In my previous posts in this series I mentioned that even though I was a pastor, not unlike many Christians, I had not come to know the love of my heavenly Father in an experiential way. The warmth of God’s fatherly love was still missing leaving me insecure, angry, defensive and with a church that was on the verge of mutiny.
But something happened while on a pastoral retreat that turned that around. I shared about how angry, afraid and how ashamed I was of the mess I had made of the church. What happened next was a life-changing moment. One of the pastors, Lance Pittluck, looked straight at me and said, “Mike, you need the blessing of our heavenly Father”, and began praying that I’d receive the spirit of adoption. As he laid hands on me I began experiencing something powerful yet intimate. It was like God was breathing into me, invading a part of me that had never been touched before! A warm presence flooded my body aimed right at that wounded, insecure place in my heart. It was like the little boy inside me was finally being secured by a love that my biological father was unable to give me. I felt connected to God as a son not as a servant. As this was happening Lance spoke words of the Father’s blessing and affirmation over me; words that I needed to hear. “Mike, you’re God’s son. He loves you. He’s proud to be your Father…” It was wonderful and overwhelming. I was receiving the warm fatherly embrace I’d been longing for. I felt affirmed and secure. As it turned out it started a process that gradually moved me from being an insecure, impulsive, and angry servant to becoming a confident son and eventually a spiritual father to my church.
Placed in the presence
I live in a love-starved world and my memory is short so Abba has to give me lots of big hugs to remind me that I’m secure in his love. Most are not big and dramatic but it always works the same way: I come to God weak and in need. The Holy Spirit meets me. I feel the warmth of the Father’s loving presence and hear him speak reassuring things to my heart. I’m usually emotionally moved as my need and sense of weakness at the moment is dealt with.
Paul described this experience…
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:14-16)
He used the term adoption. It literally means, “the placing as a son” to describe the experiential nature of the work the Spirit bringing us into the presence of our heavenly Father. We cry “Abba, Father” as a result. This is the affectionate cry of a child that knows he or she is loved. It describes a powerful spiritual experience beyond our minds that can be emotional and physical as well. The Holy Spirit touches us is such a way that we’re made aware that we belong and are accepted. That’s what happened to me at the retreat. That’s what I’m reminded of time and time again. We actually feel like beloved children. We’re placed in the Father’s presence, bringing his loving touch and helping us hear his voice of love, securing our hearts.
There’s always more
You and I will never outgrow the need for the Father’s love. We’re created to depend on it. So it’s never a “been there, done that” sort of one time experience. You can always ask for more. I like what my friend Ed Piorek has to say about this, “The Father by his Spirit will continue to pour out his love again and again, over and over, touching us with the warmth of his affection throughout our lifetime, breaking through our unbelief and mistrust, healing our inner wounds, overcoming our insecurities, until we come to the fullness of his love like Jesus experienced. Until we get it. Until our identity is based on truth and love rather than the devil’s lies. Until we are finally like Jesus.”
If I can point to one, if not the most important grounding experiences that’s shaped my life and ministry it’s been the Abba experience. It’s dealt with my deepest fears and insecurities and gradually freed me to become the person I was created to be.