Picture this: you’ve just been told the greatest news you’ve ever heard. Maybe you got that job you’ve been desperate for, or maybe that guy/girl you like finally said yes to a date. Heck, maybe you heard Subway was having a two for one sale on footlongs (it could happen!). In that moment of excitement (or maybe after the first footlong has disappeared into your stomach) who would be the first person you’d call?
Most of us would probably say our best friend, or our mom, or our significant other (hopefully not in the second case above 😬). Today though, as you may have guessed by the title, I’d like to suggest a different option.
How about God?
One of the things that makes Christianity so fundamentally different from other religions is that, at the real heart of it, it’s all about relationships. God wants so much to be with you that He sent His own son, Jesus, to pay for your mistakes, so that you could be together. However, if we’re not careful, we Christians–both young and old–can risk leaving that relationship on the backburner, instead opting for the Good Christian™ aesthetic of going to church and retweeting inspirational quotes from the Psalms.
I personally believe that a relationship with the Lord means making Him your best friend, your dad, your everything.
Now before you go kicking Pops to the curb and saying sayonara to your schoolyard buds, let me explain a little bit.
Can you guess the only person who knows us better than we know ourselves? No, it’s not your mom, and it’s not Doctor Phil–it’s Jesus. Luke 12:7 tells us that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (remember that when you get your next fresh cut). You mean so, so much to Him, and He made you in such a way that you get better just by being near Him–I know that listening to God has taught me things about myself that I would never have known otherwise.
We become our best selves when we put God in the centre of everything. That doesn’t mean merely making Him a priority, because that means that He’s comparable to say, getting your homework done on time. Rather, God should be the light at the centre of our lives that makes everything around us visible; we should see the world in relation to who God is.
So, we need to get closer to God–closer to that light–so that our world is better illuminated. Building this relationship is never ending; unlike a relationship with a spouse or a friend, there’s no limit to what you can learn about God, or the ways in which He can surprise and excite your life.
I suppose the question then is: how do I build this relationship?
Of course, the first places we all need to turn is to the Bible, and to prayer. The first is God’s love letter to us, a story of how hard He was willing to fight and how much He was willing to sacrifice so that we wouldn’t have to be alone. The second is our direct hotline to the head honcho himself–it’s the line you’d call if, going back to our first example, you had some really great news to share.
Prayer can be hard sometimes, especially because it often seems one sided. It feels awkward–we’re not sure what to say. Maybe we’ve been raised in a very formal church, and we feel like we need to use special words to pray. Maybe we’ve never been to church before and wonder if our language will somehow turn God off.
One thing that helps me is to talk to God like you’re talking to your own friend. Try to drop the pretense of what you think He wants to hear, and just say what you’re feeling. He won’t be offended, I promise.
I still have trouble with this on occasion. I pray, but I don’t feel as deep a connection as I’d like, or I feel that I’m somehow missing something. I’m working to fix this by reading the Bible every day, one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 (it lasted longer than most resolutions to go to the gym, so that’s something!)
It may difficult for some of us (scratch that, all of us) to build a relationship with Jesus sometimes, because we have many barriers in our lives that preventing them from letting Jesus in. There are pains that have been caused in all of us where we have been lied to about God–times where we thought He wasn’t there, or where it seemed like the hurt was all His fault, or where we’ve cried and cried and not heard any response. I know I’ve had points in my life where I felt like this, but eventually God used people I trust to expose the lies for what they were.
Be gentle with yourself. It takes steps to achieve this goal, and it takes time to build a relationship. It’s a process. The most important thing to remember is that God loves us no matter what state we’re in. He came into our mess to get us out, so He’s not going to get all hot and bothered if our prayers don’t come out ready for publication. We often keep ourselves from building a relationship with Jesus because we’re trying to fix ourselves out first, but really, Jesus is the only thing that can really fix us.
Despite what you may have seen, heard, or been told, being a Christian is not about going to church on Sundays. It’s not about following the Ten Commandments, or taking Communion, or doing good deeds. Those bits are important, sure, but they won’t get you anywhere on their own.
Being a Christian is about a relationship with the Father, through Jesus, and powered by the Spirit. It’s about loving God and learning more and more every day just how much He loves you first. The closer we get to his light, the more those things will come. The closer we get to His light, the more everything else will pop into view. The closer we get to His light, the more we’ll know that He’s the thing, above all else, that is most worth looking at.