It was about two weeks ago. A friend of mine (we’ll call her Sharon) told me she wishes God would draw in close to her. I asked her to elaborate. Sharon said, “I see how you and Jane [a mutual friend - not her real name] seem to be so close to God and I just don’t have that.” I asked Sharon what she’s tried to do to feel closer to God. She said, “I try to pray and go to church, but I just don’t feel like God is there.” That led us into a discussion of what my spiritual life is like.
Now let me stop here and say loudly and clearly: I am in NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM trying to insinuate that I have it all together when it comes to my relationship with Jesus. I struggle – and I hope that has been abundantly clear on this blog when I write about my mistakes and screw ups. However, I thought I’d share the discussion I had with Sharon so you could either chime in on ways you feel close to God or you could use my suggestions yourself.
I told Sharon that my relationship with God is like a courtship or a marriage. I do things with God that I might do if I were dating someone. That’s the best way to get to know someone, right? Date Him, spend time with Him. Here are some things Sharon and I discussed:
1. Talk to Him. I know this may feel weird at first, like you’re just talking to the air. But I promise you, He’s listening. But don’t take my word for it – try it yourself. Just tell Him what you’re thinking. Tell Him how you’ve had a really crappy day and your boss was demanding and your kids won’t ever be quiet and your house is a mess and on and on. Tell Him the secret things you can’t tell anyone else. If it matters to you, it matters to Him. He says it like this: “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.”
2. Read about Him. Find out the kinds of things God likes by reading the love letters that He wrote to you. Wait… first… did you know that? That He wrote you love letters? How about where He says, “I have plans for you… plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Yep. He has plans, even for little ol’ YOU. Or how about when he says he has loved you with an everlasting love? Oh, yeah, baby. He’s wooing you. He’s passionate for you! So go read some more about Him. Download the app so you can take Him with you wherever you go. Seriously! Then go find some other books that might help you learn about Him. Letters from a Skeptic is one of my favorites. And also Praying in Color. Even if it isn’t a “religiousy” type of book, how about just picking a book that He might like too? Not the mindless romance novel you might normally turn to, or the horrific page-turner. Maybe this time you pick a book that is fiction but based on His love for you. Redeeming Love is a good one. Francine Rivers also wrote a fantastic set of novellas that captivated me this summer. It’s called A Lineage of Grace series.
3. Listen to music He likes. “Sing yourselves into His presence!” Think back to your dating days. Remember when you first found out that you and your significant other had the same likes and dislikes? It felt like finding a kindred soul. You even had your own anthem that was special to the two of you. Years later, I’ll bet you can still remember the special song you had, even with those you didn’t end up committing to. Do you have a special love anthem with God? Maybe it’s a classic hymn like Amazing Grace. Or maybe it’s a modern song like one of my favorites, You Alone. Go out and find a song that speaks to you and brings you closer to Him. Need a suggestion? Oh, just say the word and I will COVER YOU UP with a list of songs I’ve found to help me.
4. Worship Him. The obvious way to worship God is to attend church regularly. But like Laurence Peter says, “Going to church doesn’t make you any more a Christian than going to the garage makes you a car.” Worshiping God also means acknowledging Him in your daily, mundane life. And what does it mean to worship? Start with gratitude. When you see the leaves on a beautiful tree change color in the autumn sun, thank Him. When your child speaks words of wisdom beyond His years, share your joy with God. When you see beauty or receive unexpected kindness or hear laughter or taste a divine dessert, praise Him. Bring Him into your daily abundance of blessings. You can worship Him at church or driving in your car or exercising or just by opening your eyes and ears to the world around you. “Praise Him with all your heart, tell of all His wonders.”
5. Go on a double date. Start seeking out other people who are dating God, and find ways to hang out with them. You know, “iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, wrote here about surrounding yourself with good influences. Here’s the truth: if you want to find God and bring Him deeper into your life, it’s going to be counterproductive to hang out with scoffers who trash His name. Again, think back to your dating days: would you hang out with friends who called your boyfriend names? No. Seek people who you admire for their character and faith. Talk to them about God and how He moves in their lives.
6. Watch movies He would like. What do most people in our culture do on a date? Dinner and a movie. But you don’t have to spend lots at the theater to go on a date with God. Just open YouTube and find something good to watch that He might like to watch with you. Known and Loved might be a good start. Love Now by Kute Blackson is inspiring. Everything by Lighthouse is a video that still tears me up when I see it. Did y’all know there’s a Christian version of YouTube? It’s called GodTube. Go browse it for some inspiration.
7. Use a term of endearment. I’m not suggesting you start calling God “Cupcake” or “Honey,” but I do think you might look into a new way of addressing Him. Maybe “God” or “Father” is too formal for you. Maybe your earthly father fell short of your expectations and deflated that word for you, so it doesn’t fit when you’re talking to your Creator. How about finding another name that encompasses God’s presence in your life, in a different way? This Names of God video is a good place to start.
8. Be the body. Jesus was a servant and gave us a model to serve others. We live in community with Him by serving others. God tells us, “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” Find a way to serve outside of your comfort zone. You can do it in big ways by sacrificing a weekend to serve the homeless at a soup kitchen. Or do it in a small way by paying for a stranger’s meal. Put money in an almost-expired parking meter. Make a meal for a new mom. Open the door for someone at the store. Let other drivers merge before you. Buy a coworker a candy bar from the vending machine. Listen when people talk. Smile! When you serve others, you’ll feel God drawing near to you.