Study Guide: Return to Innocence

Sunday November 3, 2019 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

This weekend we continue our study of how attachment theory can be used as a descriptive tool for our connections in relationships with others as well as how we connect with God. How we have connected with others, both positively and negatively, is usually a good approximation for how we think of and connect with God. Some of this appears to be genetic, some a product of the nurture we received, and some a product of our own free will. In this message, we explore the role of free will in our development of healthy, secure connection as well as what healing looks like for someone who has formed unhealthy attachment mechanisms with themselves, others, and God.

Extended Summary:

In this message we continue our use of attachment theory as a tool to understand our connections. We’re all presented with questions at an early age like: Am I in a safe environment that will care for me? Do I have committed, attentive, empowering care givers? Can I trust them? Am I worthy of love? The degree to which these questions are answered in a healthy manner greatly impacts the level of security we develop in our attachments. If we develop anxious or avoidant tendencies, these will usually spill over in to our relationship with God.

It’s important to recognize the myriad of factors which affect what comes to pass as a child matures and forms their picture of the world. The care described above is vitally important, but it is not the only factor. The inherited genetics along with the child’s own free will play an equally large role. Although the amount of free will we can exercise in any given situation may be small, the cumulative effect over time in determining one’s path and direction is huge. So, it’s important to remember that as impactful as parenting is, it’s not the only variable. It’s not God’s will for our lives to go around being miserable and beating ourselves up for what we could have done differently if our kids don’t turn out how we would have hoped.

Equally important from a child’s standpoint is remembering that every problem you have as you grow up is not always a result of some missing parental input. Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility what was done for you, but it is your responsibility what you do with it. There is no benefit in playing the victim and blame game. This narrative only creates bitterness and resentment. It’s important to remember that in Christ we are no one’s victim. We are children of the King, and it’s up to us to live in to that narrative. However big the wound, the healing available is greater.

For most people, how we connect or don’t connect in a secure way with our parents carries over to our relationship with God. Thankfully, God meets us where we’re at and uses whatever means necessary to break through and show us his love. For Greg, as a boy with ADHD that was constantly in trouble with the religious system, that meant God using the compassionate figure of Mary to help provide some security and assurance when all of his pictures of God and Jesus were unhealthy. Our affection toward God is dependent on what our picture of him is. The beauty of our life will never outrun the beauty of our picture of him. In this regard, it is vitally important we base our whole picture of God on the image of Jesus, and more specifically, Jesus crucified. Our job as disciples is to take every thought captive that doesn’t align with the beauty of our savior dying for us while we were yet enemies of God. He didn’t wait for us to get our stuff together in order to make himself available to us. There is no deeper depth he could have went in his pursuit of us.

The type of knowing it takes for this reality to sink in to the inside is experiential. We have to de-pollute our minds of pictures of God that don’t align with the beauty of Jesus. To do this, we have to experience him in new ways. We have to let what we know to be true in our head enter our heart and let the truth of who God is in to shape us. Experience is what has created avoidant or anxious attachments in the first place, so we must create new experiences of secure attachment to push back against those patterns. Imaginative prayer, where we behold the beauty of God in our imagination and let him speak over us what is true about us, has the power to transform us from one degree of glory to another. We can’t let our woundedness stop us from healing. In fact, the key in the midst of our struggle is ruthless honesty with our Heavenly Father, and trust that all judgment is done away with. His love is sufficient. Allowing him to love us in the midst of our woundedness is what allows healing to take place.

Reflection Questions: