A good friend of mine has dedicated her career to prostate cancer research primarily through studies involving mice. A while back she showed me a few images from her work. These get a little technical, but hang with me: there is a big idea here that I want to convey.
This particular study is an effort to look at the relationship between prostatic ducts and lower urinary tract symptoms.
The following is a 2D image:
These are images of the same prostate and ducts but from a three dimensional perspective:
When I saw these, I could sense the Holy Spirit say “pay attention.” Notice the contrast between the images of the very same thing: both are “true,” the former image is just much more limited in scope than the latter images.
Months later, the Holy Spirit brought those images back to my heart and interpreted their significance for my spiritual life.
He gently revealed that I have a “two-dimensional” image of God and have chosen to relate to Him on that level. While my 2D view and understanding of Him is helpful, it is painfully limited and therefore crippling if I mistakenly believe it is “comprehensive”, as is the case with most all of us.
In reality, God is a “three-dimensional” Being (infintely-dimensonal really, as I recall A.W. Tozier reminding us that God is a person. He thinks and feels deeply). The invitation is to relate to God with the totality and fullness of Who He Is.
The invitation of the Gospel is to have a personal and intimate relationship with a “three-dimensional” and limitless God. But each of us must contend with our limited image and style of relating to the two-dimensional image we have created of Him.
It is this 2D image of God that among other things expresses limits we have placed on who God is and what He can do in our life. I believe this limited view of God is one of the primary obstacles to our hearts coming fully alive.
For quite a while now I have been repenting of my 2D image of God and breaking agreements with the limits I have put on who He is and what He can do in my life. And it is revolutionizing my faith and my relationships.
By way of example. The Holy Spirit was more of a theological idea than a practical living truth in my Christian life. Just over a year ago, I felt a growing conviction that I did not have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. In time, I discovered that it was rooted in the limits I placed with who the Holy Spirit could be and what the Holy Spirit could do in my life. Those limits blocked the life of the Spirit in my life and blinded me from seeing. Over this past year, my eyes have been opened to an entirely new dimension of the heart of God and to His pursuit, leadership, and guidance through the Holy Spirit. And I see now. All of it can be found in Scripture, but the limits I placed on God blocked my ability to encounter Him as He truly is and who He wants to be in my life.
Another example. I was praying with a man over his brain cancer for healing. As a consequence of the cancer, he no longer has the ability to smell at all. He was asking boldly, with tears, if God would also restore his smell. His prayers surfaced in me yet another limit I’ve placed on God. One of my closest friends also has no sense of smell as her olfactory nerve was completely severed during a childhood surgery. I realized I had never once prayed for her smell to be restored. I had rationalized it away thinking “you can’t smell without an olfactory nerve, right?” Not anymore… I broke that agreement and have committed to praying for the supernatural restoration of her sense of smell until it happens.
One last recent, practical example. Over the last few years Cherie and I have had a growing belief in the biblical principle of the borrower being a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). And that we are to let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another (Romans 13:8). While we made the best decisions with our resources for our maturity at the time, our theology and convictions have grown and matured (at least in some small ways!). Through years of discipleship under Godly mentors and major shifts in our budget, we have come to a place of having no debt except a mortgage. I’ve been praying daily for nine months that God would help us come out from under that debt. Praying this daily has revealed a huge limit I have placed on who God can be and what He can do in my life. My prayers usually go like this. “Father, I’m asking for you to help me to come out from under this debt.” Immediately on it’s heels, the orphaned place in me responds, “This is my burden. I made the choice and it’s my consequence. That’s the way the world works.” The slave in me says, “Yep, God’ll do it… by me huffin’ it one paycheck at a time, paying one mortgage payment at a time… God helps those who help themselves.” Father, forgive my unbelief! Break the agreements I’ve made with these limits! So… day by day, week by week, the SON in me has grown and has prayed differently. “Father, I’m trusting your heart for your son. I’m believing your radical and generous heart for me. I’m believing that this debt grieves your heart and you want us to be free as much as we do! You know our hearts, our motives, our desires to be the best asset managers of your assets as we can. I’m going to keep working, keep paying monthly, faithfully, aggressively. BUT, I’m also hoping, praying, believing in your generous heart, to do something crazy to help so that more of our financial story can be yielded and released for your intentions.” In the last month, the heavens have started to open. A refinance cut 15 years (and 62,000.00) off our bottom line. Our continued over-payments have us on pace to cut off another 5 years. An unexpected tax return came out of the blue and a some unearned funds from an insurance claim also came in that we were able to direct toward the mortgage. It is happening! And it started with breaking those limits I imposed on God that blocked what He is longing to do for us and for you!
This invitation to shift from relating in 2D to relating in 3D certainly felt personal, but also like a core invitation for all of us who are wrestling in this particular decade of excavating and longing to become good soil.
It’s a dangerous and holy shift; hold on tight.
But it’s worth it. This is a decade of rolling the dice, learning courage, becoming good soil. What better prayer to pray and what better time to pray it?
Most men spend their forties “making life work.” They master (out of the false self) a way to make life work that maximizes security and comfort and requires the least from themselves, especially change. Look around. I believe you will find more than ample evidence of this.
We are all moving on that trajectory, unless we opt for the narrow path the few find, and even fewer really choose. (Matthew 7)
I believe that the way of the narrow path is a yielding of our strength, our heart, our beliefs, not to “God as we want Him to be,” but instead to God as He really is and to what He really wants to do in our lives.
Here is a great place to begin responding to this invitation:
“God, forgive me for imposing limits on who you want to be and what you want to do in my life. I break every agreement I have made with these limits. Reveal now the limits I have placed on you…”
“Father, where have I put limits on who you want to be and what you want to do in my life?” (pause and wait until you hear from Him on this)
“Jesus, where have I put limits on who you want to be and what you want to do in my life?” (pause and wait until you hear from Him on this)
“Holy Spirit, where have I put limits on who you want to be and what you want to do in my life?”(pause and wait until you hear from Him on this)
“I agree with you, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and I give you permission and access to be who you are and do what you want to do in my life. Heal my unbelief.”
Pray that and it’ll surely mess up your week, or your decade (big smile). It sure has for me…