Sitting in a hotel lobby, I watched a group of people gather at a group of couches several feet opposite me. The center of attention was a young girl, probably 12 to 13 years old. As more people joined, the number of gifts pilling up on the small table grew into a festive, and somewhat unstable, pyramid. They shared hugs and laughter…when they sang happy birthday to the young girl…I corrected my thought they were doing some sort of early Christmas. (It was right after Thanksgiving.)
The young girl sat in the middle of twelve to fifteen adults; for most, she was the center of attention. The young girl was engaged and excited to open each gift. She was thankful and considerate of each gift-giver. The people she thanked were engaged…at least for her handling of their gift. Several of them, though, were distracted before her picking up the gift they gave and were disinterested once she moved on to another. They spent the rest of the party talking to one another or took a nose-dive into their phone. Occasionally looking up when the young girl would call out to them to look at what she received. They’d nod and go right back to whatever they had been doing. It was apparent they couldn’t care less about being at the party.
My thoughts turned to how that is a decent representation of so many of us in the church today and in our walks with God. Someone wants to share a praise or a prayer request…we nod and go through the motions waiting for the moment we can check out and get back to what is really important – ourselves. Or we come to the morning service with no intent on joining the body in worship – no matter if the worship is in song, prayer, or a sermon. We’ve checked in and then checked right back out…usually, to carry the check thing too far, ticking the checkmark on our list of things we have to do to stay on God’s “good side.” Some engage with people…but it’s hugs and catching up on anything but spiritual well-being…that stuff is too private to discuss.
Or, in our personal walk, we disengage as we read words from the Bible. We get a few chapters in, walk away and forget everything we’ve read. Or our prayers become a formula, something we can ramble off in 2.3 minutes, so we’re not late to work…or the game…or the show. The only time we slow down and let the prayer matter is when we need something…then we get serious because at that point it is all about us.
We chose not to forgive…though we’re called to do so. We choose not to serve…though we’re called to do so. We choose not to join the body in spiritual songs and the sharing of the word…though we’re called to do so. We want to show up, do the thing we have to (like bring a gift to a birthday party), and as soon as it’s done we’re ready to move on…to more important things (or so we think).
Somewhere we’ve lost the sense of the greatness of our God. He doesn’t awe us anymore. We react to him like those people acted at the birthday party. Walking with God seems to be a chore…sometimes a hindrance. He impedes what WE want to do…we’ve forgotten about the grace He’s given us. Or maybe we have never known grace.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. [2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV]
We have it all backward…at least in the way we act. We act as if we really don’t need God, we may tolerate, but we don’t need Him. We can get through our lives with lip service and an occasional nod in His direction. Our lives are too busy to slow down and spend time with Him. But like I said, we have it all backward. God doesn’t need us. Sometimes I wonder why He tolerates us…He can exist and thrive without anything we provide. But His love and His holiness come into play, and for some reason, He reaches out to us…the ones who turn our back on Him. The ones who ignore Him degrade Him…perhaps not with our words, but with our actions.
The Creator, the One who we would collapse in front of if He were to appear before us, the Light of the World, our Savior, our Comforter…and so much more. Why does He even take the time to listen to us…why did He open His throne room for us to boldly walk in too? Because He is love…and He deserves our undivided attention, our surrender.
It is His party after all.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. [Romans 12:2-3 ESV]