John Bowlby, the pioneer of Attachment Theory, a branch of psychology that focuses on how our earliest relationships influence our current and future relationships, wrote that there are three outcomes of having a secure attachment.
- A sense of self-worth
- A belief in the helpfulness of others
- A favorable model on which to build future relationships. (Bowlby, 1982)
Putting this into a Christian context, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4) This word abide is a good word to talk about attachment. “Attach yourself to me and I to you…” There is a deep connection with God that grows out of our relationship with Christ.
First, let us note that as the attachment between a mother and a child, our attachment with God does not start with the child, but with the parent. In the animal world, a newborn chick can follow its mother and can do the work of attachment, it is instinct. But a human baby is helpless to attach to its mother, it cannot follow, it must be attended to. The mother comes to the child to feed it, wash it, and love it. The same is true for our attachment with God. “We love because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
In the case of a vine and branches, the branches don’t grow on their own and then decide to attach to the vine someday. The branches’ mere existence is reliant upon the life of the vine. They grow out of the vine. They are produced by the vine. But for the vine to produce anything it must be securely attached to a healthy, rich source that gives the nutrients necessary to grow. It is Jesus’ eternally secure attachment to God that provides what is necessary for the branches to produce their fruit.
Unlike human parents, Jesus is perfectly spiritually healthy, which begins with his secure attachment to God, but is also because he presents no obstacle for God’s life to flow through him out to the branch. There is a degree of dis-health that inhibits the growth of the overall plant. He is sinless. But what is sin? As biblical scholar William Barclay wrote, “Sin is not so much the breaking of God’s law, but the breaking of God’s heart.” Sin is that which breaks hearts. It breaks relationships. It can be a breaking of relationship with God, with other people, or even with ourselves. It is relationship damage—the kind of damage that leads us to insecure attachment.
It is not that God’s attachment to us is ever broken, it is that there is some kind of blockage that is keeping God’s loving life from penetrating deeply into us and ultimately produce healthy, life-giving fruit. We have an impaired sense of the three outcomes of secure attachment that Bowlby referred to:
- We have a poor sense of self-worth. In other words, we have a hard time believing we are worthy of being loved, including by God.
- We struggle to believe in the helpfulness of others, and this also includes the help given by God. We find it difficult to trust the God who says in Christ, “Come to be all of you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest…” We struggle on carrying all of our burdens by ourselves.
- We have a less favorable model on which to build future relationships. Our models of relationship are built on the model we were raised in, for better and for worse. We are all in need of a more loving foundation on which to build our relationships. We all need a new model.
Christ displays for us deep security found in his relationship with his Father, his eternal parent. It began with an earthly mother and father who strove to nurture a secure sense of self in Jesus by responsively loving him and keeping him safe. But it transitioned to an understanding that he belonged first and foremost to God. This can be seen in the passage where they take Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem at age 12 (Luke 2:41-52). He felt even more at home in the Temple with his Father in Heaven than his earthly home. This relationship was even further displayed in his baptism, when the voice of his heavenly Father said, “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” In his baptism, we see his identity deeply formed, immersed in God’s deep and abiding love and pleasure of him.
We all grew up in imperfect conditions. We all have some lack of security in ourselves and our trust in others, which is limiting the depth of all our relationships. When you awaken to the God who abides with you even before you choose to abide with him, you will bein to gain the security seen in Jesus:
- A sense of worth based on God’s abiding love of you. You are God’s beloved child with whom he is well pleased!
- A belief in the helpfulness of God. You will have a God to turn to amid any crisis, but also a community of others that God leads us to or even sends to us who administer his loving support and help.
- A model on which to build relationships marked by selfless, life-giving love, and deep abiding trust.
These are the fruits of abiding in a secure attachment with God. God has attached himself to you in Jesus Christ. Believing this begins the healing processes necessary for you to receive God’s love deeply so that it will bear fruit in all your relationships.
The GPS Spiritual Inventory© is designed to detect the things in you that are keeping God’s rich nutrients from reaching the depths of your being and producing loving fruit. Take the next step and begin working with a GPS Certified Practitioner to begin to experience increased spiritual health. Schedule a session today.