Thursday, January 3, 2008

Relationships

Sorry everyone, I’m not going to share my profound insights into the mystery of love. Instead I’m going to ramble about some of my observations of life, and particularly how some things relate to other things.

People say that growing as a Christian is far from a smooth upward slope. Instead it has its ups and downs, the good times and the bad or, more piously, the mountains and the valleys. I am no exception. I can remember times where, as a Christian, I was on top of my game. In the disciplines I was firm, in worship I was on fire, in prayer I was fervent. But I can also look back on extended times where to read any of the Bible was a burden to me, and I certainly didn’t find any enjoyment in it. I can remember standing in worship and seeing other people ardently praising, but feeling dead inside.

I have often wondered whether there is any way to salvage these times of spiritual apathy, or if at the end of my days they will appear only as large black blemishes on the tapestry of my life. It would be impossible to calculate the cost of every act of sin (a thought that scares me), but if in any way I can bring something good from the times of walking backwards and blind, I’d love to.

Okay, so here’s where we get to our relationships thing. I have seen both good days and bad. I have seen how my diligence in one area leads to joy in another, or conversely, how my slackness in one way leads to other unfortunate events. Here I plan to outline a sampling of these inter-relationships.

One thing I have observed is that when I have a solid and healthy prayer-life, my desire to read the Bible increases, and vice versa.

I guess it makes sense that prayer and Bible reading go hand in hand, given that they’re kind of the Christian peas and carrots. But on another level it seems quite intriguing how these two things are related to each other. I really don't have much more to say about it though.

Another thing I have observed is that my enjoyment of natural beauty is directly related to my spiritual state.

By ‘spiritual state’ I am referring to my general hunger for God, as expressed through Bible reading and prayer. This co-relation is so stark that I find it a good measure of how my friendship with God is developing (or deconstructing). I live in quite possibly the most beautiful country on the planet. I am blessed to live where to see a tree I can just look out a window, and to see a beautiful panoramic landscape I can generally walk (or drive) up a nearby hill. When I am regularly praying, and enjoying the Bible, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of all this. I could stand captivated by the sight of a bird flying through the air, and simply stare at trees waving in the wind. There have been times I’ve been reduced to tears at the sight of an approaching storm, or of a glowing sunrise. I quite simply cannot describe such experiences without using ‘soul’ terminology. It is truly as if something is moving deep within me at the sight of something as ‘simple’ as an insect crawling across a leaf.

Unfortunately my life is not always like this. When I am not feeding my friendship with God through meditation on the scriptures and through prayer there is a sense in which I am dead to this beauty. This is not to say I can’t still appreciate beauty. I can still look at a spider-web glistening in the morning sun and say “that is beautiful,” but it seems something is missing. Though I can think a sight is attractive, I do not feel drawn to it the same way as I described before. I just feel…well…nothing. It is this nothingness that I hate most about living without respect to God. There is most definitely something depressing about looking at a sight and only thinking “I used to be awestruck by this.” The solution to this, my experience tells me, is to pursue God through studying scripture and praying your heart out.

As a random side note, atheists tend to argue that after death there is simply nothing, hence we don’t have anything to fear about it. However, having experienced a degree of nothingness, I think we have a lot to fear in it. Having tasted life, to go back to nothing would be truly terrible.

I have also noticed that it is always hard to get out of bed, regardless of whether it is early to study the Bible, or late because you slept in.

During better days, I was an early morning man. I’d wake up early, and the first thing I would do was study the Bible and spend time in prayer. This was serious, getting-up-in-the-dark-when-no-one-else-was-up stuff. I read about how the great thinkers and changers of the past woke up early, and want to copy them. The problem is that the books generally make it seem like waking up early was easy for them. I have never found this to be the case. It is strange how I appreciate the warmth of my bed so much more when I am supposed to be leaving it! My point is that even when I am being a ‘good’ Christian, it is no easier to get out of bed. Alas! My first thoughts when my alarm goes in the darkness are generally not “Praise God! Another beautiful day under God’s grace!” but rather “It would be so much easier to get out of bed if I just slept another couple of hours.”

Needless to say, when I do succumb to the second voice, it is no easier getting out of bed an hour later. If anything it is harder, for two reasons. First, there’s the guilt of having slept in and missed out on yet another time of Bible reading. Unfortunately my thinking often goes: “well I’ve wasted this morning anyway, I might as well let it go and try harder tomorrow.” And BAM! I stay in bed. Secondly, there is now no profound motivation for getting out of bed. In other words there is no more significant reason for getting out of bed than ‘because I have to.’

I guess this isn’t so much a relationship as a ‘non-relationship,’ but still, it’s something I’ve observed, that I hope will be helpful to someone, somewhere, somehow.

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