On the journey of faith, we inevitably encounter challenges that we must overcome in order to grow in deeper relationship with the Lord. An important part of overcoming the challenges we face it creating a strong foundation for our faith so that, with God’s grace, we can journey onward to holiness.
Fr. Albert Haase, OFM, a regular guest on The Inner Life®, explained what he sees as a critical piece of a healthy spiritual life – and what we can do to build that strong spiritual foundation.
Fr. Albert said, “As a spiritual director, and as somebody who trains spiritual directors, one of the things that I think is the most critical piece in any person’s spiritual life is your image of God. And we don’t think of that often enough.”
“Your image of God, how you think about God, really colors everything about your spiritual life,” he pointed out. “So if your image of God is not a healthy image of God, if your image of God keeps you hiding in the bushes out of fear, then you’re never going to end up making any progress in the spiritual life. And you’ll never learn to love God because you’ll spend more time fearing God.”
He explained that he always tells people that your image of God should mirror the image that Jesus had of God when Jesus called God ‘Abba.’ When Jesus called God Abba, He wasn’t just saying that God is masculine, or God is a father, He was saying that God is a God of unconditional love.
Fr. Albert continued, “This idea that God really is a God of unconditional love – that’s where we have to begin. And in my ministry as a spiritual director, I’ve discovered that most of us don’t have healthy images of God. We have images of God that end up doing more harm than good.”
“If my image of God is not calling out of me through acts of love, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion – because that’s really what sanctity is all about – if my image of God doesn’t call that out of me, I’ve got to take another look at my image of God and see what’s really going on there.”
But Father Albert didn’t just identify the challenge, he also proposed a solution, saying, “I think the best way to [get a healthy image of God] is to take a look at the New Testament and to focus on those passages in Scripture where Jesus talks about God.”
“Jesus talks about God as a woman who puts yeast in dough. Jesus talks about God being a good shepherd. Jesus talks about God being that father who runs down the road to meet me, even before I have a chance to apologize for my sins. Jesus talks about God being that woman who wakes up in the middle of the night and lights all the lamps trying to find her lost coin.”
As we meditate on all those images of God that Jesus conveys to us, that should help to redirect or refashion our own images of God.
“We outgrow our images like we outgrow our clothes,” Fr. Albert said. “And so as we grow older and we root ourselves in the message of Jesus, hopefully we can come to see in a deeper and deeper way that God is a God who wants to be loved. He doesn’t want to be feared. And so we need to get out of the bushes and begin to open our hearts to His voracious enthusiasm to come deeper into our life.”
Listen to the reflection from Fr. Albert Haase, OFM below: