It seems many have a long distance relationship with God. I mean really far – like earth to some unknown location in the heavens of outer space. The concept of a close personal God is foreign. This is sad. Many believe wholeheartedly in God, but they, quite literally, miss him. So what does a close relationship with God look like?
It’s different for all of us. God works in a variety of ways – through people, through inner voices. It becomes more visible the more time we spend with God. To put this more concretely, here’s a recent scenario I had with my son. Stories tell a better truth. So bear with me…
Thomas is 9. We’ve been practicing what we call “power sharing” for a couple years now. He doesn’t have bed times. We don’t tell him what to eat. He can wear what he wants. He can dress however he pleases. He can wear his hair how he likes. And a bunch of other stuff that shocks most people. Before we suggest this may be too permissive, think of the power God has given to us. Free will should suffice as an illustration.
Although my wife and I share a lot of power with Thomas, sometimes he abuses it. He can be disrespectful, rude, and refuse to cooperate. We’ve built up a close, personal relationship with Thomas so we’re able to speak into his life reminding him that his behavior is not on target. Sometime he hears us. Sometimes not. Recently he did not.
When Thomas broke our power sharing agreement, I had to take it all back for his sake, as well as others. I sent him to a room to calm down, told him when he was going to bed, and that he’d have a consequence. I told him that because he wasn’t able to handle the power, I was going to hold onto it for a bit.
He freaked. He yelled, screamed, swore, and threw stuff.
Then, when it sunk in that I wasn’t budging he broke down crying. It was a heartfelt cry. He knew I wasn’t being mean or harsh. I let him feel his feelings for a bit and gave him some time. I didn’t like seeing him in pain, but I could tell he was learning something.
After an hour, Thomas sought me out. He wanted to talk. And so he did. He likes to talk. He talked for about 10 minutes about a play he was working on, but then got down to what was on his heart.
He explained everything that happened that led to his tirade, and then asked if I would be open to an alternative solution rather than any consequences for his actions. I stated that I was open – and I was. He proceeded to explain how we’re all “works in progress,” and that because we know that couldn’t we just chalk up what happened as a learning experience – you know, because we’re all works in progress.
At this point my wife was laughing so hard from the other room she started choking on her water – she recovered. I asked Thomas what it is he’s “working on.” He proceeded to tell me about how he can do better at listening, and not teasing his sisters, not being destructive, etc. He nailed his issues – he knows them well. We’ve been working with him for years on them.
He also proceeded to tell me all my issues – issues with anger, yelling, fighting with mummy – he knew them all. My wife resumed her laughter from other room.
Finally, he asked, “So can we just let it go? Can we just accept we’re all works in progress and that we’ll continue to do the best we can, and not have any consequence?”
I agreed. I agreed because I know my son. He didn’t need a consequence to understand – it’s why we stopped giving them years ago, and only threaten them when we’re at our wits end. He realized his errors in judgment. And he already lived and felt the consequences.
He then proceeded to tell me that he said all this so he could get out of a consequence, quickly adding that what he said he meant and was true – even though he had an ulterior motive.
I appreciated his honesty. I gave him back the power, and even more.
For an amazing video about God’s relationship with us, check out Dallas Willard and John Ortberg below. It’s well worth the 20 minutes.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the video…
~ Ted Olson