I remember when I first picked up Andrew Murray’s classic “Abide in Me” in college. I was a little annoyed that it wasn’t an instruction manual. I wanted to know the steps, but Murray was highlighting the Vine and the Branches metaphor that Jesus used. Back then I was so works oriented that I was really looking for another thing to check off my spiritual to do list.
I’ve learned that Abiding in God is a dangerous thing, if you’re abiding with the wrong God. What do I mean? With our heads most of us acknowledge a loving God but our hearts often feel different. There have been some interesting studies out there that demonstrate an increase in anxiety and neuroticism when we conceptualize God as punitive and authoritarian. My point is that if you spend time with and reflecting upon a God that is not gracious and loving, you can do more harm than good.
Often when we think about time with God it is this structured exercise or some kind of devotional check list, but that is not the essence of relationship. Imagine if you treated your friendships or romantic relationships that way? You read a little about them on facebook, make a nice comment and repeat each day for ten minutes.
I think the answer is really trying to abide. To teach your heart to appreciate that you are never alone. It is a comfort to know that you are not alone but it is of no comfort if your brain knows it and your heart doesn’t. The difference between experiencing someone’s presence and not, is simply awareness. If a friend sat down next to you and you were unaware, her presence wouldn’t mean anything, but the moment your realize you are not alone, even if you do not interact, it FEELS different. Have you ever watched a game or read a book that you know your friend or spouse is doing as well? There is a different feeling- people don’t have to be with us physically for us to feel a connection. Again, it is the awareness that changes the experience.
Imagine that God is along for the ride, he’s not judging you or second guessing you, he’s enjoying your presence and the adventure that is your life.