In the past few weeks, I've had several conversations with friends about connection. Connecting with friends, connecting with friends-with-potential, and most importantly, connecting with God.
I'm coming up on my 15th anniversary in relationship with Christ. For most of those years, I had a "Jesus and me" mentality. Relationships are nice, but I only need, I thought, Christ. And it is true that I could live in solitude and survive just fine, but I don't want just fine. I want God's best.
Back to that in a moment...
The trademarks of my faith have long been the disciplines of faith: daily quiet times, journaling, reading, studying different concepts, terms and words. I felt most intimate with God when I spent time with Him, alone, sharing with Him my most vulnerable thoughts, and quietly listening for Him to direct me to His responses and leadings.
I've mentioned in the past how my head injury has changed me physically and emotionally. And I've touched on how it's changed me spiritually. During those quiet months when I couldn't read, couldn't write, couldn't do, I was forced to learn to just be. The process challenged me to re-evaluate what it meant to be in relationship with God. What if it's not about what I am doing? What if the next season of growth can only come from being? And, the more troublesome question: what if being requires relating to others outside the "Jesus & me" bubble? What if the real challenge in being a Christ follower is putting into practice (good term) all that I learned when I was doing Christ-following things? In my less mature moments, I can rail against God with all of my perceived injustices, but I can do so knowing that I have a wide open invitation to come back to Him with a more contrite heart. There's a safety in being real with God. I know He isn't going to reject me. Unfortunately, I don't have those same assurances with those around me.
The most important lesson I've learned since knockin' my noggin is that I need people, and I especially need them when I can't do for myself what I always have been able to do before. And as a result, my faith, or perhaps more accurately, the application of my faith, is much more evident (or very much not, depending on the moment). So I'm putting myself in more situations to learn to relate well. Results have been mixed. Who knew? I'm a selfish, faulted person. Not an unlovable, unworthy one, but a selfish, faulted person nonetheless.
So what do I do when I find myself in a strange situation? I run to God for guidance. Which has always worked out pretty well in the past. But now, I don't hear Him in the same way. I don't doubt His presence, but I'm just not connecting with Him the way I'm used to. I've been focused on learning about God through relationships. And for the most part, it's been a pretty fruitful, though at times, humbling, endeavor. The problem is, as good as it gets, the worse it has the potential to be. And I made a mistake. I allowed myself to make a frightenly bad decision. I pressured someone I care about to choose me over God. Stupid. The thing that really rocked me is that what I like about this person is the way they desire to make God smile. Why would I want to get in the middle of that? (Did I mention stupid?)
At any rate, it shook me and I've spent quite a bit of time the last few days chatting with God about it. I love to recommend books to encourage the faith of others. And certain books have really resonated with me, so they come up more often. One such book is Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas. The essence of the book is that just as God has created us each uniquely, He has designed in us nine different ways to connect with Him. These nine pathways reflect our personality and preferences, and understanding them can free us meet God as we are, where we are. I recently recommended Sacred Pathways to a friend, but it occurred to me, in light of my own changes, I need to read it again.