Friendship with God.
I wrote an article on Bonheoffer’s perspective of the meditative life last July called, connectedness over time — meditation. The theme has come up several times in conversation and in my own thoughts these last few months. So, I thought I would elaborate on the subject of friendship with God through meditation and connectedness.
When I say friendship with God, I’m saying that God has [literally] given us the ability to relate to him as a friend. Jesus says in John 15, I no longer call you servants, but friends. And simply put, I want to take him up on that.
This may seem like a simple statement that we’ve all heard before, but really… the subject of relating to the supreme being in relational friendship may seem a little [or a lot] overwhelming. But in my experience, it’s all about breaking it down into smaller, manageable pieces.
Let’s begin from an open heart [Phil Rice journey]
But let’s begin here before we jump into our 3 practical thoughts. Sarah Bingaman, a licensed therapist [my therapist] and good friend of ours [I know… breaking all the rules again, therapist and friend… it’s okay though, I promise], based outside of Austin, TX, refers to the heart as being either open or closed towards another person. Through her content, Sarah masterfully walks her clients through the process of closed heart to open heart.
There is so much power in living with an open heart as we relate to one another [As Becky and I continue to experience in our time with Sarah]. And even more so, to live with an open heart in friendship with God is absolutely life altering. Can I truly receive God’s invitation of friendship without an open heart? I actually don’t believe you can. I can become his servant, his steward, his attendant. But to become his friend, I must share with him not just my work, but my thoughts and my joys, my disappointments and my hurts. And [equally important] I must open myself to experience his. In summation, to walk in friendship with God is to commune heart to heart in a continual way. Now on to some thoughts.
1. Pre-expectations [friendship with God]
Muddled somewhere in the open/closed heart conversation is my own expectation.
Perhaps one of my greatest hindrances in keeping me from connection with God is my own expectation [or perhaps the expectations of another person or cultural norm] of what I should or should not have done before arriving at this place of communion. Did I wake up on time and make it to my quiet, guarded space of meditation and connection? Did I sin yesterday [an hour ago, a minute ago]? Was this unmoving space of quiet solitude interrupted by my kids, my spouse, my roommate, my dog? Did I have a plan going into this sacred time? Has my track record of meeting with God been regular enough for qualification this morning? The list goes on and on.
If I am not careful, this list can have such an impact on how I feel coming into a time of connecting with God. Did I win before I walked in? Or did I lose already? This is nothow God sees our communion with him. Be near to God and he will be near you [James 4]. Every time. That’s it.
2. Post-expectations debriefed [friendship with God]
And let’s not forget our regular [often self-abasing] debrief in which we weigh our “time with God” against our preconceived expectations of what that time should have entailed.
Did this time meet my expectations? I had my journal and my set aside space. I got up on time with a full cup of coffee. Buuuuuuut… I didn’t [insert your preconceived expectation here] come away with any new revelation, feel any inner glowing, cry long enough, forgive enough people, laugh hard enough, pray for everyone on my prayer list, see the holy spirit descend like a dove, experience the glory!
Hmmm… that must mean I didn’t do it quite right.
Next time I’ll [insert new and improved self imposed expectation] pray harder, read longer, wake up earlier, worship more passionately, journal more honestly, give up something more costly.
And in our very assessment, we’ve transitioned away from friendship and [once again] begun flirting with servitude. Are these real qualifiers for communion with God? Nope. Not a one. Be near to God and he will be near you [James 4]. Every time. That’s it.
3. Resetting expectations [friendship with God]
Be near to God and he will be near you [James 4]. Every time. That’s it.
If it’s really true that Jesus has called us friend… And really true that when we are mindful of him, he will be near us… then there must be a more helpful perspective on how we approach friendship with him.
Jesus describes our connection to God when he says, but you [do] know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. As we have entered into relationship with him, we do know him. He is with us. There is not a more intimate connection than our connection with him. Not because of how it feels or because of what we did. But simply because it is.
Our new perspective [if we want it]
This is our new perspective. We never enter into a time with God. For there is never a moment we are without him. He is Emmanuel, God with us. May we live and experience God in this moment — setting aside expectations simply to be with Him.