“Perhaps we are afraid that God no longer speaks to anyone much any more or that we can no longer recognize His voice. Or it could be that we are afraid that God still does speak and that we will hear, and that the God of the publicans and sinners and scared and scurrilous will want to make something new of us as well.” pg. 51.
Robert Benson; “Between the Dreaming and the Coming True”
In the church we talk a lot about having a relationship with God. That is the whole point of our faith. But for many, myself included, that is a scary proposition.
When I first began attending church (as a previously unchurched adult,) I really liked the idea of grace, and love and forgiveness. To be honest, I had never had much experience with those concepts in my daily life. So that softer, gentler way of dealing with people was very appealing.
As I continued on my journey, I had some wonderful people leading me along and teaching me about prayer and having a personal relationship with God. I am forever grateful to my Tuesday night small group in Gardendale for having the patience to let me hang out with them week after week.
On the surface everything sounded wonderful. There was only one problem. This relationship they were describing didn’t match up with anything I had ever experienced, so I didn’t quite buy into all the grace stuff. I came from an environment in which you got what you paid for, and there were consequences if you failed. There was no grace in the picture.
As a result, my worldly sense of balance and fair play kept God at arm’s length for a very long time. I couldn’t quite trust Him enough to let Him all the way in. For example: Up until this point, I had lived my life all for me. I had done what I wanted, when I wanted, and didn’t take much consideration for others.
So as I tried to reconcile that lifestyle with being a Christian, I could only come to one conclusion. To make up for all the selfishness I had exhibited over the years, the only way to balance it out was to go live in an African mud hut and do missions for the rest of my life. That would be fair wouldn’t it? Live it up and enjoy life for 30 years and then spend 30 years or so paying for it? Isn’t that how the world works?
So I did the sensible thing. I just didn’t ask. I had my prayer life, I worked at this relationship thing as best I could from a distance. But I never asked God the question, “What do you want from me?” I was afraid of the answer. And I was even more afraid of what would happen when I refused. So I danced around church and God for a long time, ignoring the big white elephant in the room. I played at Christianity very well for a very long time. And I did a lot of good things like missions and giving and Bible study. So it really didn’t matter that I wasn’t “asking God” if this is what He wanted, did it?
The fact was, I don’t do well without air-conditioning and hot showers. I know I am a shallow person, but that is just how He made me. I decided that I could serve God in a lot of wonderful ways that didn’t involved mosquitos and food rations.
What an idiot!! But in my defense, I was pretty new at this God thing. How could I believe He would take me to a place of joy when I had never done anything to earn it?
Here is the thing friends: Any place God takes us is better than what we can do ourselves. I have learned that over and over in this past decade. I have no fear of where God will take me anymore. His grace flows over me wherever I am. And His presence sustains me. And, He is a God of grace, not retribution. He is a God of empowerment and equipping, not petty vindictiveness. He takes me to places where I can serve Him best ( and I am thankful that most of them have included running water.)
These things He requires of me are not always easy. Sometimes they are downright hard, especially when I have to look at those places inside myself that need some re-working – attitude, motivations, habits. But it is always good. I have learned that even in the re-working times, there is no need for fear. Because I believe He is making me a better person with each passing day. And I always remember that the life of grace and character building He offers is not always easy, but it is so much better than where I used to live.
May we all learn to trust our great Redeemer, corrections and all, and to actively listen for His voice – that we might find the paths of eternal righteousness and blessing.
In the name of my Creator I pray,