I was about 3 miles into my run the other day and I had another moment with God I want to share. I had reached a flat section of the waterfront trail that I use to concentrate on my form and really get in a good stride. I call it the sweet spot. Everything relaxes, my breathing get’s easier, and forward motion feels effortless. I also love it because nearly ever thought is removed from my mind and what’s left is a keen awareness of everything happening throughout my body. As I settled into this perfect running moment, I felt the faintest “twinge” in a small muscle on the outside of my right calf. I was amazed that in the midst of all my muscles firing at once, I was so focused that I could actually isolate and feel this tiny sensation. Although it didn’t lead to any injury, in that one step, my body called out that something minor was wrong and I was able to perceive it. What happened next was the good part! God whispered to me, “I want you so connected to Me in this way that you can sense the slightest disruption to our relationship.” Mind. Blown. I thought, “Wow God, you are so personal!”
What I began to realize in that moment is that if we aren’t intimately connected, minor disruptions in our relationship with God, all the way up to major ones, won’t be perceived and therefore won’t be worked on. If I had not quieted everything else in my mind to focus solely on my form and stride, I don’t believe I would have felt that “twinge.” My heart then began to cry out for those distant from Him that go through life and accept loneliness and separation from a loving God as normal. He provided a way to have free access to Him through Christ, but it’s up to you and I to pursue, even train, to keep the relationship strong. I want to help in this effort and it’s a huge driving force behind why we started Mended.
As our team looks to the future of this church, one of our primary focal points is this deeper connection and relationship with God I’m speaking of. Because it’s so vital, we want to model and teach this for every single person no matter what capacity they are involved. To get a handle on how to begin, our team sat down together a few weeks ago and took turns sharing how each of us strengthens our own relationship with God. Not what He does for us, but what we do in order to know Him more. There is big distinction there! As we went around the circle, I was amazed at the number of ways that we each found connection with Him. Some worship out loud and others seek solitude. Some fast and others journal their thoughts. Some create art pieces and others listen to messages from pastors. As I looked at the lists on paper, even though the differences made an impression on me, the common things did as well. It was hard to deny that things like Scripture reading and prayer are absolutely essential for developing a close relationship.
So why in the world would we sit down and make a list like this? Why is this so important for Mended to help people form a closer relationship with God? The truth is that our capacity to love and help people is limited and God’s is infinite. You and I can do whatever we can to help people, or even ourselves, and there is a chance that our resources will run out, our advice will fall short, or our energy will dwindle, but not God’s. As a pastor I must point people to the Source of Life that will never fail them. If we primarily put our trust in other people or institutions, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. The author of Hebrews knew this full well and made some remarks in the conclusion of that book that really resonated with me. He was attempting to encourage those reading (much like I do) and left them with a few Scriptures from the Old Testament. The first is spoken directly from God, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
And another by the psalmist who wrote, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6,7
The writer did this to help show that God will always be there to help, and this is in stark contrast to what often times happens with man – we get let down. He goes on to say, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:5-8
Because Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He remains the constant in our lives. As everything swirls around us, He acts as an anchor, a dry place amidst the sea, that we can cling to. This is why it’s critical, as the writer of Hebrews exclaimed, that we must imitate those people of great faith that have gone before us. In my own life with Christ I have learned how to draw close to him from many men and women who have taken the time to invest in me. This is exactly why, as a new church, we compiled a list of ways that we collectively pursue our relationship with God. We want to, in turn, teach others what we’ve learned to give the next generation a solid foundation.
The apostle Paul also understood the importance of placing Christ at the center of his life and doing everything possible to keep him there. Using the imagery of the sea, listen to his words describing the settling effects on a person’s life when this happens, “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-15
Once again, we hear from someone that has gone before us to put our energy into growing towards Christ, and not the “here today and gone tomorrow” ideas of people. So what can you do to start? How can you become so in tune with God that you notice the second that something feels “off”? As I found out from our team, there are many ways to connect with the one true God. However, as a very practical starting place, we can never replace the gift of His Word as the primary way to seek Him. He gave us that gift for growing deeper with Him. Another key is to find someone you know that has a strong friendship with Jesus and begin to ask questions about their life – lot’s of questions!
As someone who’s steadily worked on my connection with God over the last 15 years I’ve come to understand that the only requirement for a relationship with Him is acceptance of His son Jesus. However, as with any friendship, the development will be drastically stunted if no additional effort is put it. By going to the cross, Christ has already gone the distance. All his chips are in the relationship. There is nothing additional he needs to do to get any closer to you and me. Because of this, his love is infinitely deep, and the level to which we explore it is entirely up to us. I find this truth incredibly exciting because it’s proof that my relationship with God has the potential of getting richer day after day.
Getting to the point on my run where I’m aware of every “twinge” is the result of miles and miles of training. A hard reality to face however, is that my body will break down over time. Therefore, I’m committing the rest of my life to train, and teach others to train, for the ultimate race that never ends - pursuing the deepest connection I can have with the one “who will never leave or forsake me.” So let’s lace up those shoes and go!