As a pastor I have heard stories of children afraid to come home. It is not that they did not want to come home. Rather they simply did not know what awaited them at home: would she be drunk? Would she be angry? Or would the house be filled with the scent of fresh baking? Would Mom be eager to listen to their stories? The simple uncertainty affected the behavior of the children.
Such stories draw a connection between our behavior and our understanding of another person. If a person is trustworthy, we give trust easily. If a person is unreliable, we learn not to count on that person. If a person vindictive, we become very wary.
So it ought not be a surprise that our understanding of God – the attributes and images we carry around in our head – make a difference in how we behave. James Byran Smith writes
If we think of God as harsh and demanding, we will probably cower in fear and keep our distance from God. If we think of God as a vague and impersonal force in the universe we will probably have a vague and impersonal relationship with this god. That is why it is crucial to have right thoughts about God. It will determine everything we do. (The Good and Beautiful God, p88)
This connection between behavior and thought is an important aspect of the work of spiritual direction.
Our desire is that members of the community grow in their relationship with the Triune God and live faithfully in this relationship. So the question is worth asking: do our behaviors reflect our confidence and trust in a God who sent his One and Only Son into the world to save us? We live in a time where many are fearful and anxious. Some of this is rooted in the economy. Some of this is rooted in the culture of insecurity. Some of this is rooted in our inability to control our world. We can probably add other culprits. But how does this anxious and fearful behavior reflect our faith in the one who holds all things under his rule and loves us so deeply that Christ entered the world to redeem us? Is it possible that we doubt the rule of God? Or his faithfulness?
Exploring these kinds of questions can lead us to see more clearly the power of Lord’s Day 10 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
It all comes down to the question Jesus asked: Who do you say I am? The answer makes all the difference in the world.