Do you attend church on Sunday to lift your spirits and get prepared for the grind of the week? If you are like me, Sunday service has traditionally been the starting point, and, if the truth be told all too often the ending point of my spiritual exercise. If this sounds familiar, like me, you haven’t reached your peak spiritual performance.
How many of us would consider jumping up tomorrow without any stretching whatsoever and running a full marathon? My guess is not many. Most of us have learned the hard way, if we don’t stretch we are likely to pull a muscle. Long gone are the days when I could jump out of bed, head to the gym and walk onto the basketball court without any warm up. In our youth, we don’t need to stretch like we do when we get older. As we age, we lose flexibility in our muscles, joints and tendons (not to mention in our mindset). It takes considerable more time for us to prepare our bodies for physical exercise.
The same is true in our spiritual life. As we get older, we become spiritually less flexible. We have well defined beliefs, we often have long chosen our faith and our church and we are less open to new spiritual ideas and experiences. For many, becoming spiritually less flexible as we age can be a natural unintended consequence of getting older.
Getting spiritually stiff can keep us from reaching the full potential of our relationship with Christ. For this reason, reading scripture and diverse commentary, as well as reflecting daily are increasingly important because these activities allow us to spiritually stretch. In doing so, we broaden our perspective and open our mind and heart for spiritual growth.
Rather than packing all your spiritual time in on Sunday, try looking at Sunday as the day of the big marathon–the culmination of your spiritual preparedness. To get the most out of the experience, train through the week and do plenty of spiritual stretching beforehand. Our relationship with Christ is more rewarding when we take the time to spiritually stretch through prayer, reading and reflection and we don’t have to worry about entering Sunday spiritually in fear of pulling a muscle!
Did you take time to stretch today?
One of the greatest thrills as a kid was winning a trophy or an award. In sports, we spent endless hours practicing to win a conference title or a championship. In school, reading a certain number of books would earn a certificate. The same was true for achievement in social studies, music, math and science. Many of us still have the ribbons of our youth (or at least our Mom’s do). We all have an innate desire to excel at something and its human nature to be excited when others recognize our outstanding efforts.
As we get older, trophies and awards are harder to come by and often times we turn our natural desire for recognition of our internal gifts into an external hobby of collecting. Some people collect stamps, others minerals, dolls, trains, books, antique dishes, Mickey Mouse figurines, ball caps, beer cans, cars, girlfriends, horses….to name a few.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with having something special to us in our lives, it’s important to keep our desires for collecting and ultimately for recognition in perspective. We have all heard people describe their collections by how much they enjoy the collection, what the collection means in their lives or how passionate they are about the hunt for a new possession.
What if we brought that same passion to our relationship with Christ? What if we were hungry for the next revelation of scripture or were dying to show our friends what we have discovered in Christ? How much more rewarding would our lives be if our relationship with God was our most prized possession?
The ability to develop a deep relationship with Christ is our most important God given talent and it lies within each of us. Want to win the ultimate blue ribbon of recognition? Let’s make Christ the centerpiece of our prized possessions and in turn, we will receive the most rewarding award of our lives!
The role of expectation is fundamental to every relationship. We expect our friend to call, but she doesn’t and we are disappointed. The disappointment creates distance and the next time you see your friend it is felt by both creating more distance. Who is at fault: the friend that failed to call or us for expecting something without ever saying so and thinking she should have known? Expecting your spouse to take out the trash or your relative to give you a better deal on a car.
As you can see managing expectations is crucial to any healthy relationship. The same is true with our relationship with God. We want something really badly and we pray for it and then expect God to hear our prayer. How often does the granting or denial of the prayer request impact our relationship with God? Wish granted we draw closer, wish denied we pull away.
Establishing an ongoing, unwavering connection to Christ is the key. A life of prayer and a life where the expectations are focused on God’s grace and goodness. Of course it sounds easier that it is to out in practice but we all strive for better relationships and we can start by managing our expectations!
Our path to righteousness is rarely linear. More often than not, the journey to salvation is wayward. We weave our way toward a glorious destination on the distant rise and, in doing so, hopefully discover that our ongoing, active relationship with Christ is as magnificent as the destination itself! This is the story of our wayward soul!