I grew up in the SDA Church. I was taught that God was somebody who sat back and watched me, coming down only in church, prayer, and when we called upon Him (Psalm 50:15). He was distant and enigmatic. This perception stayed with me for years and years. I thanked God for everything good, and anything bad I just pushed off on the Devil. But then we decided to move and my life's seas got rough.
The second rock my life-ship hit was love. I'd gone almost 17 years saying, "I don't need to date anybody. I'll just concentrate on living my life, and when it happens, it happens." But it happened. It was a field trip to the pumpkin farm a couple weeks before I turned 17, and I suddenly realized an infatuation with my best friend's sister. That Valentine's Day, I became her secret admirer, and after a couple months, I revealed my identity. A week later, I asked her out. Her initial yes was music to my ears, but she wasn't ready. Again, I was devastated. I took it way too personally, and slipped into an almost three year long depression.
This depression was perpetuated in one romantic failure after another (most of which were me not getting off my butt). College was stressful until I changed from Computer Science to Music Education. But my life was still a total pain. I blamed everything on my status as a bachelor, myself being a very romantic person and needing some outlet for that pent-up quixotic inclination. It finally took the engagement of the one person I couldn't get over to snap me back into alignment.
By this time, I'd resorted to living day-to-day, not setting any goals except declaring my major as music, and leaning heavily on God. It didn't help that we were smack dab in the middle of the largest financial hardship my family had ever seen, brought on in the largest economic recession since the Great Depression. Miracle after miracle happened, never at any time but the most desperate. It was just like the Widow of Zarephath, when God provided for her son and her. There was no way I could let that go past, and everything that happened brought me closer to God.
It wasn't until this February that I really contemplated my relationship with God. At The Awakening, a student-led worship service here at Walla Walla University, I came one Sabbath because I didn't have to sing in choir, which usually precluded me. I stayed for almost all of it, but the message was the same one I'd heard for years: if you just let God handle your life, you'll always be happy. This was the tail-end of my depression, so I'd shut off by the end of the message. When the second set of songs began, I had gotten no blessing and I didn't see the empty words of the songs I sang giving me anything either. So I walked out. I deposited the contents of my wallet, $2, into the offering basket and went back to my room. But God didn't stop tugging at my heart. The Spirit kept tugging on my heart, saying, "Hey, Michael, I want to spend time with you. So you didn't find me in The Awakening. Big, fat, hairy deal. You know where I'll be." I grabbed my notebook and my Bible, and headed for Heubach chapel. It's my favorite place to spend time with God because it's usually deserted and silent. Just like Elijah, that day I couldn't find God in the wind. I couldn't find Him in the earthquake. I couldn't find Him in the fire. And I know that if I couldn't find him in the Awakening, I most certainly wouldn't find Him in the massive Black History Month church service that was happening next door to the chapel. I spent some time thinking about God, talking aloud to Him, and actually feeling the Spirit next to me.
This led me to correlate God to a Big Brother figure. He's somebody I look up to, ask for advice, and He stands up for me. He knows what's best for me, even though I might want something completely different. It's this personal relationship with God that I enjoy, that I love. And when I don't have this relationship, I really miss it. It's not about rules or regulations. It's about having what Enoch had. He was so close to God that he disappeared one day. God took him to heaven, not because he was a perfect follower of the Law, but because he was so very close, spending every moment with God. This leads me to believe that a relationship with God is not this lukewarm, passive acquaintance, but a deep, personal relationship. God is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. And if you stick as close to Him, I think your salvation is guaranteed.
Next week, I'll talk about Sanctification vs. Justification.