I have four mostly-unread devotionals in the door of my car, stuck in with a road map, my wallet, a tube of sunscreen. Every day I reach for my wallet, think about that sunscreen that I never use, and I leave those devotionals untouched.
I have as well, on my bedside table, a hardback devotional, two hundred pages or so. It’s a pristine book with a beautiful overleaf, a gentle picture on the front. It’s your perfect “Christian” book. Inside, the font is big, there’s lots of empty space around the edges and between each day’s reading, and at the end of each day is a page of questions, each question followed by a space left blank for my answers. Well, uh, I’ve left them blank. That way I can use it again another year, I think. Or, If momma reads this book too, she’ll see what I’ve written. Ha, yeah, no.
“What are you longing for in this season…?” reads one question. “When have you felt afraid to approach God?” reads another.
The questions seem deep, a little dramatic. And I cling to that excuse not to write anything . . . So I can use it again next year. I could avoid buying another one, use it again next year. But I am really just avoiding those questions.
I do intend well. I’d like to think that I’ll pick it up, read the daily section, feel God’s presence (hopefully). The voice in my head says to just do the reading. I get that guilty feeling. And I hate guilt as much as I hate giving up my time. It’s a battle. Do I read because I feel badly if I don’t? Or do I say “Don’t do it out of guilt, do it because you want to”? But what if I never want to?
I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to admit that I answer questions inside a devotional. Cried over a page. Like my adolescent diary, I’d rather nix the devo than have someone come across my heart scrawled messily onto all those straight lines. She is so sappy, someone might think. And sometimes, I just don’t want to talk about God. I don’t want to talk about my hurts, what’s inside me, because what if someone thinks less of me? Or, here it is: What if they don’t understand? Nah, don’t want that.
The word pride comes to mind. And the only way I can face that word, thinking about it on a personal (and not a societal or global) level, is to first just…let it be. To realize that, yes, I am prideful. Selfish. Yes, I care about myself a lot. Do you? I don’t think it’s a sin to consider our needs and wants. No, not at all. It’s just that…I don’t think God likes us getting used to it.
I admit that I often put my own needs before others’. (Sometimes we do need to take care of ourselves before we’re even able to attend to others’ needs). But isn’t it true that God wants us to give our attention to him most of all? There cannot be two Most-Important-Persons in our life. There cannot be Two Most-Importants anywhere, ever. It’s why people have disagreements, and get mad, and do things they later regret.
If I’m honest, I regret a lot of things—but most of all I regret that I’ve avoided spending time with God. Reading that devotional. Starting and ending my day with him. I want to be near to God, but I don’t do the work to make our relationship stronger. Frankly, it’s lame.
Jesus says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul’” and “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” So in all those moments we feel like shit? What does Jesus say? Stop paying so much attention to yourself. Stop worrying about what makes you happy. I wonder if I’ve not personally rewritten his words to read, “Love the Lord Your God…,” with a capital Y, as if the you in the word your is just as important as the God.
And the bigger that Y gets, the harder it is to approach him. What are you longing for this season.? Uhhh, hm. How ’bout an easy way back to Christ?
Hard truth? The way back is likely going to be disciplining myself to read the Bible, if not every day, more days than not. Filling up my word-bank with goodness, not my own prideful notions.
And I do have memories of wonderful peace with him. Moments of wide, deep calm. Compare it to Saturday morning in bed. Or deep breaths in a cool, dark place. Silence and rest. God’s gentle peace does come when I put my eyes (and heart) onto a psalm or a Gospel account.
In the eternal now, the lived-in moment, all I do really want is to know God deep within me, to know I am loved. Does that sound sappy? It’s the truth. Whether or not it hits me over the head each time I read Psalm 103, or John 1, or Luke or Revelation, you name it…it’s still truth. And it’s good—it’s essential—to be reminded of it.
“Coming back to Christ” is not a feeling; it’s a practice. An active pursuit. For all the times I feel a disconnect in my heart, or I feel distant from Christ, I could simply go back to him—but it’s not just wanting him that will bring me peace. It’s seeking him. And if my heart is right, and I do what I know is right, God will grant a peace that will keep me going. He’ll leave me with a truth that I know he wants me to have: You are loved. So, I will love him back.