God is looking for heart transformation, not behaviour modification.
So learned Amy Savin, an Indie rock artist and worship leader, currently based in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan.
Growing up in church as a pastor’s kid, Amy admits she had to eventually figure out who God was for herself, apart from who everyone was telling her He was. She was raised in a conservative Christian denomination, but found that the religious system of rules and legalities could actually stifle the movement of the Holy Spirit at times.
“What I’ve learned in developing my own relationship with God is He isn’t interested in us being puppets,” Amy said. “He’s interested in a real relationship where you have a voice, where your questions are welcome, where life is messy.
“Faith isn’t transactional, where I do this and you do that. Life with God is complex. Sometimes your prayers feel very effective, and sometimes you’re still sick. Sometimes you see this breakthrough and sometimes the person you love dies. I had to learn that God is so much more interested in journeying and conversing with me, so that He can do His part, than He is with me performing.”
Amy remembers the day she encountered God’s unconditional, agape love in a real, profound way. It happened years ago, during a difficult season in her life, while she was working at a church in Brighton, Michigan.
One day, while meeting with her pastor at the church’s coffee shop, Amy began to emotionally fall apart at the table. “I just began sobbing and remember the pastor, who was my boss at the time, was like ‘What’s going on in your world?’. I told him ‘I’m just so exhausted. I don’t know what else God wants me to do. I feel like there’s no break, like life is always hard. There’s always an obstacle. Why can’t God let me get above the water and breathe for just a minute? Like, why is He always trying to teach something? I’m so tired.’”
The pastor responded with a few powerful questions: ‘What if God isn’t trying to teach you anything? What if He just wants to love you? Could you let Him love you?’
It then occurred to Amy that she was so busy always trying to fix or figure everything out that she had forgotten the profound joy of simply being loved. She was heading to visit her family in Canada, so the pastor challenged her to spend the entire four-hour car ride just letting God love her.
Around that time, Amy was also reading The Shack, by Canadian author William P. Young.
One thing that struck her about the book was how the main character, Mack, who is navigating one of the biggest tragedies of his life, has a powerful encounter with the Lord in a garden in his dreams.
“While reading that book, I remembered thinking: ‘It’s not fair that Mack gets to escape into a beautiful garden with the Holy Spirit but then eventually has to return to regular life that feels dark and heavy,” she said. “Why can’t we be in the garden all the time?” Her husband challenged Amy’s thought process by explaining that she could always be in the garden, that it was a matter of recognizing His closeness and living in His reality.”
Her husband encouraged her not to see the world as this scary place with so many things that need to be fixed. “My husband is someone who experiences God as an anchor every day. Whereas I had lived a life of striving and people pleasing and had experienced anxiety and depression. After that, I had to go on a journey of getting good at hearing what God was saying and being open to His love every day.”
GOD’S TRANSFORMING POWER
Amy has found that God’s love is powerful enough to rewrite the painful stories of our past. The Lord provides us with a new perspective on the things that are difficult or shameful, she said. “Once you experience His love, it’s like the veil has been lifted and all of a sudden, even in the difficult times, you see where God has been moving, what He’s been doing and how He sees it,” she explained.
After those instances, Amy began to understand her real identity – what God thinks and says about her. She realised no matter what happens at the end of each day, whether she fails or succeeds, she’s still His daughter. “He’s never embarrassed of my process. He never rejects me, or misunderstands me,” she said. “I’m learning that, as I am, I am accepted, beloved and the apple of His eye.”
She said as believers, God gives us a unique authority and access to His power – and when God’s children operate in that space we will experience ‘heaven on earth’. “It will change the way we treat the earth and how we care for ourselves,” she said. “We will learn to love humanity, our brothers and sisters, and out of our identity, we also get to worship God in spirit and in truth.