I know I haven't posted anything in a few weeks, but rest assured that doesn't mean nothings been happening. Actually the reverse is quite true, a LOT has been going on, but most of it is for me right now (mos definitely a few blogs to come). I just want to share this revelation I recently had that was huge. Actually, you may not think so, but for me it was earth shaking big.
So, not to get to deep into everything, in the last couple months I have struggled with not feeling the same "connection" with God that I had in the previous 9 or 10 months. It's not that I didn't feel His presence, it just wasn't the same. I had been on this spiritual high, where I had connected with Christ in a way that I never had been before. Everything was going AWESOME in my relationship with Christ, then some stuff came up and BAM! It just didn't feel the same anymore. I actually, at one point (only for a short time), considered the possibility that God had departed me. I knew he hadn't though, there were instances where I still felt His prompting and still felt His presence. I was doing all the same stuff (praying, reading the bible, abstaining from the stuff He had already called me to), but His presence didn't feel the same. I really struggled with it and didn't understand. So through talking with friends, mentors, coaches, through reading (just finished Seconhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam - GREAT book), and prayer, I came up with this: Our relationship with God is, in essence, a marriage. I know "The Church" is called Christ's bride. But I mean in the literal sense, we (individually) are married to Christ. Like I said, maybe not new to you, but huge for me.
In discussion with a friend, I was able to put in perspective the religion v. relationship topic. I always knew both were important, but never really knew the difference. I have a grasp on it now, but I'm still figuring out a lot of it (I almost said I have a firm grasp on it, but just when I think I do, God shows me something else and proves that I don't). Anyway, what my friend helped me put together is WHY both are important. This was huge in helping me put into perspective this whole difference in the closeness I felt with God and the marriage analogy.
Be patient with me while I try to pan this out...When you first start out in seeking God, you have to have the rules - that's the religion. You need them to help you develop the discipline, devotion, and dedication required to follow Christ. In doing that, Christ begins to change your life, you start (and stop) doing stuff, not out of obligation, but because you know it helps you draw close to God and it pleases Him. All of the sudden you realize you are in love. You have a desire to be with Him always. You begin to feel that passion that keeps you in the clouds. The same as when you meet that person that God has for you. It's an amazing feeling; one that you never want to end. But alas it does. When that happens, hopefully you have allowed God to build a strong enough relationship that religion and relationship have intertwined and you are left with this deeper love and respect that you can't have in religion or relationship alone.
I was told that religion is what you lean on when the relationship is weak. That is true, but it's more than that, it's the bedrock of your relationship. When the burning flame of passion fades to glowing embers, that's where the real fire is. It's like lighting charcoal. You can't cook until the flame has penetrated deep into the coal and is burning throughout. Until that happens the flame is at the mercy of the wind. Think about a time when you've had to relight the charcoal because the wind blew out the flame (especially those of us in Wyoming). Once it is burning within the coal, not just on it, the heat produced is so much more intense and is not easily extinguished. Same with religion/relationship. The time spent developing your relationship with God allows the "rules" of religion to penetrate deep into your heart. At that point they aren't just rules anymore, they're a way of life (that's the whole BE holy part). Now the flame burns deeper and is sustainable.
So that all kind of helped me get to the marriage part. God is constantly trying to woo us to Him. Once you respond to that wooing, He begins courting you. He'll start revealing all this marvelous truth and showing you such beautiful things. He'll ask you to give up certain things, but not without replacing it with something better. This is the dating and early married years. Things may not ALWAYS be perfect, but you just can't believe you found someone so great, some one that "completes" you (by the way - if you're looking for someone to complete you, the only person that can do that is Christ). You want to spend every minute with them. You may disagree on somethings, but the romance is so perfect you're willing to make any exception.
At some point that intense passion gives way to what may sometimes seem like the "everyday". You know you still love your spouse, you're committed to them, but the "flame" is gone. For the record the flame is gone, but the passion is always there and can be reignited over and over. It's the same with God. At some point, you'll stop feeling that intensity. You'll still feel Him near, but it won't feel exactly "new" or "exciting". It'll feel like you've been together for a bit. Of course you can reignite the passion, moments of worship, prayer time, retreats and conferences, but those are less frequent. The important part is that the deeper fire is burning hotter than the initial passion ever did.
Soap Box time: I've said it before and I'll say it again. Love, real love, is not a feeling; it's a choice and an action. The things you do for your spouse reflect the love you have for them. It's the adoration you show them, the respect you give them, the dedication and commitment you chose to honor. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes the point that "being in love" enables us to make the promise to commit to being true to our beloved even when we cease to be "in love". He reinforces the promise of commitment and love being about action by saying, "A promise must be about things that I can do, about action: no one can promise to go on feeling a certain way." Love is a decided action. That's my soap box...now back to the analogy.
Then inevitably you'll have your first big disagreement (again for the record - in any disagreement with God...you're wrong). In marriage, it may seem like devastation. "How can I be fighting with this person that I love so much". Same with God, you're going to mess up or do something stupid and God is going to allow you to reap the consequences of that something. I'll be honest with you, it's gonna happen and it's gonna suck. But this is where that deep love comes in. Just because you get in a fight in marriage doesn't mean you leave. It's the same with God. Just because you mess up or aren't obedient, doesn't mean He'll leave you; He won't. So you're upset, hurt, whatever, but the truth is: He's still there, always, arms open, waiting to comfort you.
The fact is, God loves you. Our walk with God was never meant to always be high on the mountain. I'm actually discovering I spend more time with God in the valley. Probably my own doing, but God works wonders in growing you in those valleys. God doesn't want to date us, he doesn't want a flame that is extinguished by a breeze and at the mercy of the wind. God wants to marry us and be with us always. He wants to build this relationship with us that is sustainable and burns deep. He wants you to say, "I do" and honor your commitment. That's when everything changes...it's beautiful!