Here’s my Saturday confession: I have been treating God like a coworker.
For the past several months, our conversations have been focused on questions like:
“God, what do you want me to do?”
“Father, what’s the purpose of this season?”
“How do I bring you glory with what’s in front of me?”
“God, please help me as I keep moving forward!”
These are not bad questions and concerns to bring to God. I want to live in an attitude of surrender, and these questions lean me toward his purposes instead of my own.
But I think I have been using them in my desire to prove my dedication to Lord, both to him and to others. I’ve been trying to lead my relationship with God and direct our conversations in the ways I want them to go, ignoring anything from him that didn’t line up with my meeting agenda. I’ve been striving, attempting to grasp at something tangible, looking for measures of “success” in a season of uncertainty.
I’ve been focused on the doing, but not the being.
It’s the classic issue of being a Mary vs. a Martha–but the focus is not limited to my lifestyle. Rather, it’s affecting the tone of my relationship with God.
Eric and I have what I consider a healthy marriage. We feel very blessed that, though we have encountered struggles, the majority exist outside of our marriage; we must make a decision about how struggles will affect us in our marriage, but the root of the problem has not been from within our relationship.
However, there are times when life has become busy or even just presented decisions for us to discuss, such as buying a new car or accepting a job offer and a relocation. And in these times, Eric and I have a tendency to stray from being husband and wife to being roommates and coworkers.
We still live together and share a bed. We sit down at the dinner table every night. We even go on a weekly date night. But all of our conversations revolve around resolving our finances or the pros and cons of the imminent decisions. Little triggers of stress start to widen the gap, and if we aren’t careful, deeper patterns begin.
Individually, we are too distracted to have quality time with the Lord. Together, we are too mentally tired to have intentional conversation, so we sit and watch Netflix instead. Then we fall asleep on the couch and have to force ourselves to turn off the TV, brush our teeth, and pull back the covers in our own bed. As a result, our moments of intimacy are fewer and further between.
It is important for us to communicate, making plans for the future and working through decisions (and I emphasize working through because Eric and I make decisions in very different ways and it’s a lot of work for us to do that together). We need to discuss who is paying the bills and whether or not we can afford a car payment.
But if our marriage is reduced to these issues, it’s not much of a marriage–at least, not a healthy one. There’s a balancing act in getting all of the to-do boxes checked off to be responsible in life but also in spending time together because we enjoy being with each other. Romance and intimacy and friendship and spiritual growth all play significant roles in the strengthening of our unity, and we aren’t going to last very long if we ignore those things.
Some aspects of the relationship might take precedence in different seasons, but in the big picture Eric and I have learned to keep a gauge on how we are doing as friends, financial managers, forward thinkers, lovers, and Christians.
Yet I often forget that my relationship with God can fall into lopsided patterns, as well. And that is where I have been.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on why my Bible reading and morning journaling no longer stirred my heart or moved me into the presence of God. I was praying, but even those prayers seemed to be trying to bridge this great gap between God and myself. I know he is near and always with us, but he felt so far.
Then I met with a wonderfully wise woman who helped me identify that, just as to develop a healthy marriage Eric and I have to talk about more than decisions and bills and our day at work, God and I need to talk about more than just what I should do and how I wanted to plan.
God is more than a coworker or a career counselor.
While he does have plans and purposes for my life, living the Christian life is not centered on the doing alone. The doing must first begin with the being. There’s rest involved as we fix our eyes on his character and his heart for us. As we deeply know and experience his love for us, a desire to surrender the doing parts of our life will follow.
I was challenged to stop asking What do you want me to do? and start asking Who do you want me to be?
Who does God want me to be–as I walk through infertility and its next steps, as I navigate friendships, as I learn to support my husband, as I consider my own job aspirations, and so on? What character traits should I be reflecting no matter my circumstances and no matter the decisions he leads me to down the road?
And when I spent some concentrated time asking God to show me who he is and who he wants me to be, my soul began to quiet.
The noise and the tension of not knowing what to do slowly faded, even as I had to intentionally redirect my thoughts to stop asking So what do you want me to do with all of this? The doing is rooted down deep in my responses, and it requires an active decision to continually redirect my thoughts away from this autopilot of purpose and planning and preparation.
I am learning the value of being with God and resting in who I am when I am with him. He’s not looking for progress reports or strategic plans or completed task lists. He isn’t asking me to prove my spiritual maturity to him before he will answer my prayers.
I am sitting in his presence, asking him to fill me with his love so that I can be patient, joyful, and satisfied. Those are the answers I heard from him as I asked who he wants me to be, and I realized that I have been none of those things, at least not lately.
Instead of the self-absorption that comes with a focus on my plans and my decisions, a focus on his character allows me to let go of my get-it-done patterns. And in this shift, I can rest in the being, trusting that the doing will happen as I follow his leadership and not my own.