Have you been doing your devotions? That’s a pretty common Christian question. As if that is the answer to all your problems. Do that, and you will have a good relationship with God. You will be able to get through your day.
Well, what happens when that isn’t enough to get you through the day? I’ve found that it isn’t.
I do my “devotions” in my room in the morning. I ask God to be with me throughout the day. I tell him that I need him, and ask him to help me surrender my time. I ask him to help me not to get angry or impatient with my children or husband. It is something that I hope to continue doing every morning.
But then I leave my bedroom and step out into my life. Into crackers squished into the carpet, full diapers, needy children, dirty dishes, sticky floors, piles of laundry, dinkies, tantrums and complicated relationships. Often, it feels like I left Jesus there in the bedroom, and as the day goes on, it’s as if we had never talked at all. Where is he in all of the mundane struggles of life?
We all know the “right” answer. Why, Amanda, he’s right there with you, of course!
That’s nice, but how does that make a difference in the moment? How do I know it? What does it look like, really, for God to be there with me during the entire day? Knowing it on an intellectual level is not enough.
I have been forced to ask this lately because, honestly, I am struggling with patience. As in, I have none. Recently, I put my hairdryer through the wall in my bedroom. I meant just to hit the floor, but I hit the wall, and now there is a hole in the gyprock. We rent. Not sure how I am going to explain that one. But maybe I’ll just let my 3 year old explain. He had no problem telling the cashier at Walmart that “Mommy put the hairdryer in the wall”. Hashtag Mom of the year!
Galatians 5: 22-23 says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Putting my hairdryer through the wall pretty much took out all of those! That is impressive, if you ask me. But, in all seriousness, this passage has always been a bit of a discouragement to me. I look at this list, and it doesn’t describe me. And when I try to be what it says, I fall short. Every single time. It feels impossible.
Maybe that’s because it is.
The words “of the Spirit” are key in this passage. I don’t produce these qualities in myself, He does. How? In John 15:5-8 He says:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Do I remain in Jesus after I spend a few minutes with him first thing in the morning? No. Somehow, I figuratively leave him in the bedroom. Or at least, I act as if he didn’t come with me. Abiding in Jesus is not a matter of spending a few minutes with him in the morning when things are quiet, though that is good. Abiding in him is staying connected to him throughout the day, keeping an ongoing dialogue with him, being aware of my need for him moment by moment, submitting my anxieties to him, and living in constant dependance on him. All of this takes intentionality and humility, and that is hard.
But at the same time, isn’t it beautiful that God has made it so that we glorify him most, the closer we are to him? We cannot bear fruit apart from being in constant close relationship with him. The fruit, be it patience, or love or whatever the particular issue might be, though important, is not the point. It’s being close to him. Admitting our neediness can seem scary, but when we realize that doing that brings us close to the only one who can fill us up, and that he wants to be close to us, it isn’t so scary after all.
So, I am learning that Jesus is with me moment by moment. He is there ready and willing to fill me. I am learning that life is his school. In the messy moments, I have a choice. It’s not my way or his way, per se. It’s not one set of morality for another. It’s my way, or dependence. Every obstacle is an opportunity to grow closer to him, and to be taught by him. This gives him the most glory, because His power is made perfect in my weakness, and it also is the only thing that can fulfill me. The more I admit I need him, the more of him I get. And he is all I really need.
This is what God is teaching me. And I am learning, but very slowly. In this process God is showing me my pride, which is strong and ugly. But thankfully, God is stronger than my pride, and when I admit to him that I am powerless to change, and tell him that I need him, he is faithful. Even when I have to do it multiple times an hour. In fact, especially when I go to him multiple times an hour. He never tires of us coming to him. He never expects us to “get it together” – he knows that we are dust, and he is compassionate toward us (Psalm 103: 13,14). What brings him the most glory is when we constantly go to him, broken. It’s when we stop going to him because we think we are fine that we are in trouble.
So, what about you? Do you know you need him? Do you feel your need for him as you go to your place of work, in the complicated family relationships, when you are betrayed by someone you love, or just in the mundane of every day life? If you don’t, then ask him to break you. Ask him to show you your need. It’s the best thing you could ever do.
If you do know, then what is stopping you from going to your Father? Do you know he delights in you and sings over you (Zephania 3:17)? He is compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (See Psalm 103). He has given you everything you need to live the life he has called you to live (2 Peter 1:3). He has promised to give you everything you need, when you seek his Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). He has promised to produce the fruit you want to see in your life when you abide in him (John 15:5-8). First and foremost, your Father wants an intimate relationship with you. God Almighty wants an intimate relationship with you! That is amazing news!
Thankfully Jesus doesn’t just stay in the bedroom, but he comes with me. He goes with you too. Let’s stop striving in our own strength, and go to him moment by moment. He is right there. And he has promised to give us rest.