It’s Always about Relationship
An explanation in a popular Bible apologizes for a Bible character by saying: “it can be very difficult to follow God over the long haul.” I laughed because I shuddered at the opposite: It can be much more difficult NOT to follow God over the long haul.
To live one’s life without the daily companionship of God is difficult. To always be trying to do the right thing or force ourselves to walk away from temptation feels impossible. To strive for what we think of as being “successful” for God can wear us out. We were not meant to do any of those difficult things.
We were meant to hang out with God (more precisely: “have fellowship with him” 1 Jn 1:4) and this is what God invites us into daily. As we abide in that relationship, we come to bear the fruit of love, joy and peace. In such a life with God, obeying God’s commands looks like the smartest thing to do and so we do them. (This was a rough summary of John 15:1-17.)
The way Christians currently focus their attention on how difficult following God is makes life with God seem like a trudge through the mud. While following Jesus is challenging, it’s not a terrible labor because first and foremost, it’s a relationship with God’s own self. God’s own Spirit dwells in us and so God becomes the companion of our soul. Life, friendship, even getting up in the morning can “be difficult over the long haul” but we keep at it because it is so rewarding.
The trudge through the mud occurs when we forget it’s all about relationship. We talk about trusting God’s promises, but we need to trust God’s own self first. We walk through each mundane task looking to see where God is in it. As I approach my email Inbox every morning, it can never be with the idea that I must get this thing done! I get emails from people I don’t know, from people I should know, from people I wish I didn’t know and from people I just love. But Jesus says to me, “It’s about relationship, Jan - never just the task. I will help you love each person - how about it?” So we do it together and I end up following the Great Commandment to love.
I don’t worry so much about “doing God’s will.” I do work at hanging out with God and that forms my character with a little more love, joy and peace (which is what God’s will is for me today). I get guidance from God little by little, so I’m rarely if ever in a situation where I have to decide what to do in the next ten minutes and have no idea. God and I are always on the phone together, walking together, sitting side by side on a bench together, playing video games together (that’s an entire wisbit), lifting weights together, serving the poor together, fixing dinner together, looking for how to bless the person in front of me, together.
When things are particularly difficult, we connect in special ways. Lately I’ve been praying the following prayer of Julian of Norwich several times a day because I’ve been frustrated about not getting the respect and esteem from others I’d like to have. But connecting with God by praying this prayer brings me back to what I know is the true reality.
By your goodness,
This is the life every human was built for. As I have repeated far too often when I speak: Without this life with God, we are only half alive.
What might you do to connect with God in the next ten minutes? Don’t make it too heroic or even too spiritual. Ask God, and see what comes to you.
This is adapted from chapter 2 of Invitation to the Jesus Life.
Grace and peace,
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