A Personal Reflection (Being With God)

It struck me earlier that it’s not enough to promise God that I’ll spend more time with him. It is not enough for me to say that I’ll give over more of my day to him, that I’ll try to think about him more. The sentiment behind it might be sound enough – knowing that I’m not doing enough and wanting some sort of deeper relationship – but that doesn’t make the action, or the promise of action, enough in itself. I realised even as I said it that actually, saying something like that betrays the subconscious idea that God is something to be added on to our lives, that he’s something to make room for. Granted there are some activities, such as reading the Bible, which do take up a certain amount of time and do have to be fit into a day along with everything else that you do, I’m not disputing that. What I’m saying is that that promise of making more time for God actually doesn’t do justice to the life that we’ve been called to leave.

There’s the risk that we almost have a ‘God-time’ in our day or our week. Whether that’s a time of day that you pray or whether that’s simply turning up to church on a Sunday, it’s all tied in with the idea that a ‘sacred’ relationship with God is somehow distinct from the rest of our ‘profane’ lives[1]. What struck me this morning was that this is not the kind of life envisioned for us in the Bible. Paul quotes the Greek philosopher Epimenides when he says in Acts 17:28 that “in [God] we live and move and have our being”. Earlier on in the chapter, Luke records Paul as saying “[God] himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else”. The context of this passage – Paul preaching to unbelievers – suggests that this is not a deep, mysterious theological truth. This is basic stuff, fundamental to our conception of who we are and who God is. God is not some weird spiritual plug socket that we can just plug ourselves into every now and then, he’s the one in whom our very being is made possible. He sustains us completely. Presumably, again from the context of this passage, this is true for everyone, believer or not, but as a Christian I claim to have some sort of relationship with this God. What does that mean for me?

The starting point would be the recognition of the truth of Paul’s words. If God is the one in whom I have my being then he is not some sort of discrete entity out there who I connect with via some sort of spiritual telepathy. Furthermore, as a Christian I believe not in a mystical universal spirit that binds everything together somehow, but I believe that the eternal, infinite God somehow, paradoxically became temporal and finite in the human person of Jesus of Nazareth. On top of that, I believe that it is through Jesus that my relationship with God is made possible, and I believe in the Holy Spirit, which is literally God dwelling in me, a helper and a comforter in the years after Jesus’ ascension.

Still, what I have there is a collection of interlinked strands that don’t quite fit together in a unified whole in my mind yet. Each one of them reveals something different about God and who I am in relation to him, but they need to be brought together before I can say anything with any certainty. Central to this is the concept of the Trinity – how do Father, Son and Spirit relate to each other, and how do they relate to me? And from the language I’m using, it is clear that this whole issue is an issue of relation.

Going back to what I was saying at the start, one thing that is apparent when I think about this is that a Christian life is just that: a life. Christianity is not something you do or something you have any more than being a Christian is something you do. It is something you are. It is a state of being. That’s why becoming a Christian can, and should, lead to big changes in your life because you in yourself are being changed in relation to God. You’re moving from a state of separation to a state of unity and mutual love. As a Christian, God is not some nameless force that sustains you, he is something that you are fully conscious of, you recognise him as something – someone – continually present and active in your life. Not only does he sustain you, but you are aware of him sustaining you and that makes all the difference.

Furthermore, you are aware of the sacrifice he made in order for you to be able to come to that state of awareness and not break down under guilt. As a Christian the most fundamental thing I can believe is that Jesus, being in very nature God, was made in human likeness and humbled himself to the point of death, before being raised once more into glory. All that was done for me as an individual human being and for you. This is so significant in many ways, but one way is that it makes God someone approachable. Even now it is so easy to get blown away by fear and wonder in the face of God in all his power, but Jesus shows us that God cares about each one of us and is the assurance that God desires to know each of us personally. And what of the Spirit? He is God in us, he is the power of God moving in this day and age, in this world. Through him we are able to live out our relationship with God, because a relationship with God is not just a two-way thing between me and God, it has an outward dimension as well, parts of the New Testament such as James make it clear that works – serving other people – is the natural and necessary outcome of a personal relationship with God.

All these elements now start come together and make a coherent concept of this relationship and this life with God. What I hope I’ve started to make clear is my original point that this state of being a Christian, of knowing this incredible God, is not a supernatural addition to a natural life, it becomes that life. There shouldn’t be this separation of the sacred and the profane because as a Christian living a life sustained and made possible by God everything involves him. There is an opportunity for worship in every day to day activity. Every minute is an opportunity to know him more. By all means spend time doing nothing but praying to God and reading the Bible, but don’t limit your relationship with God to those times. Always be conscious of him and let him move in every second of your life.

I just want to finish with a note on the title and a clarification of my intentions with this post. The title is ‘a personal reflection’ because I am writing to myself as much as I am writing to another reader. This is not me writing from a pedestal of wisdom, experience and holiness at all, this is me reading the Bible and looking at what God’s best seems to be for me and for others and writing it here so that you can read and think about it too. In everything I write here, I know that I am the first person who needs to learn from this and improve, and if this helps you as well, then that’s amazing and I’m glad that I could be of service. But whatever your response to this, I hope that in some way this can encourage you in your own relationship with God, no matter what stage you may be at in that.

 

[1] I use the words ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’ here because the sociologist Emile Durkheim used them back at the start of the 20th century in order to describe the difference between things that he perceived as being connected with religion and things that aren’t. It isn’t hard to look into modern thought and find more evidence of this sort of distinction, with thinkers like Descartes and Kant separating the material and the non-material to varying degrees.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s