Lately, I have found myself turning to God in prayer more often. I must admit, if I am honest, that I am playing with God. Teasing him with my affection. Actually I have been cold toward God for a long time in many areas of my life but when I want something I can certainly turn on the love. Just like marriages that can grow numb but interact with a level of intimacy to keep things together, so has been my relationship with God.
Our relationships within our churches are just like a marriage that has grown numb. Possibly this is why the church is called the bride of Christ. We go to church each Sunday, sing our songs, feel a good feeling, maybe raise our hands, listen to the messages and take our notes. We smile our smiles, shake hands with people we don’t really know at a gut level and then move along to the donut table.
Yet at the end of it, we actually feel closer to God. We think that this “church experience” has helped us “grow in our relationship with God”. We have an emotional bond with the church because of some commitment we made in years past, but the passion is gone and we are empty shells of our former selves.
The problem is, being Stupid Church People, what we actually think is a strong intimate connection and a tight relationship with God is only once-a-week spiritual intercourse. It makes us feel as if we are intimate with God, but nothing could be further from the truth. Intercourse in a marriage does not make a couple close although they feel close when making love. It is intimacy (defined to me by someone recently as “deep closeness”) that makes our marriages work.
So how do we achieve a “deep closeness” with our Creator? Well, obviously I am no expert, but I do know what is not working. Church sitting. I do not get closer to God by going to church and anyone that says they do has their heads buried deeply in the sand. This is the great lie of the modern church. Now I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water…and if couples stopped having sex, they wouldn’t stay married for very long. But it has to be more.
I am starting with this one simple thing…responding to what I know to be true about what God does care about. He cares about hurting people. He cares about the sick. He cares about the hungry, the naked, the homeless. He cares a lot about the lost sheep (those outside the church). He wants us to be outside our churches reaching people where they are instead of trying to get them to come to our cool new buildings.
So for me what it means is responding to my Creator’s desires. Just like responding to a wife’s desires makes a man closer to her, really listening to my Creator makes me closer to him.
How does this look? Well, for me it was walking out of a burger place the other day and having a homeless guy ask me for change. I said that I didn’t have any and walked away (which was the truth – except for about three crisp $20 bills that I wasn’t about to give to this loser). Then it hit me, and I listened…”turn around you idiot”. Go back, talk to him. Show him some damn respect. Just don’t brush him off.
So I took him inside. His name was Chris. He was on his way to San Diego hoping to find some work down there. He had no family (his mom and dad were dead). He didn’t know where his wife and kids were but he was certain she didn’t want him around. Oddly enough, his brother ran a homeless shelter, but it was one of those “religious ones” so he wasn’t going there.
I bought him a burger, fries and coke. Gave him the change from the $20 I used to buy it with. Then we talked for a few minutes about his plans. I tried to encourage him and let him know that I thought he had a good head on his shoulders. “You can do it”, I told him.
He asked if I was a “religious type”. I told him no…but that I believed in God and wanted him to remember that someone like me actually cared about his life. I told him I hoped he would remember meeting me and thinking about that when he was feeling sad or lonely.
In doing this small thing that took 20 minutes out of my life, I connected with God on so many levels. God was present in me at that moment. He was in Chris as well. I was listening to my Creator and responding to his needs…his desires. For those few moments I was fully alive to Him in my life. No church service in the world can accomplish that.