Devotional thought of the day:
I often see people trying to create a division between “religion” and a “relationship” with Jesus. They bash the idea of there being a structured relationship, because somehow that limits them. Personally, I think there is more to the discussion than simply saying you don’t need the structure, you don’t need the discipline, you don’t need that which so many before you found to be essential to their walk with God. Let me explain using a illustration.
I love driving a manual transmission – especially a five or six speed stick. I really miss my old tiny Mazda 626 and the Sentra SE-R that replaced it. I used to work at a university, and lived about 20 miles away. The road was very winding and hilly, (Malibu Canyon) and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride – constantly shifting and just having fun. It was even fun when rocks dotted the road in the canyon, as you had to really drive. I even learned a few different routes – winding through the Santa Monica Mountains. The scenery was gorgeous- and driving a stick just made it a greater experience!
Driving in such a manner is a great example of religion and relationship functioning together. I didn’t think, downshift now – upshift now – double clutch…right now. I just did it, I guess the word is intuitively, naturally, and the senses became even more aware of what was going on. (for example – my carpool companion Ed screaming to slow down!!!) The “structure” of shifting and the discipline of driving were not negatives – they were part of the flow of life that enhanced the experience, that made it…incredible. Driving an automatic (whether my wife’s Geo Metro or later her RAV4) was no where near the same experience.
If I were to say I didn’t need the structure – that I could shift from 1st to 4th, or didn’t need to depress the clutch, the ride would have been somewhat different. And the damage to the car (our lives) could be exreme. That is what I think those who try to divide our “religion” from the “relationship”. They try to shift where they want, when they want – and there is nothing to keep their senses in check. Unfortunately, life isn’t like driving on a 100 square mile dry-lake bed. It is like driving through the windy canyon, with rocks falling, and a 700 foot cliff to the left! We have to realize that prayer, and reading the Bible, and gathering as the people of God are not duties to hamper our faith, but blessings to form it.
There is another problem that becomes evident here – how we train people to “drive” and “shift”. Nothing intimidates me more than contemplating teaching my wife to drive a stick. It is so intuitive to me, I can’t even think about how to express it in works. My brother in law once had a sheet of directions – “Zen and the art of Driving a stick” – basically saying – when it’s time to shift, depress the clutch, shift, release the clutch” Yeah – that’s about it… yet! So we struggle as we teach people the “mechanics” of our faith, and we just expect them to treasure them the way we do. Not to mention we get a little ticked when they grind the clutch, or don’t down shift or.. and our frustration frustrates them – and do we really need all this?
And so the idea of can’t we strip the religion from the relationship seems to be very… possible. And often times, to our shame, we let them – thinking they will never understand. Not remembering how long it took us to learn these things.
I thought so too – till I started ministering to people with dementia, or alzheimers, or near the end of their lives. To go through a short version of the liturgy, and see those who cannot remember why I wear a clerical collar – though they do know it is a great thing I am there – say the Lord’s prayer with me, and even the Creed, to read Psalm 23, or John 3, or Eph 2:8-10 and watch them mouth the words, and the same during the words of institution, or the light that sparkles in their eyes and they receive the Lord’s Supper. There is something to that structure, there is something to that faith – that is even intuitive when all else is failing. There is peace, and calm and even joy. The same when a family goes through trauma, or when what would cause anxiety in ost just doesn’t stress them out.
For it is then, that “religion” calls us back to know that which we should know – when our driving becomes fluid and graceful and we can again rise out of ourselves and sense that there is something else at work, Someone else providing the power, the beauty, the grace. When we are no longer just concentrating on the mechanics, but they are so natural, that we can more clearly experience walking with God. Because we know His promises, we know He is communicating with us in prayer, and we are ultimately aware of His presence… so aware nothing else matters.
So be patient, be diligent, listen to those who would disciple and train you… and if you are training someone – be patient, remember how it took you a while – and there were more than a few hiccups,
Lord Have Mercy, and help us to live in a way, that we rejoice in the journey, fully confident of Your presence.