I’m not sure I have a relationship with Jesus- at least not in the same way I can talk with a friend over coffee.
I used to define a relationship as what happened between me and my friends, or my dad, or my girlfriend.
And that didn’t look at all like what I had with God. He wouldn’t show up when we planned to meet. He wouldn’t politely speak when I asked him a question. He wouldn’t do me favors that I asked him for, even when I did stuff for him.
So after about three decades of this it’s pretty easy to think that maybe this is no relationship at all.
For some reason, however, I haven’t left, and i still pray every day. I think really, every day.
and. . .
Every once in a while I realize that I have never gone a day without having food. I have food every day. EVERY DAY. And I realize that in this month I am wiser, more mature, and more at peace with everything roaring around me as much or more than any month before. Someone seems to be guiding me true.
So I’ve started picturing my relationship with God as different than my other ones. Maybe a good analogy is that my life is a big wooden ship floating through 80 years of expansive sea. I have surrendered the helm to this old stoic guy, that rarely says anything, but he’s listening as I sit by his side and tell him what I want, and what I’m scared of and stuff. I’ll try to tell him where I’m pretty sure we should go, but rarely does he swing the steering wheel around to go where I think we should go. But sometimes I guess he does, and he seems happy to show me what’s over there too.
But what I’m trying to say is that I thought he would chat with me over coffee, or instruct me with obvious words like my father. But instead I think he quietly guides my life, hearing everything I say to him. He leads me into new waters, sometimes hard, but good. And every now and then he’ll turn to me and whisper something to me over the storm. And if I’m sitting close enough, I can hear it.
But most of the time I feel like a little kid at his side talking my head off about the clouds, or nagging him about the stormy waves or saying “lookit! lookit!” every time he drives us into a painted sunset. And I think that slight smile he’s holding back says things too deep for me to understand except that he thinks I’m adorable and that he has found something worth protecting from all the squalls and serpents and hard metal subs that he allowed to exist and then defeated for us.
Though he doesn’t talk a lot, I think he is closer than the person across the table at the coffee shop. I surmise that he is closer to me than my own thoughts, my own breath. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t need to use words to get to my heart.
And his voice is deeper than a tinny phone voice with a specific language or specific accent. Sometimes I feel like he speaks to me with words, but maybe His words are also the people, circumstances, struggles, victories he puts in my path every day, that deeply form my heart and that lead me to become who he knows I can be. If I trust all these things are from him, I can learn from them all. Maybe this is how he gives advice.
And his gifts to me are rarely as simple as an ipod or a free dinner. They are not even always as simple as releasing me from a struggle, or giving me a sweet spiritual gift. But instead, his gifts are usually the walking me through the richness of life. Through pains and joys like those that make lives into epic movies, and the failures and victories like which built such a heart into great King David.
And my only role is to let the dark waves crest over the bow of my ship, and still trust his hands at my helm. And then to cling to and cry on him when I’m scared and exhausted. When I am at my wit’s end, I am to simply fall asleep as close to him as I can, and trust him to sail my ship through the night. Then I am to get up the next morning, or maybe it will take a whole season of waiting, but eventually I will see that he has steered us true, into still waters yet again, and then I’ll continue chatting his ears off like a little kid by my father who thinks i’m adorable. Every day. Every day.