I’m going to admit something today. Nothing scandalous or earth-shattering – but liberating, at least for me.
When you are raised in a traditional Christian home as I was, you are . . . well . . . sort of programmed to believe certain things and to act a certain way. You’re not really encouraged to seek out God’s truths for yourself. Your whole Christian life is boxed into neat little packages and you don’t have to think about it much.
You open the “spiritual” package on Sunday mornings while you are in church. You sing the songs, pray the prayers, and try real hard not to fall asleep during the pastor’s uninspired sermon. If you brought your Bible, you might even open it just to prove to the person sitting beside you that you do know where the book of Ezekiel is. You breathe a sigh of relief when the church service is over so you can go home, take off the pantyhose, and settle in for a nice long afternoon nap. By the time you wake up, whatever happened in church that morning is a distant memory – if it’s a memory at all.
Monday morning comes, and it’s back into the world. Open the “religious” package. Most people know you are a Christian (or something like that) because you don’t swear, you pretend not to laugh at off-color jokes, and you drink diet Coke instead of wine at the company’s social functions. Other than that, you’re not much different from everyone else around you.
On Wednesday, you go out for lunch with a co-worker and she tearfully shares that she has just discovered her teenage daughter is experimenting with drugs. The co-worker asks you for advice because she knows you go to church. You shift uncomfortably in your seat, not knowing what to say. After a lot of scrambling for the right words, you tell her that drugs are a sin and that this teen should get her life cleaned up before it’s too late. Like the co-worker needed that revelation. You offer a half-hearted invitation for her to accompany you to church, but you secretly hope she says no.
You spend the rest of the day wondering if you might have failed as a Christian. Finally, amid the dense commuter traffic on your way home from work, you open the “prayer” package. You take a few moments to tell God you think you goofed and you ask Him to please forgive you. After all, He said He would, right? You sigh with relief, pull out your cell phone and make a call to tell your best friend all about your co-worker and her druggie daughter.
By the time the next Sunday rolls around, you are ready to be spiritual again. You even tell a few people in your congregation about how you were able to help someone with a drug problem that week. They nod in approval, and you feel pretty good about yourself.
Now for my admission. I’ll bet you thought I forgot.
I spent many years trying to live my Christian life within those neat little packages, opening them when it seemed appropriate . . . if I opened them at all. Quite unfulfilling in the long run.
But I’m learning something.
The Christian faith is a relationship, not a formula. It’s about seeking the face of God, not a bunch of religious rules. It’s about knowing Him. Really knowing Him. It’s about learning who He is by studying His Word, and spending time in conversation with Him.
And I’ve learned something else.
God shows up in the lives of those who search for Him.
I like that.