One morning I awoke to a group text message from my bestie. She shared her thoughts from the scripture passage we read a few days prior. There are seven of us and we’re all on the same reading plan, just on different days. I’m a few days behind and I’m learning to be okay with it—time in the scriptures is not a race, it’s a rest.
I didn’t poll the girls, but I can almost guarantee you that if I asked them, they’d probably say they needed to do this study, this month, with this group. Believe it or not, as spiritually mature as we might seem to some people around us, each of us has experienced a hiccup and maybe even a dry spell in our connection with God at various times. We crave the companionship and accountability of friends who love one another and are walking the same path of faith.
The girls in my group text are my friends—I’m closer with some than others. We don’t all attend the same church, some of us are moms, and some of us work. We are all at very different life stages, but we all recognize the importance of connecting with Jesus through some form of spiritual discipline no matter where we’re at. It might be reading the Bible, prayer, meditation, fasting, solitude, or listening—really, anything can be a spiritual discipline.
Whatever we choose to do in order to either direct or redirect our attention to God, it’s a point of connection. Whether we’re connected with or disconnected from God—we know it and so do the people around us. To be completely transparent, I haven’t always lived that truth. It’s been a journey of discovering and rediscovering the gift of connection with God.
So why am I sharing this? Well, honestly I think it’s really important to know that the spiritually mature people we know—mentors, pastors, elders, teachers, professors, and even our friends—didn’t magically arrive at their current level of spiritual maturity. They made connection with God a priority along the way and we can too, no matter our stage or station in life. God desires to connect with us. There is abundant life available to us and connection will look different as we move through different seasons in this life, but it is always available.
I was eighteen. I had recently graduated high school and was dating my now-husband, working at a bookstore, and going to college. Life was full, but also simple. I realize that isn’t every eighteen year old’s life, but it was mine. Connecting with God was easy—at least easier than it is today. I talked with God regularly. I prayed quietly late at night and met with a small group once a week. I rarely read the Bible on my own because I was too concerned with interpreting something incorrectly—a fear I had subconsciously picked up. Though lacking in many respects, my connection with God was simple and sweet—intentionally unintentional.
I was twenty-five. I was working a full-time career, recently married, expecting a baby, and volunteering in ministry at our church. I attended worship services weekly and co-led Sunday school classes and youth group gatherings. The nature of the ministry work I was involved in required my personal connection with God to be a priority. The implications of not tending to our personal relationship with God were pretty major. I won’t list them all, but at the top of the heap of implications is the lie that I can do it all in my own strength.
I was thirty. I had just come through an incredibly difficult season of church-related rejection and hurt. We had three kids and were entering our twelfth year of marriage. God felt far off—like we lived in the same house but we got into a fight and stayed in separate rooms. I later identified the root of the problem. In fact, God had not gone into the other room, but I had gone in my room and locked the door behind me. God was not far off—I was. That being said, this was a truly formative season for me.
We had just moved to a new city and started attending a new church. All of the people I met seemed so spiritual. Like, I thought I was spiritual (I promise I am much less self-absorbed now than I was then), but then I met these people and immediately noticed a difference. It took me a while, but I realized the difference was not only in how they connected with God, but why.
You may have noticed that for many years I connected with God because of the work I was involved in, both volunteer and paid. It was normal to think about God as I prepared a lesson or devotional, but aside from my unintentional conversations with God, there was no other reason for me to make an effort to connect. My new friends showed me a different way. They connected with God simply…because they loved him.
This was a foreign concept to me. No, I was not pretending my whole life to this point, but literally the majority of my connections with God stemmed from one of three things: 1) Someone told me to, 2) I had something to prepare, or 3) I needed something. It was rarely because I truly desired to feel connected. My relationship with God was something I talked about and thought about, but didn’t often do anything about in a way that conveyed I loved God or knew I was loved by God. God was someone who laid out the rules and I followed them because it was my duty.
Everything I had observed to that point, whether accurately or inaccurately, had some degree of performance associated with it. Yes, I went to church and people talked about prayer and reading the Bible, they spoke of morning quiet times, but it all sounded forced—like just another thing to add to my list of things I’m supposed to do as a Christian.
Rarely did someone talk with me about the joy of spending time with God or the richness of meditating on the scriptures. I certainly attended Sunday school classes and they were very informative, but somehow I missed the connection between learning and living. I recall hearing about some of these practices at youth camps, but honestly the Christian youth culture at the time was too wrapped up in purity rings, modest attire, and Christian music to adequately covey the inherent value of establishing healthy spiritual rhythms. Even if they did, by that time I was so conditioned to think about my faith as a list of dos and don’ts that I likely missed it.
So—I was thirty. My new friends had introduced me to this different way. This way of joy, grace, rest, conviction, transformation, and deep connection with Jesus gave me freedom I didn’t realize I needed. I was free to shed the mantle of legalism I had placed on myself and instead, allow Jesus to bring out his robe of righteousness and lay it gently across my shoulders. Every day since then (and yes, I’ve missed days), I have asked God to tell me, show me, guide me, and redirect me toward this path—this new way.
I am today-years old. Every time I open the scriptures now, I ask God to speak. I just listen. There are still things I need to prepare for and learn—there is a lifetime of learning available—but many days I just listen. Over the past several years and with the guidance of friends, mentors, pastors, authors, and yes even my group text, I have learned the gift of not only being with God in the scriptures, prayer, and silence, but also in observing the life of Jesus. It has changed me.
I am different today because of that freedom. I recognize my own sin more easily—usually. I know where I am weak—sometimes. I am quicker to show compassion than I am to condemn—more often. I still struggle with the temptation to perform rather than to simply show up—every day. Jesus, in his great compassion, is here with open arms, ready to simply be with me that I might be more like him. It makes me sad to realize how much time I wasted checking off items on a list rather than allowing God to transform me—yet I also believe that no time spent with God is wasted. It’s a tension I live in regularly.
You are today-years old. With your today-year old wisdom and experience, I’d invite you to reflect on a few questions. Why do you want to connect with God? Do you want to or do you believe you are supposed to? Have there been times or seasons when connection seemed difficult or impossible? Have there been seasons where connection with God was deep and rich? In what ways have those moments of connection transformed your life? Give yourself some time and space to ponder those things and then, if you’re willing, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how connecting with God has transformed you.
Now, a short excerpt from the book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue:
As the bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.
As you and I, separately but together, seek to make connection with God in such a way that our lives are transformed more into the likeness of Jesus, may we know we are deeply loved by God, and may that love be the magnet that draws us closer to God and each other.
Thank you for reading! If this blog post encouraged you, I invite you to leave a comment below or message me. Also, feel free to share this post with a friend who might be struggling to connect with God. We are not alone in this life.