I grew up going to church. As a kid, church was boring to me. I never wanted to be there; in fact, I viewed it as a chore. The only good thing I remember about being in church was that we received chocolate bars for memorizing verses in the Bible in Sunday School. It wasn't until I became a teenager that I begin to enjoy going to church; not necessarily because of an increasing relationship with God, but rather because all my friends were there. I loved my relationships with people in my church, and that was what fueled my passion for going. I became involved in different ministries at my church and regularly served each Sunday morning. I was an active member in the youth group and attended all the functions. I had a great youth pastor who genuinely loved us, and we had lots of fun! I started to go to prayer meetings occasionally, and you might've caught me reading the Bible on a good day! I didn't drink or swear; I wasn't promiscuous. I was a model citizen for Christ…or so I thought.
I found myself doing all the right things and making the right choices, and I always felt I was living a good Christian life. It wasn't until about 2 years ago that I realized this was a great description of being religious, but not so much of what I had been missing in my life the whole time…a relationship with God. The funny thing is, I always described my spirituality as having a relationship with God; but as I look back, it was mostly just words and hope that by saying it, it was somehow true. I won't tell you it was because I was misinformed about what a relationship with Him was or that I just didn't even know; but rather I have only one person to blame, and that is myself. I always sort of knew something was missing in my Christian walk, but could never quite put my finger on it. Usually I ignored it and simply continued on doing all the things I thought would make me righteous. I attended Bible college and completed a degree; and by that time, I must have figured it all out…right? Unfortunately, not higher Christian education could solve this problem. So what was I to do?
Truth be told, I was never in it for God…it was all about me. I only really did anything because I wanted to do it. Sure I said it was for God; but in reality, I was no different than the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14
). When I supposedly did things for God, it was done in a way that almost would attempt to convince Him I was worthy. This was most evident when I became angry at God for not giving me what I said He wanted me to do. That's right, this is not a typo or grammar mistake--I was mad at God for not giving me what I said He wanted me to do. I had been denied from three opportunities in ministry and felt God was slapping me in the face. Little did I know at the time this was going to be a wake-up call for me; but at the time I was just angry.
I spent the better part of a year deliberately doing what I knew I shouldn't be doing, and I did it to stick it to God, so to speak. It wasn't until one day roughly two years ago that I woke up and realized what the problem was. I hadn't cared about God and what He wanted all this time, but rather I hoped He cared about what I wanted. Sure I had done all the things a good religious person would do, but I was doing them as if to accomplish a task rather than out of love for God. I'm not attempting to insult religion or become the next controversial topic; in fact I believe religion is the pathway to relationship. Instead, I hope to suggest it is not the path that saves us, but rather who we hope to meet on the path when our time has come. Our love for God is what is most important as is affirmed in Mark 12:30
as it says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." This is the greatest command that we are instructed to keep, yet it often seems bypassed. Everything we do should be a direct result of our love for Christ, and naturally from that I believe we will want to do right in the eyes of God.
If there is one thing I learned most out of all of this, it is that God always has been faithful to me, even when I have not been faithful to Him. God's love and faithfulness is unconditional, and it was never more real to me than on the day I returned to Him. I encourage everyone to make that decision to be in it for God's glory and nothing more. It is truly amazing how much He will bless us when we don't do things for the blessing.