new story? One that is not a solitary endeavor but rather a collaborative one with a God who is desperate for the opportunity to be a part of it. This new story can be a gift back to God. A page-turner that He can't put down. He gave you life, and you can give life back to Him. This is love. The give-and-take. The-send-and-receive. The back-and-forth of an alive and breathing relationship.
So this is what we need to agree on before we go any further: No one can make a change for you. It's all about you and it's all about what you do next.
Let's go on an adventure together.
Excerpted from Reframe by Brian Hardin. Copyright © 2015 Brian Hardin. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.