Forget what you may have learned. Your relationship with God isn’t an article of ready-made clothing that you purchase and wear. It cannot be simply given to you. It is clothing that you have to make from the spiritual fabric, needle and thread provided to you. As you grow and your spiritual body changes, you must continually modify it so it continues to fit.
Our relationships with God are deeply personal, but they will not grow if we remain passive recipients of His gifts. The idea that we are Christians if we are baptized, confirmed, believe in God, or attend church may be important in our development, but they are only the “means to an end” — they are not “the end” — for what God has in mind for us.
Jesus urges us to consciously engage in our spiritual development in order to become the spiritual version of ourselves that God desires us to be. Think of Christianity as a spiritual gym where we must regularly exercise and challenge our spiritual selves in order to reach our potential and remain spiritually healthy. Think of our materialistic culture as the unhealthy foods we eat. We can’t ignore the unhealthy foods we eat and remain healthy. We can’t think about exercising but not do so and remain fit.
The Apostle Peter wrote about the interactive, progressive nature of our relationships with God and the need for us to actively participate in them:
“Do you want more and more of God’s kindness and peace? Then learn to know him better and better. For as you know him better, he will give you, through is great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: he even shares his own glory and his own goodness with us! And by that same mighty power he has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings he promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us, and to give us his own character.
But to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to know God better and discover what he wants you to do. Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and Godly, gladly letting God have his way with you. This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply. The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:2-7)
Christians often stop short of God’s goal for them because they confuse the “way to an end” with the end itself. “For some reason, religious people tend to confuse the means with the actual goal. In the beginning, you tend to think that God really cares about your exact posture, the exact day of the week for public prayer, that authorship and wordings of your prayers, and other such things. Once your life has become a constant communion, you know that all the techniques, formulas, sacraments, and practices were just a dress rehearsal for the real thing — life itself — which can actually become a constant intentional prayer.” (“Falling Upward” by Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest)
Life begins as a dress rehearsal. With God’s grace, it evolves into the real thing.
Photo by rido