One trail that deepens my walk with Christ through nature and running
I was in high school by the time I realized that daily devotional times were beneficial (even mandatory) for growing my relationship in Christ. I have no idea why it took so long. I attended my youth group meetings religiously and even went to a Christian high school. In fact, it was there that I learned how to conduct a daily “quiet time.”
Those quiet times became a lifeline for me in college. In fact, my relationship with Christ grew enormously during those years, which can be labeled as Dickens said: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Actually, I’m not sure they were the worst, but those days where you realize that you are now the responsible adult weren’t quite as much fun as my childhood brain had hoped it would be.
My relationship with God changed drastically after having children. In fact, the words “quiet” and “time” did not co-exist during those early years. I felt like my relationship with God hit a survival mode. I prayed in quick snatches, mostly requesting that my sanity stay in tact. I read one scripture — or two if I was lucky — and tried to meditate on it in-between dirty diapers, feedings, naps, laundry, etc. I felt so guilty all the time and was sure that God was mad at me for not devoting some quality time to Him.
And then one day it hit me as I washed the mound of dirty dishes in the sink. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend time with God; it was that my faith had changed. In those early days of motherhood, I needed God in a new way. My relationship with him became a moment-by-moment relationship. Think of it this way: BK (before kids) God and I regularly met at Starbucks for coffee and a chat. AK my time with God became irregular phone calls or quick texts that lasted all day. Neither was better than the other — they were just different.
Since those young motherhood days, my faith has morphed many times, and each time I’ve felt some sort of guilt. I never understood why, as my love for God hadn’t changed just the way I related to Him.
Recently, I came across this article by Shauna Niequist. It was a revelation for me. I have come to a place where the old ways of building a relationship with Christ were obsolete — at least for me. For most of my life, going to church built my faith in numerous ways. However, I cannot say that has been true for me for the past 5-7 years. Part of that is because I was on the mission field trying to understand sermons and worship songs in a different language. It wasn’t that I haven’t heard a powerful sermon or sung along to anointed worship during those years. I believe it was that God has been calling me to seek Him in ways other than just church. Other things weren’t working anymore as well, even my daily devotional times don’t yield quite the results they did back in college.
In fact, the way God and have been growing together lately are through ways that would have never worked in my younger days. I’m finding Him in solitude — entire days spent alone with just Him as I go about the tasks of the day. I’m finding Him during morning runs where He speaks incredible words of encouragement, wisdom, and guidance. I’m finding Him in nature – reveling in His power and presence as the sun sets, or in the beauty of evening drives along roads dappled with sunlight, or mountain hikes complete with stillness and unspoiled beauty.
The difference is now I see these changes in faith as tools in my toolbox, as Niequist says in her article. I so agree with her statement that “what trips some of us up is the all-or-nothing approach—the idea that if you don’t experience your faith the way you always have, then it’s broken, or worth walking away from. Every relationship changes, and it makes sense to me that our relationships with God change, too, as we grow up and change.”
So when we find that what used build our relationship with God just isn’t working anymore, look around and see what is working. We can’t keep trying the old ways just because someone tells us we should. God wants us to grow– to change– and that always requires that we do some things differently. Today, let’s stop and take inventory of those times that we feel closest to God, of those moments and places where we can hear His voice easily. Then make a plan to integrate those into our lives.
Eventually, as Niequist says, some of your older “faith tools” might come back around again. That doesn’t mean you are falling back into your old relationship with Christ. It means your spiritual toolbox has gotten bigger, and if you use those tools, your faith has a chance to grow once more.