Less often than in years past but more often than I would like to admit, I at times find myself at the end of a day, sometimes even at the end of a few days or (ugh) a week, when it hits me. I’ve gone the entire day (or longer) without walking with God. That’s not to say I haven’t spent time reading a daily devotional, reading scripture, listening to a Christian-oriented podcast or reading a book by a Christian author, but rather that I’ve not invited Jesus into the intimate and endless moments of my day, that I’ve not sought or listened for the Father’s direction, that I’ve not been mindful or open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe each of these other spiritual practices are good and helpful and God-ordained. In fact, I mention them because there aren’t many days that go by without me spending at least a few minutes on one of them, BUT….. I have to remind myself that devotionals, scripture, podcasts and books are all TOOLS to strengthen my relationship with God. They are NOT the relationship.
Let me put it this way. I have three school-age kids who are wonderful and who I love dearly. With the combined data that my wife and I receive on our smartphones from their teachers and schools and from the papers that come home in their backpacks I can read their stories, review their assignments, view photos of them in class and even occasionally watch videos of their projects. With these tools I can learn an awful lot about what my kids are good at and what they like to do. I can begin to understand each of their personalities and how they see themselves and others. However, none of this actually provides me a relationship with my kids. For that to happen, I have to spend time with them – talking to them, listening to them, spending time in their presence.
Our relationship with God works the same way. We can spend all our time learning about God or we can spend our time in relationship with Him. In His divine goodness He has given each and every one of us on this planet the exact same amount of the primary commodity required in any relationship – time. 1,440 minutes of it every day for each of us. We then have to decide how we are going to spend it and, more importantly, with whom.
But I know this already so why have another 1,440 minutes (or more) of my life gone by without walking with Him? This is a question I have to dig into – one that we each have to ask ourselves and one that I would encourage you to talk with God about if you find yourself living moments of life apart from God.
- Do I believe in my heart of hearts that God is truly good and that He is for me? If not, it’s far easier to devote time to learning about Him rather than spending time with Him.
- Do I believe that he would ever want to speak to me personally? Do I truly believe that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was enough to pay for my sins and make me righteous before the Father? If not, I’ll wallow in shame or self-pity and allow the lies of the enemy to rob me of the relationship that God desires with me.
- Do I so value the comforts of the World over God’s promises for me that I’ve over-committed my time, resources or personal energy so that I can build a better earthly kingdom to comfort myself and my family? If so, I will be more inclined to medicate my sheer exhaustion with television, sleep, or mindless games on my phone.
- If I don’t “feel” God’s presence at any moment do I draw the conclusion that He either isn’t here or doesn’t care about me personally? If so, I am more likely to see him as unapproachable and less likely to see His presence in the world.
- Do I attempt to manage my daily life and control my daily schedule in such a way that I’ve left no room for God to show up? If so, I either succeed and begin to think I can do it on my own or fail and blame it on God.
When I’ve neglected my relationship with God, sometimes it’s a gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit that draws me back with a jaw-dropping sunset, or the wet kiss of a blanket of fog on the way into work, or the smell of a pine tree or the sound of a stream or the timely words of a song. Sometimes it is one of the spiritual practices I mentioned earlier that draws me back. Sometimes it’s a comment from one of my kids, or one of the many selfless acts of my wife, or a timely word from a good friend.
If it’s been much longer than a day of not walking with God it’s sometimes less of a nudge of the Holy Spirit and more like a painful shove down the stairs brought on by my own sin. It might begin with an unintentional, unplanned harsh word spoken out of frustration which quickly escalates into verbal hand grenades – indiscriminate, imprecise lobs of nouns and verbs exacting pain on anyone within range – and end with regret, tears, and damaged relationships. There is a reason Jesus says to abide in Him. There is a reason he says branches cannot bear fruit unless they are connected to the vine. It is out of these experiences that I realize even more how desperately I need (and want) to walk with God from moment to moment and minute to minute.
Whether the renewal of my conversation with God begins with joy and gratefulness as I experience one of the countless ways His glory is revealed through His beautiful creation or begins with sadness and repentance from my own actions, I am thankful that our heavenly Father, like the father of the prodigal son, who, in Luke 15:20 saw the son “while he was still a long way off”, never stops looking for us to come home and never gives up on the relationship, whether it has been a day, a week or a lifetime.