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Won’t Abusers Get Away With Everything if We Believe God’s Love is Unconditional? [Episode 213]

Won't Abusers Get Away With Everything if We Believe God's Love is Unconditional?

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Are we unconditionally loved by God or not? How you answer that question will play a role in how you live your life. 

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Why Natalie relates to our listener’s anxiety over this topic.
  • Why Natalie thought her own mother’s treatment of her was how God must treat her, too. Spoiler alert: This was not a fair comparison.
  • How spiritualizing everything can be detrimental to your emotional and mental well-being.
  • Why believing that everyone else who is in “authority” over you is speaking the words of God can lead to some serious spiritual abuse. 
  • The difference in believing that God’s love is not unconditional versus believing that His love is unconditional, and the fruits that appear in our lives due to each belief. 
  • How your programming about God determines what you will find in the Bible. 
  • Our conclusion (another spoiler alert): God’s love is not weak, and you are not a problem that His love can’t handle. God is not like people, and His love isn’t, either. 

Related Resources:

  • Here are my book recommendations I promised. Again, if you’re not ready, don’t read them. But if you’re even the least bit curious and want to take a drink from a different water fountain than the one you’ve been drinking from, dive in: Love Wins by Rob Bell; The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns; A Spiritual Evolution by John MacMurray; Faith After Doubt by Brian McLaren; Gaslighted by God by Tiffany Yecke Brooks; Attached to God by Krispin Mayfield; and The Evolution of Faith by Philip Gulley.
  • I have also done interviews with two of these authors about their books. Check out Krispin Mayfield’s interview by listening to Episode 198 and Tiffany Yecke Brooks’ interview by listening to Episode 192.
  • Let’s ask tough questions and grow together in my private membership program for Christian women in abusive marriages, Flying Free. You’ll be able to go through courses, get group coaching, ask questions for our live Q&A’s, and interact in our private forum with other women just like you.
  • If you are a divorced Christian woman, Flying Higher is my other membership program designed specifically for you. No matter your goals after divorce, whether they be financial, relational, spiritual, we can help you grow in this program. You will receive access to our core curriculum, private forum, group coaching, and more. Check it out today!
  • Want to dive into my materials, but don’t want to commit to joining a membership program just yet? Is It Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage is a book I wrote specifically for the hurting woman who is trying to make sense of her confusing marriage. 

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Hi. This is Natalie Hoffman of Flyingfreenow.com, and you’re listening to the Flying Free Podcast, a support resource for women of faith looking for hope and healing from hidden emotional and spiritual abuse.

NATALIE: Welcome to Episode 213 of the Flying Free Podcast. You know what? I am so excited about today’s episode, because someone left a question and it really got me going. I am so excited about this question because what we’re going to talk about today, this is the crux of everything. This is really the pinpoint on which your life will either shift in one direction or shift in another direction, okay? This is the hinge, the hinge point. This is like the crossroads, all right? And it has to do with unconditional love. Are we unconditionally loved or not? So let’s listen to this listener’s question first, and then I cannot wait to dig into this one. 

LISTENER: Hi there. Okay, two minutes. Hmm. This is going to be interesting. So I love your podcast, and I’m sure I heard this when it first came out, and right now it’s December 19, 2022 so I’m listening to it again. This idea of unconditional love is so offensive to me, because I don’t understand how nobody’s caught onto the fact that it’s unbiblical, it’s ungodly, it’s un-Christlike, and it’s completely contrived.

So it actually is derived from the Sentimentalist era within the Christian community in the 1960s. It was running concurrently with the whole, the tie dye… What was that? The big festival? You know what I’m talking about. 69, I think it was. I don’t remember. I can’t remember the name of it — my goodness, I wasn’t born yet. But anyway, peace and love, that whole thing. So that’s where it comes from. 

God’s love is not unconditional. God’s love is unfailing. So you won’t find anywhere in the Bible where it says that it’s unconditional. In fact, it’s the very opposite. God’s love is extremely conditional. The Bible is replete with examples of this through and through no matter if God’s speaking or if it’s being narrated by one of His disciples or whatever, it’s very clear. Love, God’s love especially, is extremely conditional. Extremely. 

And that is the problem with being a victim of abuse is we have bought into this heresy that love is unconditional. And even our abusers who tell us, “You have to forgive. You have to forgive,” even they are not conditional. So everybody lives as a double standard then, and this is where the problem lies. And I’m stressed because there’s only a few seconds left, but I’m just wondering if you could please do another podcast and cover this concept and just expand on that.

NATALIE: Yes, I can. First of all, I can 100% relate to this woman’s anxiety over this. I would’ve sent in this exact same question about fifteen years ago, maybe even ten years ago. Some of you already know this, but I am working on a memoir this year specifically talking about my own life’s journey to finding love, the love that is God. The Bible says that God is love. God equals love. That love, okay? So my journey basically to finding God. 

Because I was raised being told who God was, and I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not have this insatiable craving and drive to find that love, but I believed most of my life that it had to be earned and that it was conditional. It was conditioned on whether or not I obeyed my teachers, my parents, or anyone else who I perceived to be in authority over me, usually someone who was older than I was. But as I got older and there were younger people that became my authorities, then it got really confusing. It wasn’t about age — it was more about position, I guess. It was conditioned on whether or not I also obeyed, not just obeyed on the outside, but that I obeyed with a happy heart, because God could see my heart. So if I obeyed with any sense of rebellion or disagreement or questions or doubt in my heart or even attitude, then I was disqualified. That really wasn’t obedience.

Now, my personality is INFJ if you’re familiar with Myers Briggs. So I’m really in tune to my inner world. I’m extremely self-aware — painfully self-aware. So if I felt even the slightest irritation in my heart, I would be riddled with guilt over my inability to overcome that irritation and to be perfect, because I so desperately wanted to win the love of God for myself.

John 14:23 says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” So I would read that verse — this is just one example — and I would think, “Well, God only loves people who obey the Bible,” which is not what the “word” means here, because the Bible as we know, it did not even exist back when these words were written, but I was never taught that. So if I disobey any jot or tittle of the Bible, God will not make His home with me. This means that I will be apart from God, apart from love. I will not have that love. 

And indeed, when I argued with my mom, just as an example, she would give me the silent treatment for days on end until I apologized. And what she taught me was that I was not able to have fellowship with her if I was in rebellion. Why? Well, she believed that this is how God is. She also believed in being perfect in order to enjoy God’s presence. And when you believe this, by the way, you have to fake it a lot, because nobody can ever be perfect, so you have to kind of pretend.

But this is what I would do. I would literally sit in my room and think… I remember this. So many times I would sit on my bed and I would dwell on how horrible I was. I would drum up all the bad thoughts that I had ever thought in my mind, like how I wanted to kiss the boy down the street, or how I snapped at my sister for making weird noises, or how I argued with my authority about going to my friend’s house, or how I wished I could do that and I couldn’t, and I was complaining. I would get myself to a place where I loathed who I was and what I did. 

And then once I was in that place of utter remorse and sorrow, I would go and say I was sorry. I would feel so disgusting. I would ask my mom to forgive me, and she would smile at me, she’d give me a hug, she’d forgive me, and I was in her good graces again. And then she would talk to me again, and we were in fellowship again. The relief I felt every time this happened was so overwhelming. I would feel this sense of peace and happiness and joy and wellbeing. I felt euphoric. 

And I believed that this was how God operated. I believe this with all of my brain. I was hardwired by hundreds of these experiences so that whenever I did anything that I worried might be bad, like listening to secular music in college or making out with my boyfriend, I would feel that God had turned His face away from me. And then if I got a B+ on my test instead of an A, or if I got sick right before I was supposed to sing or do something like that, then I would believe it was a just punishment because I just wasn’t being obedient enough. 

All right, now, as I got older and began to have a family of my own, the stakes were a lot higher. I lost my first baby girl, Elizabeth Anne, and of course, I immediately believed I brought that on myself. I searched for where I disobeyed God to try to find an opposite reaction, right? So what did I do that would bring on the loss of my baby? I wasn’t able to find anything big, because I really tried hard to obey God, but I was always able to find a million little thoughts and attitudes. I’d get irritated with friends. I’d get irritated with my husband. I’d argue with my husband. I’d complain about how I was left at home alone all the time instead of just being grateful for what I had. So I would see all of these horrible things about myself, and then I would hunker down and try harder. 

So in those circles that I was running in, too, to be an obedient Christian woman, I was told that that meant homeschooling, that meant wearing skirts, that meant using even a specific kind of homeschool curriculum that was the most godly kind, that meant submitting in all things to my husband, never arguing, never having a different opinion, never complaining, working hard to the point of exhaustion, and also being convicted by anything and everything that I read in the Bible and heard in church. I have written down in my journal, “It’s a good sign when I’m convicted every time I sit and read my Bible or go to church and hear a sermon. That means that I am teachable and moldable and available to God. If I sit down and read my Bible and I don’t feel conviction, then that means I must have a hard heart.” 

So I always felt convicted by everything. I lived in perpetual guilt and anxiety, you guys. I was terrified that I was not obeying perfectly. And to make things even more confusing and terrifying, different Christians would tell me different things about what was expected, and here’s the kicker: Every last one of them used guess what to make their case? They used the Bible even when their cases contradicted each other. And they always said this: They always said, “The Bible is clear about this,” but clearly it wasn’t, because not everyone agreed. 

Matthew 6:14-15 would say, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” So I would read that and believe that I needed to forgive those who are abusing me. And what I thought forgiveness was was very different from what I believe it is now. We’re going to get to that in a minute. 

But I didn’t even know that I was being abused, you guys, until I was a much older woman, because abuse felt normal. That was just the pool I’d been swimming in my entire life. Anyone who mistreated me or took advantage of me, I believed I brought it on myself for not being good enough. And I would spiritualize all of it. God was sharpening me. God was bringing me through trials and tribulations to make me more like Jesus. I could spiritualize everything that happened to me. 

And I believed forgiveness meant that someone could mistreat me and I needed to turn the other cheek and just go, “Okay, it’s okay. I forgive you. Do it again. You can do it again. It’s okay. I will forgive you seventy times seven,” even though I forgave way more than seventy times seven over the course of time. We could get into what God is trying to say in the Bible when there are things like that are… They’re like metaphors, but I won’t get into that in this episode. 

But anyway, I thought that boundaries, having healthy boundaries, that was not healthy — that’s sinful and selfish. And I really wanted desperately for God to forgive me, because I was a horrible, terrible human being and felt disgusting and like a worm. So the only way that I could hope that He might forgive me is if I was a doormat to others, and then through that, I would earn the right to be forgiven. 

Psalm 5:5 says, “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight.” So I would read a verse like this, and then I couldn’t take a compliment from anyone. You guys, I would literally cry when no one was looking about how prideful I was to have felt a twinge of pleasure when someone gave me a compliment. I used to sing a lot when I was younger in church, and if they gave me a compliment and said, “I just loved how you sang,” or whatever, I would just be like, “Thank you.” It was really hard for me to take that compliment. I felt guilty for saying “Thank you.” I felt guilty for taking it in. I would deflect it. And then I would go home and I would cry because I felt so violated — I felt like such a horrible person that I took it and got any pleasure from it.

I didn’t want to be in danger of boasting. I couldn’t say anything good about myself lest I be boasting. I still struggle with believing anything good about who I am, because there’s still a young, wounded part of me who believes that it’s boasting to do so and that God cannot stomach looking at me if I am a boastful human being. “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight.”

By the way, if you don’t know this yet, I’ve said this before, but I was a major Bible reader. I read through the Bible every single year for years and years and years and years since I was a small child. My mom taught me how to do that. And I not only read the Bible, but I went to a Bible school, I got a Bible certification, I was a missionary for several years, I taught the Bible, I taught in a Christian high school, I led Bible studies. The Bible has been a part of my life since I was seven years old — a huge part of my life. So there are very few Christians out there other than maybe people who have seminary degrees or people who are like me and grew up like I did who know the Bible better than I do. Uh oh. Did I just boast? Oh dear. 

Anyway, I was being hemmed in more and more. I felt like I was walking on the side of a mountain pass with only the space of about twelve inches for my feet to step, and if I took any misstep and leaned too far over that one direction, I would plummet to the depths below. It was terrifying, it was exhausting, and I was at the whims of anyone who put themselves in authority over me, because I was raised with the teaching that God speaks to you through your authority. So if your authority says something, that is God Himself telling you what to do. 

Oh my word. What a setup for spiritual abuse, right? Or any other kind of abuse. All they have to do is say, “Well, God said this. The Bible says that.” I was full of anxiety and fear and also judgment of others who were not walking the straight and narrow that I had to walk. How could my Christian friends listen to and enjoy music that had a beat and still feel the love of God when I could not? That didn’t seem fair to me. How could Christians that I knew be in the theater and play roles where they would have to say a swear word and still believe that God loved them when I could not do that for fear that God would not make His home within me? 

Other Christians would say, “Well, you don’t have to be so afraid. I mean, you’re a Christian, so God forgives you and there’s grace.” But then those same people, if I did something they didn’t agree with — like, eventually I put a child in public school after twenty years of homeschooling — I was warned that I might be slipping down the slippery slope to being a “casual” Christian. And I wasn’t sure God loved casual Christians, because the Bible says He will spit them out of His mouth in disgust.

So the fruit of believing that God’s love is conditional in my own life is that I became a shut down, judgmental, angry, terrified, powerless, suspicious woman. And I was the product of abuse, and I was perfectly set up to believe that abuse is normal and to take my place in a role in my home and in my church that kept me stuck. What would’ve set me free is knowing and believing that God’s love is so big and wide and wonderful and powerful that it creates wide open, safe spaces to live and move and breathe in. 

2 Samuel 22:20 says, “He also brought me forth into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” And Psalm 31:8 says, “And you have not given me over into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a large place.” Now, that verse mentions the enemy. You know what the enemy is? Well, the Bible says Satan is the enemy, but Satan is also the father of lies — he’s the author of lies. The enemy is the lies that we believe about who God is and the lies we believe about who we are. Those lies hem us in and keep us riddled with fear and doubt and suspicion and hate. Lies that keep us feeling off balance and unsafe and unheld. Lies that create insecurity and inability to move forward because we’re paralyzed with fear that we will make a wrong choice

Truth, on the other hand, sets people free. And God equals love. God is love. Love is God, and love casts out fear. So if you find yourself living in fear and doubt and suspicion and judgment, then you’re not living in the light of the sun. You’re living in a cloudy place. The sun is there. You’re just not experiencing it because you’re living in a cloudy place. 

Have you ever done a virtual reality game? My son has a VR, and there’s this game where you’re at the top of a high building overlooking a city and you can walk out on a thin board. But when you do this, you definitely have this feeling that you’re going to fall. You actually put a board down on the floor so that you have the sensation that you’re on a board, because you actually are on a board, but obviously you were not going to fall because it’s only an inch high. But when you’re in the virtual reality game and everything around you you can see looks real, it feels like you’re on this board. 

Now, I’m petrified of heights, so I tried this once and I just couldn’t do it. But anyway, you teeter and you totter, and you feel this sense of fear that you might fall if you make one wrong move to the right or to the left. Even if you lean one way or the other, you know it’s going to cause you to fall over. But if you take the VR glasses off, then you see, “Oh. I’m in a large room. I can actually dance and jump and run around without any fear of falling anywhere.” 

So this is how I would describe my earlier Christian life. It was like I had these VR glasses on, and everything that I could see based on my programming, how people programmed me to believe and what I chose to believe of their programming, said that I was on a thin board, and if I moved to the right or to the left, it would send me plummeting to my demise. God’s love was conditional. God’s love was a skinny board, and my life was about making sure that I was frozen in survival. It was about not moving — literally being frozen in a trauma response. 

Now, I’ve said this before, but you can use the Bible to make a case for anything. Did you know that? People have used the Bible — just look it up — they’ve made a case for genocide, murder, rape, slavery, racism, patriarchy, abuse, misogyny, and all kinds of horrible things. And you can use the Bible to make a case for equality, love, emotional and physical safety, healthy boundaries, forgiveness, and so on. You can make a case, and then Christians make a case for all kinds of other things that aren’t quite as extreme. But people can also make their case that God’s love is limited and His power is limited to the whims of humans. 

And I have read hundreds, really, of books over the years. I read dozens of books every year. And I’ve read many over the years that have made a case for this idea of God’s love being limited. And all of those books make this case using scripture to do it. And they say, “The Bible is clear on this.” Or there are people who have made a case that God’s love is unconditional and unlimited, and I have read many of those kinds of books just in the past few years, and guess what they use to make their case? You’re never going to believe it. They use the Bible to make their case. 

It’s what your programming about God brings to the Bible that determines what you will find there. And you get to decide if you want to keep your programming and the results that you’re getting from that programming or if you want to explore other ways of thinking about God that produce results of inner peace, joy, a sense of safety, a deep love and acceptance of others exactly the way they are, and a sense of taking personal responsibility in caring for one’s own body, mind, and spirit within healthy boundaries

That’s what I have chosen to live into now, and that is what I’m passionate about helping other Christian women live into. The result is not only good things for us, but when we live into those things for ourselves, it spills over into the lives of other people around us, sort of like what Jesus Christ offered, and then they are empowered to live into them as well. And you guys, this is how we change the world. 

When we say “The Bible is clear — God’s love is conditional,” now we’ve made ourselves the deciders. We’ve actually taken back power not only over our own lives, but over the lives of others. We are now the ones who decide what others need to do according to our interpretation of the Bible as we know it. And as I pointed out earlier, everyone has different thoughts about this. Abusers will interpret the Bible to say that God will only love you if you have sex with him every night. Someone else will say that God only loves you if you’re a stay-at-home mom and don’t go to work. And on and on it goes. 

We start to put other people down so that we can rise above based on our own standards — which change with time and experience — and then we use the idea of God and the Bible to do it. That is not love. That’s just another version of abuse. Religious communities who believe in conditional love are replete with abuse if you stick around and look more closely. When the law and rules and regulations — think Pharisees, okay — when that’s our measuring stick of worthiness of God’s love, that is when there is destruction. When love is the measuring stick, which is what Jesus Christ came to bring, then there is no law needed, because love is more powerful to win people over to healthy living than the law. And you could make a case for that with tons and bazillions of Bible verses, okay? 

Now, some people will interpret certain verses to be examples of how God’s love is conditional. But again, that’s based on their presuppositions about God’s love. Someone who reads the Bible with the presupposition of God’s unconditional love might interpret those verses differently. So for example, let’s go back to one of those other verses, John 14:23. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Someone who reads that and believes that God is like human men will think, “Oh yeah, that makes sense. God only loves people who obey the Bible, and God only makes His home with people who are perfect.” 

But someone who reads that with the belief that God’s love is unconditional might read that to mean that, “When I am aligned with the heart of God, which is love, I will have a natural desire and longing to tuck in and live out that same love toward myself and others. And when I am in that safe place of love, I will experience the love of God and how He is indwelling me always. My wounded parts will no longer hide the fact that He is always present and always loving me, and I will be filled up with His love and it will spill over to others.” This has nothing to do with sentimentalism or the love and peace movement of the sixties. That’s just the story or narrative or smoke screen, if you will — whatever you want to call it — that some people might tell you to throw you off the scent of God’s love. It’s the enemy that says “God’s love is weak, and you are a problem that His love can’t handle.”

I’m sorry, but I believed that for forty-five years and it nearly killed me and my family, and I have watched it nearly kill literally thousands — probably… Well, no. I don’t know millions of people, but definitely thousands of people, all right? No more. I don’t believe that anymore.

Last year someone emailed me about this subject and wanted to try to convince me that my views on God’s love were – this is her exact word — “gobbledygook.” And you know what? They are gobbledygook. They’re even heretical to anyone who is unfamiliar with this kind of love or has not known this kind of love or felt or experienced this kind of love. This love is actually within that woman, even though she doesn’t know it yet and thinks it’s gobbledygook. It’s in all of us.

But when we are wounded and immersed in lies and abuse, we can’t see it or feel it. Just like when it’s a cloudy, rainy day, we can’t see, feel, or experience the beautiful sun. Doesn’t mean it’s not there. Imagine if you lived where the clouds never went away, where it rained 24/7 for years and years and years, and that’s all you ever knew. If someone tried to tell you about the sun, you might think, “That sounds like gobbledygook.” But that doesn’t change the fact that there are places on the earth where we can experience the sun. And if you’re in an airplane and you go high enough, you can break through the clouds and experience it. It’s always there. And one day, I believe His power is so great that it’s going to move everyone to a place where they can see and experience it too. 

So I want to address one more thing this listener brought up. She said that victims who have bought into this heresy of God’s unconditional love — these are her words — this causes them to be susceptible to their abusers when their abusers say, “You need to forgive me and love me unconditionally, even if you don’t like how I’m mistreating you.” And she makes the point that when abusers say this, they’re not showing unconditional love, but they still expect their wives to show unconditional love by submitting themselves to abuse.

I mean, right? Abusers do that all the time about everything, right? They always expect other people to do what they themselves aren’t going to do. So that’s kind of a given. So there’s a few other problems here to unpack, and the first one is our understanding of what God’s supernatural, unconditional love is and what He can do through it, as well as our understanding of what human love looks like. There’s also some confusion about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t, and there’s some confusion over what healthy, human relationships look like in light of personal safety and responsibility

First of all, we can forgive someone who has mistreated us without giving our bodies and minds to them to be re-abused. Forgiveness does not mean throwing ourselves toward a wolf as a sacrifice. Read the book of Proverbs if you want to know how to be around a fool. Just go study the book of Proverbs. Underline every verse that says something about fools and what we’re supposed to do in relationship to fools, and you will learn this.

Also, if you go to my public website, flyingfreenow.com, put in the word “forgiveness” in the search bar, and there are some articles and podcast episodes where I address in more detail what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. I’m not going to do all of that here, but in a nutshell, forgiveness means letting someone off the hook for what they owe us due to their mistreatment and allowing God to bring about that justice and restoration of all things, all right? This doesn’t mean that we forget what they did or excuse what they did. Not at all. That would be foolish. 

What it means is that we are not the ones to make sure that we get paid back. Why? Because we can’t make someone do that anyway. It’s not in our control or power. So it’s a waste of our time and our energy and effort that would be better used towards other things in our life. We need to let go of what we can’t control anyway, and then we allow God and trust God to do that work of justice and restoration. 

Now, this requires faith in a way bigger God than the petty God that most Christians today believe in. Most Christians in today’s version of Christianity believe in a god with a small “g” who loses in the end. Loser god. So if a drunk driver killed your child, that’s it. You never get your child back, and the most you can hope for is that your little petty god burns that drunk driver in a forever torture of hell fire. We believe in a petty god who sees the drunk driver the way we humans do. He or she is an object of our hopelessness and misery and hate. 

You guys, I’m sorry, but God is not like people. God sees the drunk driver or the abuser in their completeness. God sees them for who He created them to be and who He will one day win back and transform into His likeness. Why? Because God wins. I’m just asking you to consider, what if God isn’t a loser? And just imagine: What if you’re going to get your child back and you’re going to see the drunk driver repentant and transformed? 

What if, just what if, all things are made new? Like, for real? What if one day at the name of Jesus every being in heaven and on earth will bow and call Him “Lord,” not because they are forced to do it because he’s a vindictive Lord with a big, huge hammer over their head. That’s not real, is it? No. But because love actually wins. Because love sweeps everyone up into acceptance and safety and restores all that the locust ate. What if what burns forever is not people, but hate, sin, grief, fear, anxiety, suspicion, betrayal, murder, inequality, slavery, misogyny, racism and every other thing that has stolen the life and the heart from every person who has ever walked on this planet? I’m just saying — what if? 

I want you to think about this. If you really believed God was the winner, meaning He really is powerful and loving, like, for real, for real, for real, how would you then live your short life on Earth? Angry? Scared? Worried? Sneering at everyone around you? Victimized? Powerless? Frozen? Vindictive? Or would you live in wide open spaces in freedom and safety? Would you take chances and make mistakes and move and dance and live and breathe in peace and rest and love? 

We will feel inside like the god we worship. So if we are feeling anxious and angry, that is a sign that we’re believing right now in a god who is unstable, unreliable, and not in control of anything. We’re believing in a loser god. And if we’re feeling a sense of inner peace and safety and excitement about moving forward, that’s a sign that right now we are putting our hope in a God who is stable, who is always holding us in His love, who has the world in His hands, who has a plan where He is guaranteed to win everything back and restore everything, where He truly is Lord of all. 

I used to worship the first little god most of my life, and I spent forty-five years begging, scraping, and bleeding out, trying to find love and safety. I submitted to whatever human being and authority told me to do. I was the quintessential victim because my god was very small. I obeyed my abusers because they were bigger than my god, if I’m honest. And I projected them onto my god. I couldn’t stand up to them and say “no” and set boundaries for myself because they were my god. I owed them my allegiance. I worshiped and needed their love instead of leaning into the love I already always had all along: the love of God. 

Now I don’t have to beg, scrape, or bleed for anything. If someone mistreats me, I don’t have to fawn for their love or vie for their approval. Why would I? I’m completely safe and 100% loved always, no matter what. When we worship the other kind of small god, we live in fear that if we really leaned into the audacious love of God, we would run off and have a lot of sex and murder a bunch of people and be drunk all the time. That’s not true. Scared people who can’t see God’s love do those things because they’re still searching. 

And by the way, just gotta say this, being a pious, Christian prick is just as much of a desperate bid for love as having illicit sex is. We just tell ourselves that our desperate bid is cleaner and better. Newsflash: It’s not. No, the more people lean into the audacious love of a powerful Creator, the more like that God they become; the safer they become for other people. They become safe for themselves, too. They no longer tolerate abuse, but instead bravely expose it, even if it means they will be kicked out of their families and churches. They can tolerate the disapproval of human beings because they are living and laughing in the love of the Creator, just like Jesus did. How do you think Jesus continued to love and speak hard truth to the religious elite of His day without fear? Because He knew that in the end, God wins, and God wins everyone and everything from the prostitute to the pious prick.

Love wins, my friends, and you can call it gobbledygook and heresy every day of the week, but one day, you and I and all of us will be laughing and dancing together in wide open spaces with all the people we lost and all the people who rejected us and all the people who mistreated us, and it will all be made right. Because in the end, you will not only get back everything that was stolen from you, but you will get it back a million times. That’s the God I worship. What about you? 

Now, I’m going to leave some book recommendations in the show notes, and some of you are going to look at those books and your little programmed parts are going to say, “Uh oh — heresy.”  Mine did until I read them and realized that the books that I had been reading for forty-five years were the books that had been telling me lies about God, that kept me frozen in trauma. So if you’re not ready, don’t read them. You don’t have to read them. You do your own journey. But if you feel a tug inside and you think you might be ready to drink from a different water fountain, then try one or two and see if you don’t see a shift begin to take place deep inside of you. A shift that just might change not only your life, but the lives of everyone in your sphere of influence. A shift that might change the world. 

I have a workshop inside Flying Free, my private program for Christian women. It’s called “Butterfly Bootcamp,” and one of the classes in that workshop focuses on this butterfly effect that our lives and our beliefs have on the world. It’s powerful stuff. If you feel like you are ready for something different than the abusive religion that trained you how to be a victim, then you’ll want to join me inside Flying Free. Check it out by going to joinflyingfree.com. That is all I have for you today. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, fly free.

"Natalie knows what she talks about! She is so aware of the co-dependency behaviors of the abuser and the abused. If you see yourself in any of her descriptions, this podcast is for you!"
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Flying Free Sisterhood

An online coaching, education, and support community for women of faith in destructive relationships.

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