This post came to mind after a recent conversation with a friend. “How do you stay close to God?” She asked.
After the birth of my first child I found myself in a whirlwind of change. Naturally. Parenthood has a tendency to do that, but it my case it also accompanied a period of renewal for me. Though my body was bone tired, my spirit was energized. My first year of parenthood also happened to be a wonderful time for me as a child of God, and I found myself drawing closer into His welcoming embrace.
Despite the cultivation of my spiritual relationship, I found myself mildly disappointed in my role as a mother. It wasn’t that I disliked being a parent. No. In fact I adored being a mom, and I felt a deep calling to give it my all. My sense of being disheartened came because I couldn’t do it more. I worked a lot, and I desired to be home more, but it simply wasn’t financially feasible. I prayed about it constantly.
Over three years ago I felt my prayers answered, and an opportunity arose to continue to bring home a full-time income with benefits, but only work part-time. My husband and I prayed about it, and we spoke to our pastor. Everyone was in agreement that this decision would benefit our family. It would allow me to be with my children more and serve my spouse more readily at home. It was a God-honoring choice for our family.
But it also meant I would stop going to church.
You see, this position happened to take place on the weekends, and it meant I would work on Sunday. Every. Single. Sunday. The whole Sabbath day.
Pros and cons were weighed, and in the end we all decided it was for the best. I was excited, but a part of me worried. I was finally back in God’s will, and I was in a close relationship with the Lord. I didn’t want to see that suffer. Now that I would no longer receive nourishment for my soul on Sunday mornings I was concerned it might damage my spiritual growth.
And this was what my friend asked me about. She was considering the same, weekend option. “How do you manage? How do you stay close with God?”
I was actually pleased when she stated she noticed it appeared from my writing that my relationship with Jesus had grown over the years, and since I too believed that to be true, I was glad she saw it. I had quit going to church on Sunday, and after over three years of missing Sunday services my relationship with God had grown exponentially. So how did I manage that?!
I think I learned something that sadly so many of us miss: a relationship with Jesus isn’t based on church attendance.
That statement might ruffle some feathers. It certainly isn’t good for the church roster, but I believe it is true enough to repeat. A relationship with Jesus isn’t based on church attendance. And I’ll tell you why.
Too often we assume that if we go to church every Sunday that we are set. And that’s all we do. There are some fantastic preachers out there, mine included, but if you’re counting on them to get you to heaven then you’re sorely mistaken. A relationship with the Lord can’t sustain itself, and it can’t thrive on a lesson learned in a hour one day a week.
When I began working Sundays I was so worried my spiritual life would suffer that I decided to fight for it. I was off Monday through Friday, and I spent every free moment I had seeking His face. I prayed continually, and now speak to Jesus all day long throughout my waking moments. In fact I converse with Him right when my eyes open, even in the middle of the night. I made the choice to listen to His voice, and I spend as much time as I can manage in quiet time allowing Him to speak to my heart.
I read the Bible frequently, and now His word is an everyday lamp for my feet. It gives me comfort in all things. I listened to recorded sermons during the week, and I surrounded myself with worship and praise music. I learned to depend on my relationship with God, and it became a lifestyle, not just a place I went a couple of hours on Sunday.
I do go to a Bible study during the week, as I think it’s incredibly important and beneficial to commune with fellow believers. I also listen to sermons and teachings from pastors and preachers much more learned in scriptural truth than myself. I need that, and for that reason I think organized religion and church attendance is detrimental to the spiritual growth of a believer. I definitely think it’s needed for Christ followers. But the past four years have taught me that there’s more that you must have if you really want to thrive.
Being pulled away from the church building, by decisions of my own, taught me that Jesus doesn’t live strictly in my church’s sanctuary. He lives in my heart. And building and sustaining a lasting relationship with Him requires commitment, diligence, and time. Not simply weekly attendance. Instead I attended to my communion with Him.
So how do I do it? The way we all as children of God must do it. Time, wherever I may find it, time. Commitment, however I may achieve it, commitment. Determination, to obtain and maintain a close, personal relationship, determination. I haven’t perfected any of the above, but I continually strive to do it better.
Now I pray continuously that the Lord will help me find a way back to my Sunday mornings at church. Honestly, I miss them. But for now I know I am where God wants me to be for my family. So I just continue to also be where I need to be with Him.