As parents, one of our greatest desires is to grow a good relationship with our children. Every good parent wants to love their children well. To watch their children develop strong attachments to parents, siblings, family members, friends and the community at large.
If we step back, this parental desire for a strong relationship with children is even more important to us as parents than obedience. Don’t get me wrong; obedience is an expression of the loving relationship. It causes great frustration, even pain when children disobey, and forsake important boundaries we put into place in order to protect them. Disobedience leads to unnecessary physical, emotional and mental pain.
Have you ever noticed the difference in your child’s attitude when they obey because they desire to please you versus obedience that stems from the fear of a consequence? It feels different for children as it does for us parents. In one scenario, the obedience is driven by love. The other, by fear.
Many of us mistakenly associate obedience as the most important thing for God. Don’t get me wrong. While our obedience is important to God for many reasons, many of us feel we must obey to have the relationship. We fear what will happen if we don’t. We feel God wants our obedience more than He wants us. In this way, obedience becomes a means to an end. God’s rules are for our best interest. God’s standards are set out of His profound love for us. It hurts Him to see the pain that comes to us from disobedience. He takes no joy in seeing people try to obey Him as a means to an end. In the book of Isaiah, God corrects His people when they try to do outward acts of “obedience” to get results, rather than simply obey as a loving response to the God they love. (Chapter 58)
Just like a parent, God loves us. God values our attachment to Him, as well as our obedience. And He delights to see our obedience spring from our attachment love to Him.
I have enjoyed reading Jim Wilder’s new book Renovated. I want to share a section with you that struck me. See what Jim has to say about how attachments and spiritual maturity are related. You will like this!
The Science of Spiritual Maturity—a Neurotheological perspective
Could the science of attachment and emotional maturity also be the science of spiritual maturity, once we add mutual mind with God and God’s people? Neurotheology suggests the value of:
1. attaching to God;
2. thinking with God;
3. becoming one of God’s people; and
4. thinking about God.
Thinking about God has very different outcomes than thinking with God when it comes to character. Without attachment, we will not think with God. Without attachment, we will have spiritual ideas but our reactions and character (in the face of emotions, feelings, and desires) will change very little. We will be far more shaped in this world by the people we call “our people.”
Thinking about God has value. If we do not think about God, we will have great difficulty recognizing that (1) God’s thoughts are not like our thoughts, (2) God’s character is not like our character, and (3) God’s ways are different from our ways. We will not even notice that (4) our loving attachment to God is making us more like Him.
Salvation that produces a new attachment love between us and God makes a mutual-mind state with God possible. Could part of the meaning of Isaiah 1:18—“Come now, and let us reason [חַכיָ, yakach] together”— mean “let us come to a mutual mind”? God expects yakach to teach us to do good because the previous verse says, “learn to do good” (דמַ לָ, lamad, or become skillful). We will be practicing a skill when we yakach. In the following verse, God adds that all will be well “if you consent” (הבָ ָא, abah). Abah can mean to synchronize or go along with. If yakach is mutual mind, then our identity (in the master fast track) will become increasingly like God’s character.
Could loving attachment to God be how salvation saves us from our sins? Dallas Willard once told me that we would most likely call “sin” a “malfunction” in modern language. Character and control of emotions, feelings, and desires are disrupted by whatever causes the fast track to malfunction. A fast-track malfunction, along with a poorly trained fast-track identity, cause a failure to regulate emotions, feelings, and desires—not to mention our reactions. Dallas said that “immaturity is the effect of sin.” Salvation through hesed attachment could be a very specific solution to sin and its effects on our identity and character.
From Renovated by Jim Wilder NavPress, 2020 pages 49-50.