Originally posted to MySpace on:
April 10, 2006:
For most of my life, or at least most of my Christian journey (and what is that exactly?), I heard the term “personal relationship with Christ” flung around pretty loosely. Not so loosely that it loses all resilience entirely, but loose enough that it sort of misses the mark that I’m sure it’s supposed to reach. In other words, it’s supposed to mean that…well, before I get too far ahead of myself it’s supposed to mean several things, but in the context that it’s often shared, it’s supposed to mean “having Christ in my life,” or quite simply, “I’m saved.”
Okay, fine. I can accept that. It’s a reasonable way of understanding the meaning of having that personal relationship. Sounds easy—mysterious and a little out there, but easy.
But why call it that? Why not just say that Jesus covered my sin with His blood and leave it at that? What’s this relationship thing all about? For something that’s supposed to be “personal,” it feels too much like a “standard,” a “basis,” or even a “requirement.” In the realm of salvation, these things may be true. But what does that have to do with a “relationship?”
Okay, I threw out a lot of quotation marks there, so maybe it’s time to make sense of them. Salvation is only the beginning, not the end all of the Christian life. I think a lot of people treat it as the end all, but this journal isn’t about that. It’s about that next step, that step that says, “okay, now what?” Or more specifically, the step that follows “okay, now what?”
To put things back to the opening mindset, the personal relationship I’ve been taught about in various seasons of life means just what it sounds like. It means having a personal relationship with God, with Christ, with the Spirit. It means walking, talking, and sharing life with the One who gave me life. It’s part of the Christian life that begins after salvation. Sort of like walking along the beach with a friend and talking about whatever the heck you want, but that friend being the Lord. For those who are unfamiliar with this, this probably looks incredibly like a Sunday School teaching…kinda nice, sort of, but mostly vague and unapproachable. After all, this is God. Who am I to walk along the beach with Him? What makes me so special? The thought of walking with God feels like a fairy tale, and the thought of being important to the Creator of rock stars, movie stars, sports heroes, and presidents—people who are clearly too important to hang out with me; there’s no way that I’m that special.
And yet, that’s what I’ve been taught. My whole life. Sure, there were plenty of easy Sunday School lessons in that mix, but come on, what am I supposed to get out of this “personal relationship with God”? It’s a statement wrought with such a high paradox. It’s approached with such weakness but entails such greatness. What am I supposed to do with it?
Many of us who have stood in this position, asking this very question of why this is supposed to be so powerful and amazing, and yet feels like it’s nothing particularly impressive at all (stuck in the middle of the paradox as I’ve been for so long), have more than likely spent an entire life feeling rather insignificant, and certainly underused. Likewise, those who have been introduced to God, but don’t really know the significance of being in that relationship with the Lord, probably don’t have a clue about the depth of heart and life in which they’ve been invited. The whole thing just seems devalued. Who am I? Really, who am I?
A great struggle of mine these last few years has been understanding the voice of God—is it a silent whisper, a conversation in my head, the counsel of a friend, the Bible itself? I’ve heard it described so many different ways, but have had difficulty in pinpointing how it reaches me. Sure, the Word of God is absolute, and anything spoken to me from there is truth. But, it speaks to me through stories that have applications clocking in at over two thousand years old. Sure, I can plug in yesterday’s circumstances with today’s very similar characteristics (we all still eat, drink, fight, flight, and love, so it’s not that different). But how does that help me to decide where best to live, or who to befriend, or all those little specific things that shape the daily progress of life? Yeah, I’ve been given the ability to make decisions for myself, and believe me, I make those decisions all the time (usually in the form of what I’m gonna have for lunch), but there are still some things that I’d appreciate counsel about. Counsel I would only trust coming from God. Stuff that includes those major life decisions that the Bible might not be clear about.
And therein lies the speed bump of my Christian walk. Trusting the voice of God. Yes, the voice of God is trustworthy—it is after all THE VOICE OF GOD!!!!!!!!! It’s not the Voice of Uncle Lou (who is no uncle of mine for the record, it just sounds appropriate for this discussion). The voice of God will only offer truth and what needs to be known: nothing flippant, fluffy, or farfetched. But I’ve struggled with the problem of listening to the voice I thought was God and ended up finding out later on that the “voice of truth” was rather a “voice of my own will,” and seeing as how my will wasn’t in tune to God’s will, that voice led me down a road of heartbreak.
I know some people are gonna wanna jump in here at this point and tell me that sometimes God will bring us down that road of heartbreak to build our character and ultimately bring us down a road of joy. To those I say, “hold your horses.” I know that, but it’s not the point I’m going for here. The point that I am reaching, I’m almost there, but it’s just taking me some time to set it up, so bear with me.
So far we’ve opened the door about the “personal relationship” and the “voice of God,” but how do these correlate into the Christian walk (which, by the way, has plenty of intricate details to discover; it’s not just one or two basic, yet hard to comprehend things)? Okay, to go back to the original point, I’ve never felt particularly caught by this notion of being significant to Christ. When I’m told that He loves everyone, it’s hard to believe that I could have a personal relationship with the God that wants to have a relationship with everyone. It’s like the middle child of a family of twenty trying to stand out to his parents, or the sixtieth boyfriend of an unsatisfied woman trying to be something that the other fifty-nine guys before him were not (and ultimately finding out two weeks later that the girl has to clear him out to make room for boyfriend number sixty-one). Trying to cry “Abba Father,” or “Hey Daddy” to those who don’t know what the first term means, for that much desired, much needed attention from God the Father seems like a futile attempt when, even though He somehow listens to me, He does so as He’s listening to millions of others that very same moment (and probably more if half the world wasn’t fast asleep that very moment). I can appreciate the fact that He does hear me when I call, but how is this relationship personal? Why am I supposed to feel significant when the real world physical aspect of it is like going to a birthday party where forty or more people are there for one person, and the thought of making time to be a friend to that one person is completely absurd (because there are thirty-nine others vying for that same attention and offerings of praise the same time you are). Truly, who am I to be significant in this swallowed up desire to share a personal intimacy with the Creator?
After wrestling with this concept for longer than I care to think about, God finally spoke to me the other night about it (using the voice of the conversationalist—which has been the method I’ve been most skeptical to listen to). Usually when something about the Lord strikes me in a special way, and yes, despite the tone of this journal those moments do still happen, I feel compelled to write them down and share them with whoever will listen. Sort of like what I’m doing now. Not that I expect the world to read them, or even most friends for that matter, but I still like to write down what I’ve learned so that I don’t forget about it later. Because it’s there, I sometimes feel like sharing it with those who I think would appreciate the message. I really can’t gauge other people’s moods though, so I don’t know who all spends the five minutes or so it would take to read one of my journals. But anyway, I choose to write them down, and then I move on, and then I wait for the next great revelation to set me along my path of uncertainty (and inevitable joy if one is to accept the fact that brokenness can turn to joy when placed in God’s hands).
The other night, I felt the Spirit urge me to reconsider that compelling need to write everything down (as I’m doing now…ironic in context, but I think this is a case where writing it down is appropriate). In my deep investigation for God’s will for my life (Seek ye first the Kingdom of God), I felt my spirit shaken around left and right to the point that my whole realm of complacency fell (not that I wanted it to stand anyway), and in my shattered moment I heard the Lord whisper the answer to that long sought, but hidden question: “The personal intimate relationship can be found; you just have to discover it as you discover Me.” The exact words, I don’t remember entirely, but the meaning of the context came across that way, with the emphasis added to the word “discover.”
A few years ago, a friend of mine threw a curveball at me. In one of our spiritually related conversations, he brought up the mention of a video game he had once played called Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. For those who know nothing about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, or about video games in general, it was a game for the Nintendo 64 about a hunter who treks around a 3-D world hunting dinosaurs (as the title implies). Back in the mid-90s, the onset of 3-D gaming was still new, and despite what jaded gamers may say now, it was still cool. But, the story doesn’t end there. When he and I were discussing the use of reaching kids through media (he was a youth pastor at the time), he brought up this example the Lord once gave him while he was in the middle of playing this game. “You see the world I have before you? I gave you this world to explore it.” Just for reference, the world in the video game was savage, lush, and full of cliffs and rivers and all those majestic landscapes that make a landscape majestic. Much like our own world can be at times. Pretty mighty message for God to pull out of a Nintendo game.
God reminded me of this statement the other night in this exploration of Him and of His will. There is something to explore here, and all those nice little Sunday School messages need not apply. Yes, the personal relationship starts with salvation. Yes, it involves the long walks on the beach talking to the One I can’t even see directly (the ocean splendor is the best thing I have at my immediate disposal to even suggest that He’s there). Yes, it includes those daily prayers to get me, my friends, my family, and those random souls I don’t know but might see flicking someone off in middle of the highway, through the day. But there’s far more to go on than that. This personal relationship, or rather, this intimate relationship goes deeper than that.
Discovery seems to be a great part of that. God gave me His Word as a basis for exploration, but never stopped there. God gave me His creation (both world and people) as a means to understand His intent for exploration, but still offers more. God even gave me a chance to hear Him directly (which I’m still trying to grasp, though it’s been incredibly difficult—due primarily to my skepticism of knowing Him over the voice from my own thoughts). But these things don’t quite measure up to the one-on-one intimacy that He claims I’m supposed to have.
“There’s no need to write and share everything you learn from Me. [Close friends do not often share each other’s secrets with the world.] A wife would not tell the world of something that only she was to know of her husband. [A parent would not post his child’s most embarrassing moment on the Jumbotron at a football stadium.] Some things I share, I intend only for you to know. I may share the same things with others, but that is for them to discover on their own. It’s what makes Me personal to you. Not everything has to be a message to the world. I reveal Myself in different ways to everyone. That is what makes your relationship with Me unique. I reveal Myself to you in a way that you’ll understand.”
In a way this journal may seem like a complete violation of the very thing God has spoken to me about. The fact that I’m writing it down—the fact that I’m sharing it must mean I’m not applying the message. But, some things God does intend for me to share, and I think this may be one of them. In any case, the message helped me to discover my worth in this grand adventure with God. Sure, I may be one of millions upon millions who share in this great adventure. But the fact that the Lord can still find a way to keep my part of it unique is just another thing to add to the amazement scale He seems to display so well.
If not for that, I don’t know if I could ever fully convince myself that I’m unique in Christ, or that I’m worthy of being an intimate part of some grand adventure. I don’t know; I’m sure many of us have questioned the significance of our lives in this matter. There’s no way that I’m the only one asking this question. But, hopefully this can add some understanding to those who might share in this feeling of insignificance. Granted, I’m sure God has more for each of us to learn, but that’s something for Him to reveal to each of us in His own way. I just hope I might inspire a jumping off point for that personal deep investigation of God that I know He wants us to dive into.