It has occurred to me lately that my Christian life is lacking.
Rather, it has occurred to me that I don’t have a Christian life so much as I have a series of long moments with God that I have cobbled together into something resembling a Christian life. Simply put, I often forget about God, or set Him aside, for hours at a time. I leave Him in the middle of 1 Corinthians when I look up and realize that I need to get to work and students and copiers demand my attention; I set aside worship when the phone rings or when I remember that we’re out of detergent.
This bothers me. I have always wanted to be an Enoch or an Elijah or David – someone who walks closely with God as a dear friend. And yet I rarely think about God continuously, non-stop – many times a day, sure, but with no real continuity or consistency. His presence is constantly with me, but my acknowledgement of that presence and realization of it is patchy.
So I decided yesterday that I was going to make a conscious effort to simply acknowledge God’s presence continuously and constantly and actively, as much as I could. To the best of my ability, I was going to attempt to have God in mind first and all for as much of the day as possible. I assumed – rightly – that doing so would make it a lot easier for me to live the sort of life I want to live, one where His needs and desires come before mine.
And it worked! It really did change my behavior and my thinking in significant ways. Here are just a few:
– in a conversation about a man of whom I am often critical (and often feel deservedly so), I made a deliberate effort to speak with mercy and compassion and to not say anything unnecessary
-when unforeseen circumstances put me in a rush right before I left for work, I nonetheless forced myself to slow down and recognize these things as what they are: moments of grace in a too-brief time on this planet
– I made a conscious effort to abandon my irritation when the man on the tractor in front of me drove 15 mph in a 55 mph zone and I prayed for that man as he drove right past the “no tractors” sign on the side of the road
– I made a point to encourage my students in class
And the cool thing was that these events, plus others that occurred, had a significant impact on me. I came home much less spent than I usually do from work. My case of “the Mondays” wasn’t so severe. And my spirit was so buoyant that it rubbed off on my husband when he got home: we had a talk that lasted so long we both ended up forgetting all the other things we intended to do before bed!
So when I fell into bed last night, I was grateful. God, I said, today was the most amazing day. I really was mindful of the fact that you were with me, and it changed my behavior, and the way I acted was just…well…
…well, it felt incredibly awkward, to be honest.
And it did! It did feel awkward. When I was spluttering around the kitchen shoving my lunch into my purse and trying to remember where I’d left my keys and thinking oh I should get that check in the mail it was a strange and clumsy transition to …right, God is here, and all of this stuff is transient and fleeting, and my relationship with Him matters more than it right now.
When I was crawling in traffic behind Blithely Unconcerned Tractor Man and gritting my teeth because I had really wanted to get a drink before class and have some time to settle and man even when I’m early why is the world bent on making me late it was bewildering to stop and think, …oh. No, this man is deeply loved of God. Um. Right, okay. …I should probably pray instead of being annoyed.
When I made a valiant effort to speak with mercy and compassion toward the man I really am not fond of and often criticize, I felt like I was taxing every last bit of my mental power coming up with things to say that weren’t obnoxious. My conversation felt half-formed and confused, as though I don’t know how to speak without critical thoughts coming out of my mouth.
And the truth is? I probably don’t. Here is what comes naturally to people: selfishness, irritation, wrath, deceit, manipulation, flattery, envy, pride, and mockery. Here is what doesn’t: putting God first, putting others first, serving people, putting things in proper perspective. And although we all try to resist our human nature and live in godly ways from time to time and in our daily lives, I suspect that if we all focused fully on trying to do that in every moment, we’d find the process awkward, disconcerting, and strangely unnatural.
That’s the great joy. It is unnatural. Loving or serving in the way God prefers is awkward and clumsy and strange and the only reason we can do it is because He does it from within us. I have no idea how long I’ll be able to keep my personal streak going, but my hope is that I can manage it until having God before me every hour, having God impact my actions and thoughts every hour, starts to feel a lot less foreign.