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What’s it like when you spend time with your heavenly Father?

Amy Groeschel posed this question in her devotional reading plan titled “Listening to God” on the Bible app.

Her question made me uncomfortable and I didn’t like that. I’ve been a Jesus follower, a child of God since I was very young. I’m embarrassed to say that I still struggle in approaching God and it sometimes even causes me to stay busy with other things avoiding going to Him in prayer.

I’m ashamed of that, but there is a big part of the problem: shame. In her devotional, Amy said that we might over-spiritualize our prayer time, feel we must impress God or pray the right way. I have felt that way, that if I get distracted, let my mind wander, or even get drowsy and doze off, I’ve failed in that quiet time, will try to do better tomorrow.

What if I just come to God? Plain and simple. “Here I am, Papa.” The whole reason for God giving His Son for us was so we could live in His grace, be brought back to Him, have a relationship with Him, spend time with Him, live life with Him. I constantly struggle with the urgency to do for Him, to come to Him already whole and complete.  Hence, the connection in my mind of my prayer life and failure – feeling I’m disappointing God. I can never make myself complete or presentable.

In the devotional was a quote from an author, Paul E. Miller: “You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it.”

I have tried so often to create intimacy. No wonder I feel so frustrated and inadequate.

IMG_5495I decided to go outside and “make room for intimacy” with my Papa. I sat out on the sidewalk behind our house, the sun shining, the sky blue, the wind blowing. I love being outdoors – I have always been able to connect best with God through music and through being in nature. I journaled a little bit about what I read in Psalm 23 this morning:

  • Jesus is my Shepherd
  • He gives me all I need
  • He leads me
  • He renews me
  • He guides me
  • He protects me
  • He is with me

As I was writing these things down, I felt God say to my heart, “add to your list, ‘He LOVES me.'”

My doggy, who always likes to be wherever we are, came running over to me and licked me, snuggling close to be petted.  Then she wandered off again, roaming around. Periodically she would come running back over and lick me, snuggle, then walk away or lay down nearby. I remember when my girls were young and I would sit outside watching them play.  From time to time they would run over and grab my legs, get a hug, or climb on my lap for a moment and snuggle, maybe say “I love you, Mommy” before jumping down to run off and play a little more.

I think God was telling me it’s okay to think of my life with Him that way, that we are always together. Often I can come extra close and tell Him things or just get an embrace or He might call me over to tell me something. He’s not judging how I come over to Him, He’s glad to see me come, just like I loved seeing my daughters running to me. Even if they had smudgy faces or dirty hands, I didn’t care about that. I would hug them tight. I could always wash their faces later, I wanted to love them. I miss those moments.

One of my favorite things these days if Facetime, when I can see my family (including my very handsome and entertaining grandson) as we visit. If they were to say we couldn’t FaceTime because they weren’t presentable or didn’t know exactly what to say I’d say that was silly. I just want to see them and find out about their day, watch them smile and laugh, hear their voice and be with them.

As I type this now, tears well up in my eyes. Why do I make it so difficult to grow close to God? How can I grow past these legalistic notions that seem so deeply rooted in my mind of having to be a certain way and do things in order to be loved or approved of by my Papa?

In Psalm 34, which I also read this morning (one of my favorites), it says, “Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.”

Radiant with joy. No shadow of shame! How wonderful.

And II Corinthians 3:16-18 describes this beautiful scene:

“…whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

That veil was the separation between sinful me and holy God but when I accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and sacrifice in my place the veil was torn away!  NO more separation. Now instead: freedom. And as I come to Him as I am – to just be with Him, to know Him more, to listen, to be near – as I turn my face toward Him, just like I lifted my face to the warmth of the sun this morning, I am transformed. I will take on more and more of His likeness. Not because I’m praying with the right words, or kneeling with my eyes closed, or doing things a certain way, but just because the separation is gone, just because I am with Him. Amazing!

If you, like me, contend with self-condemnation and allow it to keep you from your heavenly Papa, I want to love on you as your sister and say it’s okay. Don’t keep yourself at arm’s length from God because you’re afraid, or ashamed, or unsure of what to say, or feel you must become presentable first. Just come. Come as you are. He said He will give you all you need. He will lead you to rest, He will renew you, He will guide you, He will protect you, He will be with you.  And the Reason for all of those things is because He LOVES you.

Holy! There is No One like You, there is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
and show me Who You are and fill me with Your heart
and lead me in Your love to those around me.

I will build my life upon Your love
It is a sure foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
and I will not be shaken¹

I love you, Papa. Thank you for sending Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins so we could have the veil removed and can come close to You. Please keep showing me how to live in the freedom of your acceptance and grace and just be with You.

¹Build my Life, Written by: Pat Barrett, Kirby Kaple, Matt Redman, Brett Younker and Karl Martin