All relationships are dynamic. They change and evolve, grow or die, ebb and flow. A healthy relationship requires the participation and engagement of both parties, and the relationship flows as each friend responds to the other. It’s fluid, not static. The very best relationships are made of two people who are paying very close attention to one another.
This is also true in our relationship with God. It is dynamic and ever-changing. While we’re not equals, there is a give-and-take to our relationship with our Father. He nudges us, encourages us, and at times, waits for us. And we wait for him. He responds to us, and we respond to him. Being in a relationship with God is not merely about following a code of conduct handed down from a distant potentate. Nor is it about reading an owner’s manual, following a blueprint, or executing a strategic plan. These are not the things of relationship. God is real, and the relationship he desires with each of us is real too. Not contrived, organized or orchestrated, but real. Dynamic.
And just like any relationship, the key relational skill is attentiveness. Attentiveness to a living being. The same kind of attentiveness you show to your child or your spouse or your aging mother. The problem is, most of us are not used to thinking of God in those terms. We’re used to thinking of God as one who’s said all he’s going to say and who now merely expects allegiance and fidelity. We’re used to thinking of him as one to be obeyed, not as one to be engaged. Thus, we’re not very good at paying attention to God.
We’re beginning to talk about it; the missional mantra insists that we “see what God’s up to and join him in that.” That’s a good impulse, but how do we do that? There’s little in our religious background that teaches us how to do this. So how do I know what God is doing?
It starts, I believe, with what can be described as careful listening. I’ve come to believe that we can hear directly from God today, and that he is often much more accessible than we typically realize. In fact, he’s as accessible as you’d expect someone with whom you are in a relationship to be. As I’ve learned this (and I’m still learning this), I’ve discovered that it’s quite unlike anything I would’ve imagined it to be. It seems quite natural, actually. And it’s really, really good!
So, in my next post(s), I’ll describe a bit more about what that has come to look Iike for me and what it can look like for you.