#016: Dismantling the Fig Leaf (Part One of Two) [PODCAST]

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I’ve lost the ability to bullshit. It’s the me I’ve always wanted to be.

It’s one of my all-time favorite film quotes, spoken by Jerry Maguire as he sheds the Poser and becomes more and more the kind of man to whom God can entrust His kingdom. The film is a modern parable of a transformational process being made available to us every day. Of the men I’ve encountered, few have become the kind of man who embodies these words more than Reese Bricken.

Join us in part one of a two-part dialogue where we risk putting words and questions to what we often feel but rarely talk about, exploring together what it means to keep company with the living God and learn to live freely and lightly.

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Make a movie night out of Jerry Maguire to see what shedding the Poser might look like.

For more on the True Self as considered in this podcast, check out The New Name – Going Deeper.

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The Kingdom of God is Like a Bicycle

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“And his strength left him.” Judges 16:9

The seizure was shocking enough. My youngest brother, known by us all as Lucky Lance, was the luckiest one of us all, at least up until then. He had the great hair while the rest of us brothers went prematurely bald; he had the beautiful wife, the six-figure income from work he loved, and an inviting, easy-going nature that refreshed everyone he met. His great looks and irresistible smile won him the name “eye candy” among the older ladies at his office. With a perpetual light in his eyes, he was always laughing and making others laugh. He was indeed the joy-center of our family.

It was a sudden seizure that changed everything.

When he was rushed into emergency surgery shortly after to remove a massive brain tumor, we were shocked, but clung to a deep belief that this horrific specter would somehow vanish. Lucky Lance, the master fly-fisherman, would surely be back, waist deep in a mountain stream, his eyes sparkling playfully, cracking a sly joke about the close call; and all would be well again.

Huddled in an awkwardly small and sterile family waiting room, we (Lance’s wife, his sister, two brothers—me included—and our mom and dad) did our best to mitigate the foreboding and pass the time, praying ceaselessly and hoping for the best.

Then came the neurosurgeon to give us a mid-procedure update on Lance’s condition.

I could see his lips moving, but the words registered with a strange delay, like the shockwave of a roadside bomb you never saw but sends you hurtling, silently and in slow motion, into the sky:

It’s worse than we thought.

He may never talk again.

He may not know who you are.

He has one year to live.  

I’m sorry.

It was at the moment of the surgeon’s brief report that I literally watched the strength pour out of my dad. He slumped into his chair, exhaling what remained of his breath.

That was five years ago, and until this week, he had yet to gain it back.

It’s been brutal to watch my dad’s quiet long-suffering. The brokenheartedness of losing his son—first overnight as he had been prior to the surgery, and then losing him a second time 18 months later as he was post-surgery, golden-hearted and yet physically and cognitively compromised—manifested in my dad’s body with tremendous physical affliction. Chronic nerve pain developed in his hands and feet, leading to chronic sleeplessness, which further sapped him not only of his strength, but also of his desire and ability to do the things he used to love, especially biking and running.

But something happened today, something inexplicable.

An invasion.

Of Good.

Today we witnessed on earth as it is in heaven.

And it came through a bike.

Not just any bike. A Specialized Turbo X. The latest revolution in technology offering a pedal assist, giving access to adventures and challenges that just yesterday were out of the question. More importantly, it was a gift personally orchestrated for my dad by a good, good Father in Heaven through the hands and heart of His people.

A few weeks prior, I’d put a call in to my friend, Gil, leader of the team at Wheat Ridge Cyclery and a sage in the Kingdom, merely for brotherly advice before I pulled the trigger on a big purchase. Gil listened, then lovingly put together a way better solution than I had come up with to outfit my dad with hope on wheels.

He rattled off a list of what he and his shop could put together, offering a sacrificially generous price, and said,

Let’s do it.

I was knocked off my center. Such unlooked-for love, sacrifice, and heroism, all on an ordinary Tuesday morning.

Gil simply said in response to my awe,

Let’s get your dad riding again. It’s what we do.

I could feel Heaven behind His words. “It’s what we do.” It’s what God does, restoring His people, binding up broken hearts, renewing strength. But He has chosen to do it mostly through willing, yielded, rare Kingdom people like Gil who, deep in their being, have given consent to God for His Kingdom to move through them.

By God’s grace, the bike arrived at my parents’ house on the final day of mail delivery during our Thanksgiving visit with my family in Pittsburgh.

Eagerly, I opened the box, assembled the bike, and dialed it in, then waited for my dad’s return around noon for a lunch break during his work day. When he pulled into the driveway, eight of us were in the front yard, playing a game of touch football. I ran to the garage, retrieved the bike, and wheeled it up to my dad. Instantly the horde of grandkids and adult kids were swarming around him and his new pedal assist Turbo X. Without hesitation, he jumped on it, disregarding his dress pants and pressed shirt under his big down jacket, and instantly soared up the driveway.

Then he laughed.

I’ll never forget that laugh. Effortlessly turning left at the top of the driveway onto a busy street, he shouted over his shoulder to us, his smile dazzling, “I’ve been born again!”

And just like that, he vanished beyond the bend for his test ride.

I thought surely he’d be back in minute or two. When 10 minutes passed with no sight of him, I began to wonder what had happened. Instantly I thought, “I sure hope he didn’t wrap that thing around a tree on his maiden voyage.”  Then it dawned on me…What if he had? What a great way and great moment to cross over into Eternity.

But return he did. And so did the ageless smile that had long been lost, as he exclaimed, “I rode straight up to the top of Falconhurst!” He hadn’t done that in 25 years.

The astonishing renewal continued.

We rode every day of the rest of our visit. The second day, we headed to a nearby park with paved hills as well as wooded slopes that boasted lots of single track. I was committed to staying on the roads—my dad is in his 70s to begin with, not to mention the physical and emotional afflictions of the previous five years; I surely didn’t want to push the envelope on a good thing. (Can you hear my playing it safe? Good grief.) Three times, my dad suggested we drop off into the single track and grab some dirt. Three times, I benevolently declined. He was already out ahead of me and his grandkids; try as we might, we couldn’t catch him on the Turbo X with the pedal assist.

Then, on a final climb even as he rocketed up the paved hill, he abruptly turned right and ducked onto the single track! Dismissing my reservation (thank God), my dad went for it—no permission needed. Laughing and wiping tears away, I wondrously followed him onto the single track, a gaggle of grandkids following me.

My dad led us that afternoon, trail after trail through that hardwood forest of western Pennsylvania in the long light of the late afternoon winter day.

And during those hours, we wanted for nothing. Nothing but more of this. More of God.

Of God with us. Of God among us.

My dad was young again. Fear and despair had melted off him; he was becoming younger and stronger with every pedal stroke. As quickly as I’d seen his strength leave him five years before, I was witnessing the miracle of its return. Tears pour out as I remember and write this now. The Kingdom of God came to us. A rescue. An intervention. If there was ever an incarnation…this was it. Our Liberating King had invaded this world by hiding himself in a bicycle.

What is the Kingdom of God like?

Even Jesus inverts the question. Or better said, He offers a response that is bigger and better than an answer. To the ache and longing in our desire to understand the Kingdom, He responds by offering us stories and mythic pictures of true spiritual reality.

The Kingdom of God is like

a man who sowed good seed in his field. (Matthew 13:24)

The Kingdom of God is like

a mustard seed—the least of all seeds, which grows to surpass all others. (Matthew 13:31)

The Kingdom of God is like

yeast worked into fresh dough. (Matthew 13:44)

The Kingdom of God is like

treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and then hid; compelled by joy, he sold all he had in order to buy that field and secure the treasure. (Matthew 13:44)

The Kingdom of God is like

a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, and when he had found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

The Kingdom of God is like

a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind. (Matthew 13:47)

The Kingdom of God is so rich and so real it eludes our ability to contain it with words.

But when it comes, we recognize it and it enthralls us. More than anything has ever enthralled us before.

Today, I witnessed it with my own eyes.

The answer to what I want more than my ability to even name it. I experienced the Kingdom Among Us.

C. S. Lewis says it so well:

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often, I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.

Experiencing the Kingdom enveloping us today took me back to the brilliant movie The Shawshank Redemption. It is the story of a man, Andy Dufresne, who is wrongly accused of a horrific crime and spends years imprisoned in Shawshank.

One day, many years into his sentence, Andy cunningly hijacks the warden’s office in a heroic act of defiance in order to play over the loudspeaker a recording of a gorgeous Italian Opera. Of the moment the magnificent music floated over the entire prison, Andy’s friend, Red, observes,

I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

The Kingdom of God is like

an Italian song so beautiful that it sets every captive free.

And the Kingdom of God is like

a bicycle bestowed upon a tired and weary man.

Who rode it.

And in riding, became young again—strong, alive, and free.

And for the briefest of moments, as first fruits of what will one day come in full, that bike did for each of us what it did for him.

We were all free.

 

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A Real Gift

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In this season of giving, there may be no more meaningful gift that you can give than the gift of yourself.  

Wholehearted. Present.  Alive.

Let’s face it: the world is chaos.  One holiday trip through Walmart on Black Friday will score you a TV for 80 percent off, a black eye, and an even more cynical view of humanity.

But the Kingdom of God is different.

It is ever fresh, inexhaustibly good. It is peaceful, rooted and established in love.  And it penetrates. It penetrates even the most fallen of places in the world and, if we let it, in us.

The energy of the Kingdom is God’s love chasing after us. All the way. All the time. It’s not in a hurry.  It’s rich, abundant, generous. And it is available. Here.  Now. Right in your story.

And it is activated through our consent. Moment by moment.

Jesus is always extending to you and to me a personal and sincere invitation to learn from Him how to lead our lives in the Kingdom of God as He would if He were us, leading our lives. (See The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, chapter 8.) He is inviting us to learn from Him complete reliance upon the magnificent Father (John 5:19)—His kindness, vastness, generosity, beauty, and potency—and to draw our lives from the endlessly creative Life of the Trinity.

Our wholehearted elder Brother has offered us a full ride to His master course in Kingdom Living. Call to mind the most brilliant and effective teacher you know: Jesus is more. He is the most competent and engaging teacher of all time.

The day will come when the Kingdom of God will have penetrated each of us inextricably (1 John 3:1-2), as inextricably as yeast mixed in with flour (Matthew 13:33). In the meantime, we have being made available to us the radical joy of interacting with our most helpful Teacher every day as He conspires to bring the life as it was meant to be in full, both in us and through us.

This interactive course in Kingdom living is available, even today. And showing up for it comes significantly through simple steps of daily soul-care directed at reconnecting us with the ever-replenishing life of God.

So here’s the question:

What would it take for you to grow in Kingdom Living today? What action steps could you take to become even more the kind of person who is connected to God and, from that union, fully present to your family and to a few good friends this holiday season?

Maybe the path is counterintuitive.  Maybe the best way to have more to give is to choose to take some time for your own heart.  To receive the lavish love of the Father.  To take Him up on His invitation to a shared life of adventure, rest, honest work, and maybe even some play.

What would that look like for you?

Confession: I devour books. And when I’m done, I go back and gnaw on them like a dog on a bone.

For me, making it a priority to sit by the fire in the early morning or after the kids go to bed and gnaw on a really good book is one of the most effective ways for me to reorient my soul from the chaos of this world to the Kingdom Among Us.

In the Become Good Soil blog, I do my best to make regular book recommendations that I hope might nourish you as a man—body, soul, and spirit.

You can find many of those recommendations in the Books section of the Dig Deeper link on this blog.

Of the many books I’ve been gnawing on in 2015, I wanted to pass along a handful of new recommendations.  Each of these is significantly strengthening, sharpening, and helping me to become more whole, strong, and true.

Pick one up for yourself.  If you want to bring some Kingdom Mojo into the life of someone you love, pass some of these along. You won’t regret it.

And if your curiosity is piqued and you want to consider more about the most prized Christmas gift you could give this year, go in deeper here:

Deeper Magic

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give

So here they are, for your heart and the hearts of those you love, a few of my top suggestions from 2015:

Adventure & History

Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

In the vast sea of humanity there forms, in rare moments, a team of men, a band of brothers, whose lives become so extraordinary that they have the divine effect of drawing us all into a story greater than ourselves.

Daniel James Brown’s Boys in the Boat is a gripping tale of tragedy and triumph. It opens on the eve of World War II and is a Polaroid snapshot of that extraordinary time in our world’s history. This book reminds us that God is deeply at work in the personal fabric of our lives.  Out of the goodness of His heart, He authors a story that perennially invites us to risk, dream, and dare to live and become that which others believe is impossible.

Nine ordinary, working-class men formed Washington’s 1936 varsity crew team and became legends by saying yes to the same invitation that beckons us today.


Wholehearted Integration of the Human Person

A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer did it again.  My awe of this man started with my initial reading of Let Your Life Speak.  Palmer articulates a thorough and thoughtful understanding of the restoration of the true self.  As I’ve learned more of his story, I’ve come to appreciate what gives him such a keen ability and heart to do so.  He masterfully helps us recover the path to an undivided life. Coming from a significantly different lineage from many contemporary believers (he’s a Quaker pacifist, for heaven’s sake…saying I’m not a pacifist is like saying the Pope doesn’t date much), he brings a perspective that, with a bit of humility, can do wonders for restoring the heart and strength of men, even, ironically, as warriors…


History, Brotherhood & Battle

Beyond Band of Brothers by Dick Winters

In the movie Fury, a Sherman tank commander says, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” While Hollywood brings us stories in living color, there is nothing like hearing the story from the man himself.  Dick Winters was one of the greatest heroes of WWII.  His heroism was exercised not from the top (alongside the likes of Churchill, Eisenhower, Roosevelt), but from within. He was an infantry man, a paratrooper… one of the few American soldiers to have his military career fully overlap both the creation and dissolution of Easy Company 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. For such a time as this, indeed.  Dick Winters became a giant—an ordinary man who chose to say yes. Yes to God. Yes to his men. Yes to an extraordinary mission. He is a living legend. One of the last of his era still walking this earth.  Stephen Ambrose shared much in Band of Brothers. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg followed up with the powerful 10-part documentary series of the same name. But in many ways, Beyond Band of Brothers is the most powerful because it tells the the untold story, told by the man who led his paratroopers through intense training, a debacle of a first jump into Normandy with nothing but a boot knife (all of the paratrooper leg bags with all weapons and ammo were ripped off in the jump by excess prop blast).  He led his men from Normandy, through the hell of Bastogne, all the way to the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s private mountain house.  To understand our future we must learn from our past.  Sitting at the feet of Dick Winters would do all of us well.


Spiritual Formation

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Though a self-educated and humble pastor in Chicago in the early and mid-1900s,  Tozer will be read for centuries alongside the great classic works of Lewis, Chesterton, and MacDonald.  He cuts through religious bullshit and helps us recover once again both the path and the possibility of a life lived in and with God.  Samuel Zwener suggests in the introduction, “Here is a masterly study of the inner life by a heart thirsting after God.”  Gnaw on this and it’ll rock your world.


Getting Naked and Becoming Whole

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

I believe that history will prove Brené Brown to be one of the great heroes of our age who helped thousands recover a core part of the Gospel and the path to becoming fully human. The world’s most formative researcher on shame and vulnerability, Brené began with her inaugural work on shame, I Thought it Was Just Me. She continued with the matchless The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.  But her latest work in some ways holds the keys to an even bigger slice of the Kingdom as she shares more candidly from her own story than ever before. Through her “reckoning” and “rumbling” with her own story, she unlocks many golden Truths that can help us love well and love deeply as we invite God to restore our true selves.  This is a great one to share with your spouse as well.


Story

Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard

Story is the language of the heart.  We live in narrative, and if we are ever to understand life, we must embrace it as story.  As Dan Allender says, Take seriously the story that God has given you to live. It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze. Brendon Burchard has composed a modern day parable to understand the journey of the heart and the paradox, mystery, and possibility of restoration. The ending is worth every page of this book.


History and the Way of a Warrior

Indian Boyhood by Charles A Eastman (Ohiyesa)

It’s been said that history is told by the victors.  Because of this, it is a treasure to glimpse the culture and story of people groups whose civilization largely did not prevail.  Ohiyesa is that truth-teller for the American Indian.  Born a Sioux warrior, he was raised in the last generation of Indians with the freedom to hunt and live in with wild expanse of America’s West.  Through a wild and arguably very unfortunate change of circumstances, he found himself completely removed from the Indian ways and fully submitted to the white man’s world and its systems of education, law, and living.  He spent his adult years fighting a losing battle for the rights of his people against the westward expansion of white settlers.  Ohiyesa, who took the name Charles A. Eastman in his later years, provides a window into the actual life of a Sioux warrior in a way that a removed historian could never do.  As a father to a son, and as a modern man with a deep and growing appreciation for the ways of the premodern age, this book holds treasures for the initiation of our sons that aren’t readily found in modern writing.  It’s worth a read, if only to remember that it was just a moment ago that we lived off the land, and there was a life that worked quite well and had much dignity before the age of technology and progress.


Receiving God as Father

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

There’s much written and considered about the younger son in Jesus’ famous parable of the Prodigal Son.  Yet so very little is told of the life, heart, and implications of the elder son.  With riveting perspective, Keller illuminates the Kingdom story not only of the younger brother, but of the elder one as well.  His writing takes a wild twist to open the possibility of the True Elder Brother in our Jesus and new possibilities for us as sons beyond what we could have hoped for.  If you take seriously the radical invitation to become a son, this book holds essential keys to the recovery of this lifesaving and life-transforming identity for us all.


In this season of giving, give your family the greatest gift you have: YOU.  Give them more of you.  Wholehearted. Present and true.

Consent to the Father to light your fire—to fan into flames, as Paul suggests, the treasure of God and His Kingdom.  Maybe then it will be said of you as it was said of Tozer and other great lovers of God in the past: that others might light their candle at your flame.

More Book Recommendations

Deeper Magic

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give

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Now Accepting Applications – 2016 Become Good Soil Intensive

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Ready to go deeper?

We are now accepting applications for the 2016 Become Good Soil Intensive.

Click here for details on the event and to find out how to apply.

Click here for an introduction to the message of Become Good Soil and to find out more.

Here’s what one alumni said about the Intensive:

Wild at Heart Advanced Boot Camp gave me a deeper understanding of my internal and external world and began to equip me to hear and walk with God more intimately.

Wild at Heart Advanced Boot Camp is glorious and deep.

And then there is the Become Good Soil Intensive.

This is a whole different animal.

For the young man who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good and is inclined to believe that he will not be satisfied with anything less than the narrow pilgrim way, this is the wake-up call. This is where young men, created for high Kingdom purposes, can be snatched from the fast current of worldliness before being taken over the falls. All men can be rescued and healed up after the tumble, but how much better to exit the floodwaters before being dashed on the rocks? “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Many a good man has been killed simply following his good intentions. BGS Intensive is RH’s way of standing at the fork in the road where young men must choose which master they will serve. Intensive is an “in-your-face” invitation to live a life such as has been lived by very few men in world history. Morgan Snyder, with his closest kings and allies, deftly leads a journey to rediscover and celebrate the ancient path, a path Morgan and his allies personally run, walk, crawl, or bike on daily. It is an invitation such as was given to the rich young ruler: “One thing you lack. Go back and sell all that you own and come be My disciple.” The BGS Intensive’s content can be a hard pill to swallow, but the Father’s invitation is as clear and powerful as the ocean, whose waves are begging to be ridden by those with the brass to do it. It is God’s invitation to launch all on Him and trust you will end up on the shore again, alive, but not without bruises and blood.

God came for me, as a Father, as a Counselor, and as a King through the Intensive. If I apply what God revealed to me over these four holy days, there is not a field in my life that will not bear fruit, and mine will be a life that cannot be understood by the world, but also cannot be ignored. I am convinced this is possible…IF I will choose the narrow way, more clearly illuminated by the Become Good Soil Intensive than anything I have ever experienced before.  –Jay

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Laying Roof Shingles in a G-string

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Disclaimer: BecomeGoodSoil.com is a blog written for men who are choosing a decade of excavation.  My motive is to write with integrity and love to this group of men uniquely.  If that’s not you, I welcome you to enjoy, drink deeply, and invite God to bring nourishment to your heart. But be mindful that some of the topics, language, etc., might not sit well with you; in fact, they might be offensive.  I trust you and your walk with God to sort that all out.

Let’s face it: Our culture is fixated on the boobies.

Okay, it’s nothing new. From petroglyphs and neolithic pictures to the art of the Renaissance and the paintings of the 20th century, you don’t have to look far to see the perennial celebration of women’s breasts.

But is it just me, or is the incessant focus on boobs growing (no pun intended)?

Look no further than recent trends in plastic surgery:

The annual number of surgical breast augmentations has tripled in less than a decade. (1)

Similarly, the number of breast lifts performed annually has increased by 70 percent in slightly more than a decade. (2)

Our culture’s devotion to breasts expresses itself in different ways. What other kind of cancer has most major league sports dedicating uniforms, schwag, and weeks of screen time to the hot pink of breast cancer awareness?  I haven’t seen an NFL team lately wearing dark blue ribbons supporting the end of colon cancer. Colon cancer kills 67 percent more women than breast cancer, yet only 5 percent of the resources are spent on awareness-building, compared to campaigns to save the boobies… (4)  Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any “Save the Assholes” t-shirts during the Bronco games.  Or maybe an even better one:

“Don’t be an asshole—save one!”

And of course we see our responsiveness to the female breast abounding in marketing. Let’s face it: boobs sell stuff. You can slap a set of boobs on anything and it sells more.

Literally today I went to the mailbox and found a set of coupons featuring mostly very robust sets of breasts selling everything from new vehicles to real estate to roofing services.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of the last time I saw a woman in a G-string laying down roof shingles in the summer heat of our suburban neighborhood.

And it’s not just men.

It seems women are equally engrossed in the idea of the perfect robust breasts. Additionally, the fascination among women on bigger, better, perkier boobs often seems to target the perception of other women as much as augment their attractiveness in the eyes of men.

Is our attraction to bounteous, brimming cleavage merely superficial, merely the objectification of women in a misogynistic culture? Surely not. I’d guess that most of us interpret our enthrallment, however crookedly we express it, as rooted in the depths of our sexuality and the pleasure and transcendence of romantic love. Were we to peel back the layers, surely we would find in the hearts of men the sacred reaching to experience Eve’s beauty inspiring our heroic strength on behalf of love and intimacy.

But what if there is an even deeper Reality at play as well, a reaching perhaps even more fundamental?

What if the ache and longing hidden in this reality is a reaching for mother?

Okay. I know some of you might have just gagged, but stay with me for a moment.

Consider the following paragraph written by Diane Ackerman and quoted in the book Sabbath by Dan Allender:

But for a baby in the womb, the mother’s heartbeat performs the ultimate cradlesong of peace and plenty; the surf-like waves of her respiration lull and soothe. The womb is a snug, familiar landscape, an envelope of rhythmic warmth, and the mother’s heartbeat a steady clarion of safety. 

Dan goes on to connect our experience in the womb with what might be available in our relationship with God:

I don’t recall being in the womb, but I have never considered the peace of that home as deeply and richly until I read (Ackerman’s) sea-rhythm, heart-cadence, warm-lullaby words. I am mesmerized by the question: ‘Is that what I felt?’ I cannot know, but I can say that I want what Ackerman pens to be an experience of being so near to God that I can hear the cradlesong of God’s heart, the lapping resonance of her breathing, and the holding ground of her skin surrounding me in divine safety and warmth.  To disparage sensuousness is to stand at arm’s length from the incarnation, allowing it to be objective and abstract. 

Perhaps the oneness, pleasure, and satiation of the womb wasn’t meant to stop suddenly at birth.  What if the wonder of lactation and nursing continued to provide total sufficiency and nourishing pleasure?

And in nursing, a mother offers more than food. She offers perfect nourishment in the context of proximity, warmth, pleasure, and rest. Being at the breast was meant to be a saving experience, filling us like a river overflowing its banks and providing such restful, nourishing pleasure that we receive bodily this revelation of the nature of a God-centered reality: all is deeply and securely well.

Calling out for Mother

In her book Becoming Myself, Stasi Eldredge suggests this:

There is a word called out more than any other on the great battlefields of history. When the fighting is done and the soldiers lay on the fields dying, one word is universally called out.  Mother.

“I heard somewhere,” Jeff said, “that soldiers dying on the battlefield cry out for their mothers. People walking through the carnage at Normandy heard grown men calling out ‘Mommy!'” He shook his head. “Calling not for their girlfriends or wives, but for their mothers.”

Decades later, Normandy survivors attest to still hearing such cries. As emotional D-Day veteran Frank Devito noted in a 2014 interview with Tom Brokaw commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion,

“You know there’s a fallacy that people believe about when a man is dying. They don’t ask for God. The last word they say before they die is ‘Momma.’”(5)

What if this deep, soulful reach for mother is also a reaching for God—as Mother? What if God intends not only to father us, but to mother us as well?

A father was meant to bestow identity and validation, to answer that deep question, “Do I have what it takes?” Our father’s “yes” was meant to help us know who we are and to have the confidence that we have what it takes. In turn, that allows us to risk on behalf of love. The love and validation of a father assures us that we are the real deal.

Yet a mother bestows something even more requisite, for she bestows the essential foundation upon which such identity and validation can land.

A mother bestows self-worth.

And she bestows pleasure and wellness.

She is intended to answer the question more resoundingly than any other voice:

You are worthy of love and belonging simply because you exist.

Her love, beauty, strength, and tenderness are meant to communicate, “You will be cared for and nourished joyfully until you gain such robust well-being that streams of living water pour out from you in every direction.”

Together, the masculine and feminine were intended to confide the inexpressible: a gender-full God who is more than we could ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3).

Consider El Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names of God that first appears in Genesis 17:1 in the context of God’s self-revelation to Abram.

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, GOD showed up and said to him, “I am El Shaddai; live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family” (Genesis 17:1, MSG).

Though the name “El Shaddai” most often appears in our English translations as Almighty God, many translators suggest a more accurate translation would be “The All-Sufficient One” or, literally, “The Breasted One,” stemming from the Hebrew word “shad” which is invariably used in Scripture to mean breast. In fact, commentator and scholar Cyrus Scofield describes the mis-rendering of this name for God as truly “regrettable.” In substituting the name “Almighty God” for “The Breasted One,”  we lose the deep significance of God revealing Himself as the Source of the pleasure, security, rest, peace, and nourishment that robust femininity was meant to provide. Scofield goes on to say, “As a fretful, unsatisfied babe is not only strengthened and nourished from the mother’s breast, but also is quieted, rested, satisfied, so El Shaddai is that name of God which sets Him forth as the Strength-giver and Satisfier of His people.”

The very same Hebrew name for God appears again in Psalm 91 as King David beckons us to find refuge tucked safely at the breast of God.

Then, at the close of Isaiah, we catch a glimpse of the vigorous well-being that is the fruit of God’s mothering His people through His redemptive work. Here Isaiah describes both the maternal qualities of Jerusalem, a picture of redeemed humanity, and of God Himself. To the people of God, Isaiah writes:

You newborns can satisfy yourselves

    at her nurturing breasts.

Yes, delight yourselves and drink your fill

    at her ample bosom.

I’ll pour robust well-being into her like a river,

    the glory of nations like a river in flood.

You’ll nurse at her breasts,

    nestle in her bosom,

    and be bounced on her knees.

As a mother comforts her child,

    so I’ll comfort you.

    You will be comforted in Jerusalem.

                                          (Isaiah 66: 11-13, MSG)

Even as we bask in such images of delight and proximity and overflowing nourishment, we might ask what would be the result of this kind of generous and ample mothering? In the subsequent verse, Isaiah gives us a glimpse:

Then you will burst for joy and feel ten feet tall (Isaiah 66:14).

What would that be like?

What would it look like for you to burst with joy and feel 10 feet tall?

What would it look like to invite God to mother you?  To cultivate an intimate heart knowledge of God as mother?  To receive the overflowing abundance of her life until you are fully satisfied?

Here’s one reason why this is so important for us to grasp:

We simply cannot be fully integrated as humans until we have invited God’s mothering of the orphaned, malnourished, and disquieted places in our soul.

Few men ever come to know what it is to have been mothered in the ways our souls were intended.  And the impact is devastating.  It wreaks havoc in many of our relationships, but most significantly in our relationships with God and with the women we long to pursue.

What have you done with the category of mother?

What is your story as it relates to being comforted and nourished? What have you known or not known of being provided a warm, safe place where you are fully protected, fully accepted, and fully satisfied? Where have you known what it is to be loved and cherished because of the simple fact that you exist?

What was the answer to your soul as a little boy: Will I have enough?

Where have you taken the ache and longing for relief and comfort?  To feel fully satisfied?

What have you attached it to? Where have you killed it, medicated it, or fed it with something that won’t produce life?

How deeply does your soul believe you are worthy of love and belonging?

Hidden in our desire for such satiation and nourishing pleasure is the proof that we come from a people who are made for it and the guarantee that there must be a holy and glorious way to find its fulfillment.

I believe it was GK Chesterton who once said,

Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.

What if the reaching of women to have great boobs is actually a reach to feel that they are truly life givers—and to inhabit a body that could provide life-giving, life-saving nourishment to the world?

What if the reaching of men for the perfect breast is a mythic reach for the nourishing, pleasuring, all-sufficient provision of God?

If God were offering to mother you in ways beyond your wildest dreams and exceeding your secret hopes, would you take Him up on the offer?


Have the desire and courage to explore this deeper?


References:

(1) http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/health-info/facts-about-breast-implants/

(2) http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/breast-lift.html

http://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/2014/stats-show-breast-lifts-outpacing-breast-implants.html

(3) https://www.pacificheightsplasticsurgery.com/breast-implant-statistics/

(4) https://www.charitywatch.org/charitywatch-articles/cancer-charities-need-dose-of-organizational-chemotherapy/8

(5)  http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/05/10/a-young-warriors-last-thought-is-for-mother/

#015: Getting Naked – Styles of Relating (Part 2 of 2) [Podcast]

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It was Dallas Willard, in The Divine Conspiracy, who suggested,

Jesus’ enduring relevance is based on his historically proven ability to speak, to heal, and empower the individual human condition. He matters because of what He brought and what He still brings to ORDINARY human beings, living ordinary lives and coping in their daily surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weakness He gives us strength and imparts through His companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.

In this second podcast of a two-part series on the Predominant Styles of Relating, we begin by taking a deeper look at how Jesus moves fluidly with both authority and love in all three styles, not out of habitual reaction but rather divine response.  We then move straight into honest application as Alex, JD, and I host a raw dialogue that is both painful and hopeful.

If you haven’t yet listened to Part One, start there.

Both podcast reference exercises. Click here to access those.

Take the time. Do the work.  It’ll bring more and more life for you and those you love.

Jesus, I long to have a life that, like Yours, cultivates a “quality of eternity.” I ask that You would increase my awareness of what it is like to relate to me.  What is my effect on people?  What is my impact?  What are You revealing?  I am asking for Your supernatural revelation and insight. I give You permission and access. Lead me into the deep waters. I want more. Amen.

 

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