Two days ago, a heavy autumn rain hit.
I peered out the window and wondered if I should attempt my morning walk. I love the idea of autumn rain. Half the internet lately has been covered in images of glistening black streets plastered with leaves, steaming mugs of cider, and bright pumpkins. But considering the reality was different: a rainstorm meant cold, and wet, and being generally uncomfortable.
I debated for a good while before I went anyway, ducking into my husband’s raincoat and emerging from my house looking like a little green druid as the storm strengthened. And I was glad I did. Yes, it was raining. But thanks to my raincoat I stayed dry and warm. The path I usually walk was empty of people, save for one wet squirrel fleeing desperately for shelter. Rain-soaked leaves littered the sidewalk. The creek near my walking path was up over the rocks, splashing at the edges of the trail. The quiet hush of rain drowned out everything else, and the air smelled pure and clean. Altogether, that rainy autumn walk was the best once I’ve had so far this year – and all it took was my snap decision to transform from an observer into a participant.
It made me think of my Christian walk, and the transformation six months ago that led first to this blog and then eventually to my daily prayer walks. Prior to that, I’d been trapped in stasis: a sort of endless, daily-life rut where my walk with God and my general spiritual life seemed neither particularly well nor unwell, just…the same.
I suspect a lot of believers live through something like this. I’ve often heard the phrase that “If you’re not moving closer to God, you’re moving farther away.” I imagine that in some cases that’s true. But I also believe that there are times when, in our spiritual lives, we don’t move at all. We pray, yes, and we do our daily Bible study, and we go to church, but our faith sort of happens to us: we’re passive participants watching God’s work from inside a cozy shelter of indifference. We participate in all the trappings of belief the same way that people pin pictures of rainstorms and pumpkins to Pinterest, but few of us are willing to cultivate a hunger for more than that. And it’s a vicious, self-perpetuating sort of cycle. If our spiritual life feels “fine” – not great, not spectacular, but “fine” – we often don’t feel that compelled to change things. Above all, humans are creatures of comfort.
And it’s soul-killing. It is so easy, when you’re in that sort of stasis, for the meaningful acts of faith – Bible study and prayer and church and ministry – to become rote or habitual. It’s easy to make them all about us and not all about God. And as we go along, we begin to wonder where the spark has gone, without ever realizing we’ve long since lost the desire to keep it going. We tell ourselves we’re doing well – and often, by all external accounts, we are – as we slowly lose the intimacy that is the sole priority of having a relationship with God.
The solution is simple and hard all at the same time: just jump in. On that autumn morning, it meant forcing myself into a raincoat and out the door before I could talk myself into doing otherwise. In our spiritual walks, it means pulling our focus away on the outside trappings of our faith to zero in on one particular goal: “I want to be closer to You.” It means taking the time to realize you are in stasis: that you’ve become so comfortable you’ve stopped growing, or, worse, stopped desiring to grow.
I know you might be in eight different small groups and that you just served at four church dinners in the past three months, and that you’re in the choir and you ministered to nineteen different people this week and you have a Bible full of notes. But all of those grow from and around our relationship with God. How is that going for you? How is it going really? Is your focus on getting closer, or has it drifted to other things?
The door to intimacy and wisdom is a door that God will never close. If you ask, you will receive from Him in that regard; I can testify to it. It’s as simple as making a decision, as simple as stepping over a threshold. Don’t ever let where you are be enough.