Some human beings love to make things simple. We like to take complex matters and break them down into bite-sized, manageable pieces. If we can take those pieces and turn them into bullet points, all the better. We are particularly fond of taking those bullet points and lining them up against empty boxes that we can then check of as we complete them. You probably have one or two lists like this in your possession. Your “Things To Do List” for today might include items, such as “pick up groceries for tonight’s dinner,” “drop off dry cleaning,” or “pay wireless bill online.” Your list for work may include calls you must make or meetings you must attend. On the whole, lists can be great. As a matter of fact, the older I get, the more dependent I have become on keeping lists in order to help me to remember all that I have committed to do. Once completed, my lists affirm my abilities and my level of productivity. In short, a list with checked boxes, makes me feel good.
While I find that lists work extremely well for the mundane duties of my life, they are a horrible practice for my relationship with God. In fact, if I depend upon my lists to tell me how my relationship with God is going, I am likely to behave like a religious person, but not one who is in a relationship. The bible is full of complex as well as simple truths. Much of the Christian literature available, and yes, even some of the posts on this site have taken concepts as deep and meaningful as prayer and boiled them down to four, five, or even six “easy steps.” As a person who actually thinks in bullet points, you may discover that I have a preoccupation with the “how” of a matter, sometimes more so than the “why.” I like to understand a process and be able to execute it well. With God, however, focusing on process doesn’t work well. In fact, it is entirely possible to master a process and miss the Lord entirely. Jesus called the people who do this hypocrites.
For all the lists I have for religious duties, none of them means anything unless predicated upon my intimate, personal relationship with God. I can hit a checklist when I pray, but a checklist falls short when I face the need of pouring out my soul. I can recite the steps to salvation as they appear in several popular tracks today. But if I fail to embrace the fact that Jesus was a real human being, who walked this earth, who experienced joy and sorrow, anger and peace, and who sacrificed his life just for me to know him, then the purpose of salvation is lost to me.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are to be encountered and experienced, not merely learned or known about. Just as we can’t enter into a real relationship with a person merely by reading and memorizing his/her profile, or resume, it makes sense that we can never truly enter into a relationship with God by reducing his love for us, our relationship to him, or our service to a list of “to do’s.”
Checklists do not work in our relationship with God because what he wants most from us is our heart. He wants to be the sole object of our love. He wants us to want him more than we want anything or anyone else. He wants us to be preoccupied with his beauty, his mercy, his grace, his perfect love. He wants us to be so full of himself that his characteristics pour out of us to others, giving them an opportunity to experience his touch. To have a living, active relationship with God, we must know him. We must comb through his revelation of himself in the Bible, not for self-help tips, but for the purpose of discovering his heart toward us and toward others. We must spend time in prayer for the sake of growing closer to our Beloved through conversation, instead of rattling off a laundry list of our wants. As sunflowers turn their full attention to the Sun, their source of nourishment and warmth, so the believer should offer up his/her focused attention to God for the purpose of not only receiving, but giving as well. The manner and frequency of how we do this is largely individual and cannot be reduced to a five-step process.
Getting to know God for ourselves can be time-consuming and terribly imprecise. But as we purpose to honor him as the most important person in our lives, the rewards of lingering in his presence, hearing and recognizing his voice, and taking on his characteristics, which themselves are all unquantifiable, take over our lives. He won’t fit into a box, nor be defined by any list. Likewise our relationship with him can flourish and thrive without limitations, except those we choose to impose.
Enjoy your wonderful, ultimately undefinable God.
Be blessed Family!
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