What is ‘covering’ in the Lord, how does it work, what are the misconceptions about it, how might we walk in greater covering?
These are questions that many have attempted to answer and I am going to do the same today. To begin with I share a bit of my own journey, for it is here in my experience that my theology of covering has been thoroughly threshed.
Nearly five years ago I had a church leadership team tell me this, “You cannot have God’s blessing, you cannot have his favour, you need to come under our oversight or you will lose all influence, all ministry, and you will not have the covering of God.”
I was taking a courageous step in my life and they did not like it. I was taking 100% responsibility for my life and this was considered a very bad thing. In their bogey-man threats what they had not counted on was that I had already given all ministry and influence back to the Lord (many times over in fact) and if all was lost then so be it, the actions I needed to take at the time had been worked through with the Lord in careful prayer and discernment and my future was completely in His hands.
Long story short, I did not come under the oversight of those leaders and ended up stepping away from that particular ministry, and not one iota of the warnings they gave me came true. Not one. In fact, just the opposite, influence increased, ministry increased, covering increased. And for some time I pondered all this, for what they believed about covering was what I had been believing about covering. Yet I found all of it to be completely false.
As I write this, I remember back to some sixteen years ago when I was following my (now ex) husband in chaotic decisions. He was in a bad space for some time and was steadily moving away from the heart of God in the choices he was making. And for some time I was following (as any good wife is to do…). But bad things were happening and there was a distinct sense that I was moving out from under the protection of the Lord.
The picture that came to me at the time was that of an open umbrella. The handle of the umbrella represents God in his utmost purity and holiness and love. The expanse of the umbrella (in it’s open state) is the space we have to move within the being of God. Here is his forgiveness, his understanding, his grace, his favour and his covering. I understood that remaining under this covering of the Lord was a matter of our agreement to these very heart-things of God. And I also understood that my husband, by the choices he was making, had moved out from under the covering of the Lord and we were consequently open to assignments of death and destruction over our lives (I as I followed him in this).
Once I had this glimpse of what was going on, I made a deliberate choice (albeit a very hard choice that felt wrong in a lot of ways) to turn away from my husband and to turn back to and under the covering of God. It was at this time that healing and wholeness and my own inner healing journey began and where the Lord’s favour began to pour into my life in new ways (and began to pour into my husbands life as well as he was compelled to turn around at the time).
Now for years, the churches that I grew up in, spoke about covering as a thing of hierarchy, women come under the men, men come under church leadership. But my own life journey attests (in exaggerated and very clear ways if we had time to tell the whole story) to the inaccuracy of this very way of thinking, and so I’ve been holding open my query before the Lord for some time about this, waiting on his revelation and insight. I’m not sure that I fully get it even now, but here is what I’ve come to.
Covering seems to be about our walk with God in two specific ways. One, our walking in sync with God. Two, our agreements with God.
Walking in sync with God is mostly about coming into and under the timing of God. In sync with God we do not rush ahead and we do not lag behind. We learn to wait on specific direction and then the specific timing of implementing that direction. In this we surrender our own best thinking and understanding. We may hold our wants and desires up to the Lord, but not in a way that demands but rather in a way that waits on Him.
The thing is, God is big enough to tell us what we need to know. He is mighty enough to direct us and to lead us if we ask and as we wait on Him. The particulars of our lives have implications beyond our own lives, and the work of the Lord through us is not actually about us, but about Him and others. Our lives are not our own, and as we grow in understanding of this, and give our lives over in surrender to the Lord’s guiding (and his oversight that sees and knows so much more than we will ever see or know), we enter into greater flow and in sync with our God. Our footsteps, our choices, our daily tasks, our very lives, come into service in the Kingdom of God and we are tucked in under his covering. By our manner of doing life we either proclaim agreement or disagreement with God.
Now, agreeing with God has nothing to do with any ill-conceived notion that he is obsessed with us agreeing with him and if we don’t we are then smote with the fury of God. No, it is not like this at all. The simple fact is that this earth and everything in it was given over to the control and influence of Satan (by Adam). When this happened the law of sin and death came into effect, because Satan is not about anything but sin and death. The whole thing became subject to death and destruction and so did you and I.
But God, though he had done no wrong, came to earth as Jesus, in a master plan to set things right and to free us from the law of death and destruction. And it is as we agree with God and his (now available) plan of life and blessing, that we come under the covering of our Lord. (Imagine that the on earth sulphur and fire are raining down and the only safe place to be is under the umbrella of the Lord). Will we agree to God and life and blessing, or not?
Now our agreement comes in two ways, one I’ve already mentioned. It comes as we make choices in accord with the heart of God and as we learn to walk in sync with the timing of God. The other way is the matter of our heart and our internal agreements with God.
Our hearts are, from before we are born, destined to death and destruction, and this shows up in our hearts and minds by the lies that we live by, the conclusions we’ve made that are false (in light of Jesus Christ), and by our actions and words that reveal these false things of satan. Who is our heart agreeing to, God or Satan?
Every agreement unto Satan is a foothold for death and destruction, for loss and harm, for bad things to happen, and for assignment of the enemy to take us down (note: this does not mean that all bad things, as we would count them, are of satan). As we do the hard inner work of aligning our thoughts and beliefs unto God and His ways we are increasingly brought into, come in closer, to the heart of God, and here, under his wings, we are covered.
Here, under the wings of God, we are protected, safe, secure, without fear, with love, bold in our witness, free in our expressions, able to move and have our being in the presence of the Lord, and more. Within God we are made new creatures.
The covering of God, from what I can tell, has nothing to do with hierarchy and has everything to do with our walk with God. Your walk, my walk, each persons walk is his and her own and each person makes of it what it becomes. The only element of hierarchy that I can see is that when a person is not yet brought into the full covering of the Lord, that that person can stand alongside another person who is brought into the full covering of the Lord, and while they grow their walk and relationship and ultimate covering of God that they get in on, so to speak, the covering provided by that other person; the same as if in a terrible rain-storm we were to share umbrellas.
But this sharing of umbrellas, of course, in no way, is meant to keep each person from developing and drawing in closer to the Lord for themselves. Each person is meant to enter into God’s ways in both the timing and manner of their life (from an outward perspective) and each person is meant to be transformed in their heart and mind (the inward perspective) unto God.
This, would be my nutshell conclusion about covering. In it, we have far more room for freedom and for a deep honouring in fact, of each individual. We, in this, raise each other up to enter into their own dynamic and relevant walk with the Lord. No longer do we relegate each other to paradigms of wimps, of door mats, of less-thans, of passive spectators to life, or even our own understanding of how to walk with God, each person must come to their own convictions and conclusions and faithfulness with the Lord. God is fantastically alive and vibrant and he invites us into life abundant. This becomes possible as we walk with him and as we agree with him; we are all fully alive and fully growing in our aliveness as we enter into God.
Now, as executive director of Capturing Courage International Ministries, I come to this topic from the other side of the coin. The work that we do is spirit realm work; we are breaking strongholds from off of people’s lives, and we are freeing hearts and minds to walk in the knowledge of God, we are taking back enemy territory. And over the years, there have been a few individuals who have wanted to come alongside the work of CCIM and participate, bringing their own gifting to the table.
I, of course, am always very glad of this and eager to accept collaborations. Yet, a number of times, very bad things have happened to these individuals, very bad things. And as I’ve observed and considered this, pondering and praying about what is going on, the only conclusion that I’ve been able to come to is that there is hidden sin in their lives, in terms of the choices of their life (they are out of sync with God’s timing) and hidden motives deep within (not all rooms and closets of their hearts have been opened to the Lord).
Each of these individuals carried profound spiritual authority, yet somehow the enemy was able to take them down. And even though I wanted to extend protection over these ones, I am not (as the traditional hierarchy model might have us believe) the one who gives covering. Each person must do their own work of alignment in both heart and life, unto the Lord.
As I now look unto collaborations in ministry, I look first and foremost to the person’s heart with God. I look to their movement in the Lord, do they seem to be running ahead of God, are they able to wait on the Lord’s timing, how much ego is still present in their ministry? For every single place where ego is part of ministry (where we make decisions based on us and where those decisions represent unhealed and wrong conclusions about life and God and others) is a place where we are vulnerable to attack and loss and bad things happen, both out of the blue and in chronic ways.
Any one of us may carry amazing gifting and spiritual authority, wisdom and skills, but where we are not surrendered to God, these gifts and authority simply become a tool in the hands of the enemy.
All of this seems to be why the Lord sends me as prayer clients those who he is moving forward in influence and ministry and spiritual authority (note, spiritual authority is not positional authority in the church – but that is another conversation). As the Lord moves us forward he will not do so without our alignment growing stronger with Him. For God knows, better than any of us, that our only protection is as we are tucked right up next to His heart. Our motives must be worked through, the lies we’ve believed must be demolished, the ways we do life that do not agree with the heart of God must be changed, or we are in trouble.
Entering into greater influence and spiritual authority requires that we are cleaner vessels. For God to blow through us at 180mph we must be free of self, free of ego, free of lies, free of anything that would get in the way of God and his holiness and righteousness. This doesn’t mean free of our humanity, it means entered more fully into Christ (but that may be another conversation as well).
The fear of the Lord has us entering into into Him in greater ways. The fear of the enemy, if you have a healthy respect as you should, would also have you entering into the Lord in greater ways. We come before God, we open the rooms and closets of our hearts and minds and lives, and we allow searing fire and floods of living water to transform us from the inside out. Here we tuck into the Lord, here we are safe, here we are covered. And out of this comes bold living in the grace and covering of our Lord.