I am a creature of habit and structure. That’s just the way that I operate. If I ever want to ensure that something happens, then I have to be intentional at first about carefully building a habit, and eventually it becomes second nature as part of my routine. For example, every single time I get out of my car I always put my keys in purse…I was tired of locking my keys in the car or losing them and locking my 1 year old in the car in triple digits will make a person do anything. For weeks I very carefully, each time I got out of the car, ensured that I put them there, and now it’s an automatic function – I always know where they’ll be, no matter how sleep deprived or distracted, I always put them in my purse when I get out.
Dear God, please do not let me lock my keys in the car now that I’ve just thrown this out there.
Anyway, this is sort of the way that I approached my relationship with God for many years. I knew that I needed to spend more time with Him and in His Word if I was going to grow in my relationship with Him, so I very carefully planned my time to get up early every morning to spend “x” amount of time with Him and made myself go to “x” amount of church services until it became natural. I would build up more time spent alone reading and praying, and going to church became so natural I was there almost every day. But each time something would happen that seemed to set my routine in a tail spin. What if I woke up late one morning? My day was ruined and I was grumpy and rude. If I missed church one Sunday the next became all too easy. Before I knew it, I was not only not spending time with God, reading His Word, or going to church, but I was almost avoiding Him because I knew for sure that He was frustrated with my lack of discipline.
Do you ever have that feeling?
Almost a year ago now I read this book called “The Shack”, and the author describes a totally different kind of relationship with God. It’s sort of like the scripture “pray without ceasing” where you walk in relationship with Him all day. Missing one morning’s devotional or a church service can’t ruin your relationship because He is internalized. All day long you are talking, remaining present with one another.
I think about it a little like the way my husband and I try to remain in relationship with each other while he is at work. We text each other messages about things that happened that day or thoughts throughout the day as well as pictures of things we see. Most of it is not that exciting or important, but it does keep us present with each other and mindful of each other. In a job like his it is easy to live dual lives and become separate when we are apart.
It was tough at first to build this kind of relationship with God because I kept thinking He’s not going to care or like this thought. And when I have slacked off in certain areas there is this temptation to believe He is disappointed in me. But, as they talk about in the book, that is just what the enemy wants us to believe, because this will keep us from coming back to the one who loves us unconditionally. You hear that word, but do you think about it?
Unconditionally means that there is nothing we could ever say, think, feel, do, believe, etc that could ever change that God is totally and completely in love with us. Seriously, I mean that is pretty incredible. As I began to wrap my mind around that, I could tell God things like, “You know God, I know I probably should read my Bible right now, or pick that up, or be kind to that person, but I just don’t really feel like it at all.” And – surprise – God is not afraid of that. He’s glad that we know His love well enough to share with Him. The crazy thing is that even if we don’t do what we think we “should” and we tell Him, He will still love us anyway.
After this, another wild thing happened. I began to tell God, “You know I just don’t want to, but I feel like I should, so can you please help me to do the right thing and change my heart”. Then God would either show me that I am putting a “should” on something He really didn’t intend for me to do or He would actually change my heart and motivation (even about things like doing the laundry, which is no small miracle)!
As I am reaching my last days of pregnancy (and praying every day will be the day) I am becoming increasingly more physically and emotionally weary. I am functioning at a pretty minimal level and just doing what I need to do to get by…there is no getting up at the crack of dawn before my family wakes to read my Bible or exercise or whatever...but as I move in and out of getting through the day and consciousness (who knew I’d need so much sleep) I am learning to still to remain in conversation with God. Mostly our conversation exists these days of “God please let today be the day that Mason is born, and if it is not please help me to make it through peacefully”. And then there are moments, completely uncontrived by me where I find myself alone and more mentally conscious than usual and He shows me a verse and a Word and breathes life into my tired soul.
Isn’t this so much sweeter, so much more freeing, than trying so hard to incorporate a discipline of devotional into your life and feeling guilty all the time because you failed to measure up? God never meant for us to try to reach all that He has for us in our own strength. We are meant to recognize how weak we are and fall into Him; it is His strength that allows us to move mountains, to do the inhuman (like forgive the people that have hurt you the most), and to keep moving forward when all that is within you is breaking down. He loves us, fully, freely, and without a single condition. Amazing!