As a child growing up in a Christian home, I knew that I needed to have a “relationship with Jesus Christ”. I was told that God’s desire for me was not to pursue religion but a relationship with Him. And I was given a list of things to do to ensure that I would follow –
I understood in an intellectual way but my heart struggled to comprehend how I actually could have this relationship with an unseen God.
And so, I struggled. It was a vicious cycle of knowing what to do, trying and failing and then the overwhelming guilt . . . round and round it went.
Why was trying to have an intimate relationship with God so hard? I wanted it? Why couldn’t I experience it?
One day I was crying out to God, telling Him how I longed for so much more in my marriage. I desired my husband to WANT to spend time with me, not because he HAD to but because he WANTED to. I longed for him to WANT to be with me.
Then it happened. . .
I felt God whisper to me, “That’s how I want you to love me!”
What?! Could this be what I’d been missing all these years?
It suddenly dawned on me that God didn’t want me to spend time with Him because I HAD to; He wanted me to WANT to spend time with Him. It wasn’t a checklist. It was a relationship!
God had the same longing and desire for my relationship with Him, as I had for my husband!
If my husband saw our relationship solely as a list of duties:
I’m sure you can imagine what my response would be . . . And yet, that’s how I viewed my relationship with God.
Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. Psalm 51.16-17 (MSG)
Why would God feel any differently about the checklist I had for Him? These weren’t given to me so I could check them off and feel good about myself. They were given to develop my love for God and grow my relationship with Him and absent of love and relationship they become only things to boast about, nothing more.
John Ortberg, in his book God is Closer than You Think tells the story of his grandmother who had six children. When asked which of her six children she loved the most . . . “She said love for your children doesn’t work that way. She said it’s as if when each child is born, another room gets added to your heart. And no one else occupies that room. It doesn’t have to be bigger or better than any other room. It’s justtheirs.”
“‘In my Father’s house are many rooms,’ Jesus said. One of them was added on when you became his child. That one is yours, and no one else can ever occupy it. It is secret to you and Him. It’s your own Sistine Chapel. It is furnished by every moment of intimacy and wonder and togetherness shared by you and your Father. ” (John Ortberg)
If you have struggled, like me, in having an intimate relationship with God, I encourage you to set aside the checklist and just BE with Him. He is waiting, inviting you to grab hold of this incredible relationship. He has a room prepared just for you – won’t you meet Him there today?
Lord, put within us a burning to desire to WANT to be with You, not because we know we should but because we simply desire You. May we be satisfied with nothing less. Amen.