May I taught a class at the NCWA Writers Renewal Conference on branding
The night before my workshop, as
Mick Silva and I chowed down on pizza, he said something that flicked
on a switch in my mind and heart: “If they don’t fully understand their
identity in God—and how He truly feels about them—it will mute their
knowing their own unique identity and how they can apply it as a writer
I took Mick’s counsel and
started the workshop off by reading a piece I’d written three years ago
as I struggled to see God as He sees me. I think we should start our
foray into the world of brand establishment and identity the same way.
For those of you who never waver
in your knowledge of God’s unquenchable love, stop. We’ll catch you
next month. But if you think God sometimes looks at you with a frown on
His face, read on.
Rewiring Our Image of
If you can do it, think of God
unedited by how you’re supposed to see Him. Not
what religion or your mind tells you to think—“God is love, so I guess
He must love me”—but your heart. What images come to mind?
The image I fight is of Him
standing in front of me with folded arms, saying, “Well, you’ve sure
screwed up a lot, but I have to let you in anyway.”
It’s probably why I cry every
time I read Luke 15. You know the passage. Whole books have been
written on it, music videos done, modernizations that have tried to
convey the message in a more compelling way.
There’s good reason for all the
focus. It is the entire gospel in twenty-two verses. With it, Jesus
encapsulates the core of the Father’s heart toward us.
The part that reduces me to
tears? The first part of verse 20: “So he got up and came to
his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him
and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in
your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son’ ” (Luke
15:20–21 NASB emphasis added).
My Bible has little notations
down the middle of the pages, often showing the literal translation of
a word, and in this case it puts a whole new spin on the verse. Before
I dug into the literal translation of ran, embraced,
and kissed I pictured the Father doing a slow jog
up to the son, giving him a swift hug, a pat on the back and a quick
kiss on the cheek. A kind of Jewish-Italian-Mafia–Marlon Brando thing.
“Welcome back to the family, kid!”
This is how I’d write the
translation based on the literal meaning of the words:
“So he got up and came to his
father. But while he was still a long way
off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him,
and raced toward his son like an Olympic sprinter. When he reached him,
the father, full of passion and joy, nearly knocked his son to the
ground. Seizing him with all his strength, the father wrapped up his
son in his arms, and squeezed him tighter and tighter as tears flowed
down the Father's cheeks onto his beard. The father kissed his son
feverously over and over and over again.
how God feels about you.
Notice two more things before
you go. When did the Father do the things above? Before the son
confessed or after? And what was the Father’s reaction after the son
He ignored the confession.
“And the son said to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer
worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves,
‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on
his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it,
and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has
come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to
celebrate” (vv. 21–24).
He doesn’t even address the sin.
Don’t get me wrong. God abhors
sin. Cannot abide it. But that’s why He sent Jesus: to abolish it
But there are no folded arms, no
cruel scolding, no tyrant or dictator to be found. Only unbridled,
fervent love. And an invitation to join a party with the riches of the
Kingdom spread out in your honor.
Ask Him. Ask Him now to rewire
your thinking about who He is.
And run into his passionate
The Application to
Until you know you’ve been
invited to join glorious a party—in your honor—you’ll see yourself as
unworthy to step into the powerful destiny he’s called you to.
As Marianne Williamson says,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is
that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness
that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are
a child of God.”
You are glorious, you are
strong, you are fascinating. Not because of anything you’ve done—sorry,
you can’t take any credit—but because of what He built into you before
you were born, and because of the new being you became when you chose
to follow Jesus.
It’s time to embrace fully the
truth of your talents and personality.
It’s time to take your gifts out
of the shadows, believe they are true, and use them to make our King