Spiritual Numbness

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.

6 thoughts on “Spiritual Numbness”

  1. Hi, Steve.You got me thinking… Do you think our church (the one you and I attend on Sundays) conveys the message that Sunday mornings are enough for us to have a truly intimate relationship with God? I’ve always got the picture that Sundays there are really designed more for 2 other things: to generate some sense of community with the people that call it home and to create a place where those who don’t know Christ (or are very young Christians) can learn more about Him and find their way to Him in a safe and welcoming environment. (I don’t actually think I agree that it’s the best or most Biblical focus of our time on Sunday mornings, but that’s beside the point.)Anyway, I’m just wondering if you’ve come away with a different sense of what we’re doing there on Sundays. The “what” and “why” of our Sunday mornings is something I’ve kind of wrestled with for a long time, and I’m curious about what you’re thinking.

  2. i know this question was intended for steve and i apologize if i am hi-jacking it, but i am honestly interested in the “what” and “why” you’ve been wrestling with o’shaughnessy. also, what do you think would be a better or more biblical focus of time on sunday morning?sincerely,eddie

  3. I’m not sure what I think the best focus of a Sunday morning church service would be, guys. Steve, I apologize if my question came across as criticism. I asked only because in reading your post, I got this feeling that behind it there <>used<> to be, at one point in your life, an assumption that Sunday mornings should be something that helps you grow closer to God. As you said, you don’t expect that from church now. I just grew curious about whether your original expectation of a Sunday morning service was something that you felt was modeled at our own church — was this particular church’s model part of what you’re coming out of, I guess — and thank you for answering.Now, to your question to me. What do I mean by “an intimate relationship with God?” Well, God is my father. I want to be close to Him simply because I love Him. I want to spend time with Him. For <>me<>, prayer is part of that. It doesn’t just help me understand Him. It’s how I communicate with Him, and spending time with Him in that way is just like spending time talking with other people — it improves my relationship with Him. And the more I do that, the more naturally I see people with the love of God’s heart, and the better I respond to their own hurts and needs when I encounter them, whether it’s someone in my own family or someone I’ve never met who just needs to be loved. Worship is part of that. Learning more about God so I know Him better is part of that, too. For me. I won’t generalize beyond myself. But I <>know<> worship and prayer align my heart with God’s and make me a better reflection of <>His<> heart.And that’s where I’m at — just trying to figure out how I can have His heart for people instead of my own, because my own just doesn’t love people well enough or purely enough.

  4. Shag,As a rule I do not respond to my own posts. It would be my tendency to get a little defensive regarding what I have written and enter into a pissing war over my own words. However, since you did ask me such a specific question, I feel I should address it here.I too would like to hear your thoughts on the “what” and “why” you have been wrestling with regarding Sundays at the church you attend as well as what you think the Biblical focus of Sundays should be.In actuality, this wasn’t what my post “Spiritual Numbness” was about. Maybe you read it and this gave you a springboard from which to ask the questions you asked me, but my post was in regard to what I take away from Sundays at my church, not what I feel the church is conveying to me. You see, I just do not feel it is my church’s (or any other church’s) responsibility to draw me closer to God regardless of what they seek to convey.Neither do I think that any of the actions that I take as a Christian will draw me closer to God in and of themselves. I do not think quiet times, praying, reading my Bible or attending a small group draw me closer to God. I do not think listening to a Christian speaker, reading a Christian book or listening to Christian music draw me closer to God. These are great disciplines and positive things that can lead me to understand more about God. Yet sometimes these can lead more to a spiritual piety and arrogance then anything else. I know, I have been there and stuck there.Two passages of scripture (watch out I am pulling the Bible out now) that I have read that challenge me in this are:John 5:39-40: You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”Colossians 2:16-17: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.I just think that Stupid Church People like me expect our church (and this is any church not just the one I attend) to meet our need for intimacy with God. We have abdicated our responsibilities to follow Christ and want our church experiences and practices to help us “feel” closer to Christ. This is as much my fault as it is the churches. So to answer your direct question to me: Do you think our church (the one you and I attend on Sundays) conveys the message that Sunday mornings are enough for us to have a truly intimate relationship with God? I don’t think they convey that message at all. My question for you is: What do you mean when you say a “truly intimate relationship with God”? To me an intimate relationship with God is a mystery. I share on my post what I think a good starting place is for me fairly plainly, but what do you mean?

  5. Hey I really liked this post! That’s so cool that when we go and bless another person it draws us closer to God. Thanks for this:) Church is more than just sunday morning:)

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