Another classic we cannot miss is Abba’s Child. My own copy is heavily highlighted and we will spend two weeks here, and still only scratch the surface.
Until we understand how deeply beloved we are by God, we will crave the praise of man, becoming imposters, more concerned about our appearance than our heart. Brennan Manning said, “We may even refuse to be our true selves with God — and then wonder why we lack intimacy with Him.”
As Jack Miller contrasted the orphan to the child, Manning contrasts the imposter BS Pharisee to the child.” God wants us to lay down our masks, our deadly doing to impress others and run instead to Him in repentance and trust, confident of His reception.
My dear friend Twila grew up in a Christian but legalistic home, so easily fell into measuring her worth by how well she kept the rules or by what other believers thought of her. She fell into a very long and deep depression, wanting to die. Her counselor kept stressing that she was God’s beloved and recommended she read Abba’s Child. It finally went from Twila’s head to her heart, and this is her testimony.
1. Does anything penetrate your heart from the above? If so, what and why?
2. Share a time when you sensed you were indeed, beloved by God.
Monday: Man After God’s Heart
Brennan Manning never had complete victory over his alcoholism. Yet while Christians might dismiss him for that reason, God never did. Manning writes:
A “slip” from an alcoholic is a terrifying experience…when the person sobers up, he or she is devastated. When I relapsed, I had two options: yield once against to guilt, fear, and depression — or rush into the arms of my heavenly Father; choose to live as a victim of my disease — or choose to trust in Abba’s immutable love.
And he quotes Simon Tugwell:
Like runaway slaves, we either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self which is mostly admirable…and superficially happy. We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing. We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like.
3. Summarize what both Manning and Tugwell are saying.
4. David sexually abused Bathsheba, and when she became pregnant, tried to cover it up by sending her husband Uriah to the front of the battle.
A. When Joab came with the news of Uriah’s death, how did David respond? (2 Samuel 11:25)
B. What route was David taking: hiding or running into God’s arms? Why, do you think?
5. God sent Nathan the prophet with a story to penetrate David’s heart, and it did. How did David respond in:
A. 2 Samuel 12:13?
B. Psalm 51?
6. How does God describe David in Acts 13:22?
7. Is there an area of your life, a habitual sin, you are endeavoring to hide from yourself, others, or God? How does this keep you from what your heart really craves?
Tuesday: Man After The Praise of Man
8. The contrast to David is King Saul, who longed for the praise of man. How can you see this in 1 Samuel 18:6-10? Why, in light of eternity, is this a snare?
9. How, again in contrast to David, did Saul respond when God sent a prophet to confront him about disobeying his orders to destroy all the Amalakites and their animals? See 1 Samuel 15:13-23.
God loves who we really are — whether we like it or not. God calls us, as He did Adam, to come out of hiding. No amount of spiritual make-up can render us more presentable to Him.
10. The key to overcoming self-hatred and craving the praise of men is believing in our heart that no matter what, we are God’s Beloved. Take some time to meditate on the Father’s love and share what He shows you.
A. Psalm 103:13
B. Hosea 11:3-4
C. Luke 15: 17-24
D. 1 John 3:1
Wednesday: Glittering Images
Photo by Borko Manikoda
“The Imposter” is the most talked about chapter in Manning’s book. He talks about wanting to preserve his own “glittering image” at all costs.” I hid from my true self through my performance in ministry. I constructed an identity through sermons, books, and storytelling. I rationalized that if the majority of Christians thought well of me, there was nothing wrong with me. The more I invested in ministerial success, the more real the imposter became. Craving the affirmation he missed in childhood, he had “an insatiable appetite for affirmation.” He was preoccupied with his weight, crestfallen when it went up, concerned about what others would think. He was excited when other authors quoted him. He longed to be noticed by man.
11. What thoughts from the above resonate with you?
On a silent retreat with God in the Colorado Rockies, God whispered: Brennan, you bring your full presence and attention to certain members of the community but offer a diminished presence to others. Those who have stature, wealth, and charisma — those you find interesting or charming or pretty or famous — command your undivided attention, but people yu consider plain or dowdy — those of lesser rank performing menial tasks, the unsung and the uncelebrated — are not treated with the same regard. This is not a minor matter to me, Brennan. The way you are with others every day, regardless of their status, is the true test of faith.
12. What thoughts from the above resonate with you? In what ways might you be an imposter — where you are different in private than public, or give more attention to certain glittering people than to others?
13. What do the following Scriptures say that is helpful in understanding how to see others?
A. 2 Corinthians 5:16
B. Matthew 25:31-40
Thursday: Our Deepest Desire
Whether we realize it or not, from the time we are born, our deepest desire, which God put in our hearts (eternity in our hearts) is union with Him. I have always loved this quote from The Seduction of Lesser Gods by Leslie Williams:
Without realizing what we are doing, like Rachel, we sit primly on our camels, hiding our idols under our skirts, wondering why we are not reconciled to the God we profess.
Manning puts it like this:
We even refuse to be our true selves with God — and then wonder why we lack intimacy with Him. The deepest desire of our hearts is for union with God. From the first moment of our existence, our most powerful yearning is to fulfill the original purpose of our lives: to see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, follow Him more nearly, as the old prayer says. We are made for God, and nothing less will really satisfy us.
14. What do the following psalms tell us?
A. Psalm 37:4
B. Psalm 63:1-5
15. If you truly believe the above, how might it affect how you live today?
Friday: Our Prayer Time
This quote from Abba’s Child by Jeffrey Imbach (The Recovery of Love) impacted me:
Prayer is essentially the expression of our heart longing for love. It is not so much the listing of our requests but the breathing of our one deepest request, to be united with God as fully as possible.
16. With the above in mind, how might it alter your prayer time today? Then go ahead and pray that way on your own.
17. What is your take-a-way and why?