I am a computer programmer. I tend to be a person who likes steps. What I mean by this is that I like to have a concrete explanation on how to do something. Just ask my wife. I literally follow the instructions on how to make macaroni and cheese, even worse I follow the instructions on how to make instant oatmeal! I follow the instructions to the letter: measuring the water, making sure my bowl is microwave safe, and using the exact time the instructions say to microwave the oatmeal! I always microwave our kids bottles for exactly 35 seconds, I don’t like to guess, I like steps and exact processes.
My wife is very unlike me in this way: she is a wonderful cook and never measures exactly, she measures to taste, she cooks things (and microwaves them) until she thinks they are hot enough. Sometimes this goes bad for her: she leaves a bottle in the microwave for 3 minutes or adds too much of something to a recipe rendering it sub-par (by her standards; i almost always still think it is delicious!). Other times she is able to vastly improve on what the recipes calls for, making her food taste greatly superior to the exact product of the recipe. She learns new things because she is willing to try new things. Following instructions and doing what you know works can make things simpler but never more diverse, or interesting, or better, or improved, or anything … it will always be the same never moving back, but never moving forward.
I would like to treat my faith this way: following the right steps to get the expected result. Sadly relationships do not work that way. You can’t treat all people the same way and get the same result, and more importantly you can’t follow a set of steps to be close to God. Following steps shows a disconnect between you and what you are doing: you don’t really know why you are doing it, just that if you do these things then the expected result will happen. What will happen if you are asked to make a change: you will be flabbergasted. My wife is a great cook because she is connected with what she is cooking, she understands why she is doing the things she is doing and is therefore able to change those steps to make things come out better.
To grow closer to God we must seek to know him, to connect with Him. We can follow religious steps but never connect with God: Jesus calls this being a white-washed tomb. I want to be more than a white-washed tomb. I don’t simply want to follow steps to look like a good Christian; I want to know God and connect with Him. When he asks me to change I don’t want to be flabbergasted.
How often do we think that doing this or that will “work” when it comes to our faith? How often do we seek to know God, to connect with Him and to go the way he has called us in spite of our fears of the unknown?
For me the answer to the last question is “not nearly enough, but hopefully more and more as he changes me.”
Note: The followup to this post is Things and Reasons.