I skipped church this morning to “sleep in” so I would not be too tired to take care of something on my “to do” list. I was later using my laptop when a pop-up appeared on the screen from my internet security software. It read, “Warning: Your computer is at risk. Update now for protection.”
As I waited for it to complete its “fix”, I caught myself wishing that there were a similar “pop up” for my spiritual well-being: Some kind of warning system that would interrupt what I was doing and make me focus on my spiritual health when it was at risk – when I have strayed from the path that the Lord wants me to follow.
I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Straying from the path I know I should follow.
Then the thought occurred to me that there is a warning system available for my spiritual well-being , but I don’t always use it — and when I do, I don’t always listen.
You see, just as I am free to ignore the warning pop-ups on my laptop that my security is about to be breached, God has given me free will to ignore His warnings that I am straying from the path Christ teaches us to follow.
Just as I am free not to invest in software protection to protect my laptop, I am free not to use prayer, reading the Bible, worship, and community in Christ as warning systems of spiritual threats or attack.
Ironically, I found myself not working on my “to do” list this morning at all, but sorrowful, remorseful and deep in prayer.
“Come and hear, all of you who reverence the Lord, and I will tell you what he did for me: For I cried to him for help with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it! Blessed be God, who didn’t turn away when I was praying and didn’t refuse me his kindness and love.” (Psalm 66:16-20)
“How will I know when I am need of prayer” if I don’t heed spiritual pop-ups that warn me when I am in danger? The answer is easy, really: I am always in need of prayer. I am always surrounded by spiritual danger and need God’s protection, I always am in need of God’s love and forgiveness, and I always have reasons to thank Him.
When I find myself prioritizing other things before God, as I did this morning, I falter.
Whenever I’m not following the path shown us by Christ, I’m surrounded by spiritual darkness.
But I need not be. And I need not remain there when I falter. “Later, in one of his talks, Jesus said to the people, ‘I am the Light of the world. So if you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path.” (John:8-12)
God is always listening – patiently loving me and waiting for me to recognize, acknowledge and turn away from my sins, to acknowledge I need Him, to ask for His help, to love Him above all else, and to thank Him for the blessings He gives me. Waiting for me to risk alienating the few relationships I have left that mean anything to me in order to follow Christ in the way Christ intended. Waiting for me to abandon my love of material comforts so there is more room in my heart to love God and the people suffering around me. Waiting for me to surrender my secret desire for peer approval to my need for only His. Waiting for me to devote more of my self serving Him — not sin.
“Oh God, you know so well how stupid I am, and you know all my sins. O Lord God of the armies of heaven, don’t let me be a stumbling block to those who trust in you. O God of Israel, don’t let me cause them to be confused, though I am mocked and cursed and shamed for your sake. Even my own brothers pretend they don’t know me! My zeal for God and his work burns hot within me. And because I advocate your cause, your enemies insult me even as they insult you…
But I keep right on praying to you, Lord. For now is the time – you are bending down to hear! You are ready with a plentiful supply of love and kindness, Now answer my prayer and rescue me as you promised. Pull me out of this mire. Don’t let me sink in. Rescue me from those who hate me, and from these deep waters I am in.” (Psalm 69:5-14)
Missing church this morning may not seem like a “big deal” to someone else, and maybe it isn’t a big deal — to someone else. But it was a big deal for me because of the choice it represented to me. And the remorse and shame I felt this morning after I chose to “sleep in” and work on my “to do” list instead of communing with God and other followers, are nothing short of “spiritual pop-ups” I was sent cautioning me that I am at risk and need to update my spiritual protections.
I wonder if God found it as amusing as I did that, after sleeping in so I could work on my “to do” list, I wasn’t able to work on my “to do” list at all. I imagine He did. My mind would not quiet until I first made my apology to God for doing so and spent time praying in communion with Him from home.
Image Copyright: Weerapat Kiatdumrong