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Things I Un-learned about God During my DTS

As someone who grew up in a Christian family, and then rejected the faith in my teens, I felt like I knew who God was. I had gone through enough seasons of life to think I had God figured out; in my childhood, He was ‘Father-Christmas-in-the-clouds’, a jovial figure who apparently really liked action songs. In my agnostic, hedonistic teens, He was a boring headteacher, whose main goal was to stop me from having any fun. When I encountered the grace of God aged 17, I brought my warped views of God into my relationship with Him. Not long after coming back to faith, I took six months to try and figure who God really was and what life was all about. As well as learning a lot, there was also a few things I un-learned during that time. Here’s a few of them.

1 . God isn’t ambivalent towards us


Following a tough decade that had involved sudden bereavement, bullying, heartbreak and friendship-breakdown, I had come to believe that God didn’t really know whether he liked me or not. On the good days, I could believe that he cared about me, was looking after me and was an all-round good guy. But on the bad days? I believed that at best, God was apathetic towards me and at worst, he was punishing me for my poor choices.

In getting to know God again (and I’ve still barely scratched the surface six years later), I am continuing to grow in understanding of the power of the incarnation of Jesus. As God and man, He fully embodied what it meant to go through struggle, and whilst He doesn’t promise to prevent it happening to us, he offers us hope through it and the promise that He will always be undeniably present with us in it.

2. God isn’t anti-fun

In fact, a life lived with God, and He himself, is extraordinarily fun. Where I believed God was ‘restricting’ life’s pleasures, I came to realise that He was instead inviting me to greater and more beautiful ones. This C.S Lewis quotes sums up far better than I ever could what I’ve learned about joy with God.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Whilst life with Christ has its fair share of pain, it also comes with a deep joy, that goes beyond circumstances and allows hope to be found in the adventure of a life with God. This journey isn’t intended to be undertaken alone, but with the support, tears and laughter of those who walk alongside us.

3. God isn’t looking for us to perform

In my early days of faith, I was desperate to prove to God that I was worth the trouble of dying for. Without consciously realising it, I was trying to earn a seat at the table. During my DTS, I had the powerful realisation that there’s a seat at the table that’s already mine (and yours). No amount of service, however good and well intentioned, makes me any more deserving of His grace. There’s an incredible freedom that comes from letting down the facade and allowing yourself to be the beautifully broken, authentic version of yourself. I now no longer see this life of mission as a sacrifice to prove my love for God, but a privilege in receipt of His grace. When the love of Jesus changed my life, how could I not want others to know it too?

Jess Hartmann