1glimpse verb \ˈglim(p)s\ : to look at or see (something or someone) for a very short time.
Are you convinced of God’s affection toward you? If you are, consider yourself very blessed. This type of assurance has been starkly absent in my Christian life. My relationship with God has been made up of short glimpses, not long, lingering gazes into the Father’s eyes.
For forty years I’ve been a believer in Jesus Christ. Yet, until my recent involvement with Thin Within, a non-diet, grace-based approach to weight loss, a thick, impenetrable layer of unbelief and fear has hidden God’s face from me. Occasionally, through incredible providential actions on His part, the curtain would be pulled back allowing me glimpses of His glory. I felt Him hold me, rub my back, stroke my hair, like you would comfort a small child who had lost her mother at the mall. But just as quickly as these feelings came, unbelief would rear its ugly head and the veil would snap shut. Once again the Father’s face was hidden.
Veils of separation are prominent throughout the Bible.
Made from embroidered linen, a four inch thick veil, hung at the height of twenty feet in the Temple, covering the access to the Holy of Holies. It took three hundred priests to hang it and it was beyond human ability to tear. No one but the High Priest could enter past it, and he, only once per year. The terrifying presence of God dwelt there.
But two thousand years ago, God magnified something Jesus did during His last moments on the cross. When the Son of God cried out, “It is finished!” and He breathed his last, the veil was torn, split open, top to bottom, revealing the Holy of Holies, the place where God dwelled, where the people could not enter because of their sin. For the first time in history the door was open! Man had free access to God the Father. Can we wrap our minds around this? Suddenly, all the penalties for the sins of God’s people were paid for by the suffering and dying of the Sin-bearer. God the Father ripped the veil in the temple simultaneously within moments of His Son Jesus’ dying breath. Like a courtroom judge slamming down his gavel, the incredible renting of fabric served as the Father’s declaration, “I’m done with separation. It is indeed finished!”
At this very point in history, we realize that God changed His address, choosing to now dwell in human hearts. Believing in Jesus and the finished work of the cross was all that was required for God to inhabit His children and claim them for Himself. The adoption papers have been signed in His Son’s own blood. Jesus now calls us His friends and brothers. We are not foster kids; we truly have been grafted into God’s family, co-heirs with Jesus Christ with all rights and privileges of a natural born son.
Seems like I have this theology thing down, huh? Well the truth was, for almost four decades I could not apply this life-giving and freeing reality to my own life.
Although Father God adopted me in 1974, I refused to settle into His family of adopted children. I struggled against His chest instead of snuggling in His arms, not realizing my position as his daughter. Though I believed in Him, fear kept me off His lap. While the curtain was truly ripped open, allowing me full access to Him, my deceptive thoughts kept me chained outside.
It was me, not God, who kept the separation between us. I longed to pull the door open and burst into the throne room. But the lies of inadequacy, unworthiness and shame made up the chain links I had carefully padlocked around the doorknob.
Where do such lies take root in us? As I have taken my Thin Within journey, a look back has shown me so many things.
I grew up in the chaotic and changing sixties. Comparably, the long-term devastation of alcoholism, rage and neglect brought similar chaos and disorder to my home, defining it as what we now call a dysfunctional family. Demonstrations of authentic love were doled out sparingly, if at all. Affection, affirmation, the calling out of children, these desired Leave-It-To-Beaver-morally-based family interactions may have been experienced in other homes, but were starkly absent in mine. We three Conkle children faired better unseen, hidden away in our bedrooms, or out of ear-shot in our expansive back yard. When Dad came home (usually well after the dinner hour) his words never beckoned us for sloppy wet kisses on his cheeks. Instead, his command to…“Hit the cave!” translated that we were to go to our rooms immediately. He needed his double martinis and having kids around was annoying.
Unfortunately his words had many damaging effects. At a very young and impressionable age, my sister was told she needed a nose job, my brother was told he was stupid and would never amount to anything, and I was only eight years old when my father told me I was fat.
When I look back on the photo documentation during those years, I realize I was not fat at all. Sandwiched between two string-bean siblings, I only appeared larger than them. But I was truly at a healthy weight for my age and height.
Now before my story sounds too Sybil-like, I want to clarify that my parents (both deceased) did not do anything they could have gone to jail for. They parented with what they knew. Their love-tanks were bone-dry, a sad result from their own dysfunctional upbringing, so when it came to us, there wasn’t really anything left to give. Our practical day-to-day needs were met more than sufficiently. We were well-dressed, our home immaculately kept clean, and my very weight-conscious and thin mother pulled a Julia Childs most of the time with her culinary arts. I was taken to activities like Girl Scouts, ice skating and summer camp. Anyone inspecting our family from the outside might have mistakenly thought Ward and June Cleaver were at the helm. Not true. Something was very wrong. There was a gaping hole in their marriage and we children were collaterally damaged.
Father God seemed a figment of someone else’s imagination. He hadn’t made an appearance in our home.
But that was about to change.
In the summer of 1974, having just left a life of love beads, long sun-bleached hair, sloppy Levis and hang ten shirts, I happily embraced early adulthood, newly energized after losing thirty five pounds in my first Weight Watchers experience. I abandoned my hippie look, cut my hair, bought some new stylish clothes, packed up my car and drove eight hours from Fountain Valley, California to my childhood home of Phoenix, Arizona. Excited about moving away from home for the first time, I landed in the Valley of the Sun where I enrolled in Arizona State University as a business student.
At the time finding out Who God was, was the farthest thing from my mind.
As I settled into my collegiate life, an old friend and I got together for a night of bar-hopping. After flirting with guys, dancing and drinking, amazingly our conversation steered to the topic of prophetic end times. My friend was insistent that Jesus was coming back soon and if I was interested I should read a fantastic book called The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. As crazy as this sounds, while buying my textbooks the next morning in the student store, I encountered a display of this very book. I purchased it and voraciously read the entire book that night.
Convinced I was not a Christian and my future afterlife would be spent in hell, that night I anxiously perused the yellow pages trying to find a church that would tell me what I had to do to be saved. I wasn’t really interested in a relationship with Jesus, but rather a fire insurance policy. Discovering a rule-keeping religion seemed the way to go. As long as I did what I was supposed to do, God would surely do His. Sort of like my childhood. Just be good and Dad won’t yell too much, or worst yet, hit. In fact, hiding in religion was like hiding with my books in my room whenever my father came home. It felt safe and familiar.
That weekend I received my “get out hell free card” in a little church in Tempe, Arizona. Father God graciously met me in this fragile cloudy place where the light of His Son remained hidden by my own faulty belief system. The college pastor from that church either didn’t convey the message that I was welcomed into God’s arms or I just didn’t get it. Instead, I walked away with a verbal list of instructions. If I had any bad habits like smoking and drinking, I needed to stop. Church attendance, a must. Oh…and premarital sex…that was a definite no-no.
But after awhile I tired of the rules. I backslid back to the bars. A failed romance convinced me to drop out of school and return to California.
I didn’t drift away from Christianity for long. Soon I found myself smack right in the middle of the Jesus Movement, a phenomenal revival that began on the west coast of the United States. God was on the move with young people all across the country. In my absence while living in Arizona, my mother had become a Christian. And not a legalistic one like me. She was on fire for God! My sister had come to Christ a year before me and so when I returned home, they took me to their church, the very first Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Sherman Oaks, California. The place dripped with the Spirit of God. Keith Green led worship. He and his wife, Melody, were just beginning their ministry and he hadn’t yet recorded any albums. Those were incredible days of growing in our faith and something was shifting in me. I wanted authentic Christianity, not rules. To reach that goal, I quit my management training job, sold my car and went off to YWAM (Youth With A Mission). Despite the rich teaching from YWAM teachers, I continued missing intimacy with God.
As the lack of relationship with God became my identity, I began accepting it as the way things would be. Because of my fear of Him, I didn’t realize there was the Man with outstretched nail-print hands waiting for me behind the curtain. Though the veil had been rent two thousand years ago, my feelings of inadequacy and shame kept me from the warm and inviting atmosphere of the throne room.
Until very recently I could not spend any great amount of time in His Presence. That’s what lies do to you. You are convinced God is like your own dad. In spite of what you read in God’s Word, how He loves and forgives you, God still has the same personality and problems as your dad. As disappointing as it was, I accepted this as the best I would get this side of heaven. I was empty. Food became more and more important as the years rolled forward.
As dreary as this may sound, there were some phenomenal moments where God did get my attention.
One such time happened in the late nineties when most unexpectedly, the veil was lifted. I could see the Father. I wasn’t afraid to approach Him. All because of a picture He gave me during worship.
I was standing in the congregation at a large women’s conference at my church. The sanctuary was packed with about five hundred women, hands raised, storming heaven with praise and worship. As I sang, I felt lifted, freed from the lies that had continued to limit me. Worship always had a way of melting my chains.
Then it came, in brilliant black and white. A familiar image downloaded into my brain.
You’ve seen it. We all have. It’s one of those iconic moments in our American story. President Kennedy sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office while three year-old John-John peers from the opening below.
I stopped singing. Stunned.
What are you showing me God? I asked. Why this image? Why now during worship? It was really strange.
Then as quickly as I asked Him, His answer came: Karon….you can play under My desk whenever you want.
Seriously. Those were His exact words to me.
What? Are You kidding me? I tremble around You. I’m afraid of You.
It is well known that JFK would tell the Secret Service to allow his children into the Oval Office whenever they skipped down the marbled halls of the White House. If the most powerful man in the western world would give full access to his children, why wouldn’t God?
The Amplified Bible says this best: Hebrews 4:16: Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].
God has shown me this recently with my own two and half year old grandson, Elijah. He spends Saturdays with us and we’ve gotten in a delightful habit of keeping him overnight. Like myself, my husband, Armando, absolutely adores this child and the two spend hours wandering through our home, exploring tools in the garage, taking rides in the truck or tinkering with gadgets in his office. He is all boy and acts like our home belongs to him. It does. He pushes through rooms looking for new things to discover, with grandma or grandpa close at his heels because where he goes, often trouble follows.
Like little John-John, Elijah may burst through my husband’s closed office door without an invitation because he feels safe and loved in his grandfather’s presence. He has no fear of being yelled at or told to “hit the cave.” He fearlessly and boldly approaches my husband or me. Our arms are open and faces are extended for sloppy, wet kisses.
In November of 2013, I discovered through an online search, Heidi Bylsma’s YouTube videos. Short, sassy clips of encouragement, couched in a homespun setting endeared me. Heidi’s casual style and incredible honesty about her own struggles ignited my smoldering wick. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. Isaiah 42:3. I was at an absolute desperate place with my ever increasing weight gain. I had done Thin Within about twelve years ago after doing a similar, but very legalistic program for three years. At that time, I was defeated and wounded from the other program, so much so, I wondered if I was no longer saved. Because of its similarity with intuitive eating, I found it hard to embrace Thin Within, even though it was clearly about grace and the kindness of God.
The Holy Spirit has used Heidi’s videos, along with her one-on-one coaching, the Facebook community and the many printed materials to set my faith on fire. The greatest change is one that has taken place on the inside. I truly sense God’s love for the first time in my Christian life. I am resting against His chest, looking deeply into His eyes as I wait for Him to change me.
The glimpse has become a long and lingering gaze.
Something has shifted. Like my grandson, Elijah, I boldly push the door open and find the Lord there smiling. I run to His lap and climb up. This has been happening almost on a daily basis over the past couple of months. Sure, there have been a few times I jumped off as my own failures convinced me again of my unworthiness and His certain disgust of me. But those times are becoming less and less frequent as I stumble forward. Slowly, my earthly dad’s voice is being silenced.
To keep that door open, I have been and must continue to implement some changes in my life. My Father will never close the door but by yielding to unbelief and self-deception, I know I can do so again. Telling myself the truth by renewing my mind will cut off the lies that have kept me chained outside God’s throne room for almost four decades.
To “think God’s thoughts after Him” as Heidi often says, is the most challenging part of my journey because I am learning to preach the gospel to myself and to embrace the scripture that says, “as a woman thinks in her heart, so is she.” (Proverbs 23:7 Paraphrased) We are told Thin Within comes in three phases. In my case there are four. The first, and most important, was to find out that God loves me just the way I am, right now, in 2014. Though I’ve taken off some pounds these past couple of months, what I’ve really discarded are the weighty chains of lies that have kept me from playing Under His Desk.
Karon lives with her husband, Armando, of 31 years in Fresno, CA. They own an air conditioning contracting business and Karon keeps busy bookkeeping and administering a home schooling PSSP for about forty families. She also enjoys writing and web design. They are empty nesters and have four grown children, Natalie, Bethany, Amanda and Luke. Two grandsons, Elijah and David, are the delight of their lives. Recently God has blessed their daughter Natalie and son in law, Alan, with a third child due in August.