Firsthand Versus Secondhand Spirituality
by Diane Cretin
I read a lot of Max Lucado at one time.. So when I was struggling about what to write for this blog post, I started looking through Grace for the Moment: Inspirational Thoughts for Each Day of the Year.
I marked several readings that spoke to me, but stopped my search on day April 29, which was called Secondhand Spirituality. Here is that days reading:
Come near to God, and God will come near to you. James 4:8
Some of us have tried to have a daily quiet time and have not been successful. Others of us have a hard time concentrating. And all of us are busy. So rather than spend time with God, listening for his voice, we’ll let others spend time with him and then benefit from their experience. Let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn’t that why we pay preachers?...
If this is your approach, if your spiritual experiences are secondhand and not firsthand, I’d like to challenge you with this thought: Do you do that with other parts of your life?...
You don’t do that with vacations…You don’t do that with romance…You don’t let someone eat on your behalf, do you? (There are) certain things no one can do for you.
And one of those is spending time with God. (taken from his book Just Like Jesus)
This message really spoke to me. When I am feeling overwhelmed as I have been recently, I tend to let my quiet time with God slip away. I may still pray to God as I lie in bed but other intentional times are shoved to the background as I focus on completing all of the many tasks on my list. I don’t allow myself the time to acknowledge that those tasks would get easier to handle if I stopped to commune with God. I let myself get swept up by my responsibilities. That is a pattern I need to change.
This post also made me think about what we expect from our pastors. The Bible tells us in Mathew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The Bible does not tell us to skip direct communication with God.
I believe we are richly blessed by having Dale, Emily, and Kent serve as pastors for our congregation. I enjoy their sermons, teachings, and other interactions with them. I frequently get insight from them that encourages me to look at a Bible passage in a new way. This is valuable. But what weight are we putting on our pastors if we expect them to be our only source of spirituality? How might our lives and personal relationship with God improve if we take responsibility for our spiritual life? That does not mean we listen to our pastors less, it means we assume responsibility and put forth more effort ourselves. By this I don’t mean create a list of more things to do. It may mean you take some things off of your to-do list or extend the time to get them done, allowing the time you need to improve your own firsthand spiritual journey.
I was reminded of an image I had forgotten about. God is sitting in a chair in my house waiting for me to show up. How often do I not show up and leave God waiting? Yet I expect God to be there and meet every need when I ask.
I encourage us to take responsibility for our spirituality; rather than rely on getting it secondhand. Take time to spend with God - talk, pray, walk in nature and thank God for its beauty. There are so many options. You can journal your thoughts as you talk to God. If that seems like too much effort, you could do a simple gratitude journal, making a list each day of several things you are grateful for. You don’t need a fancy journal, just a piece of paper. You could write down prayer requests, including others whom you are praying for. This allows you to reread your list later and see all the ways God has answered your prayers. I think the main thing is to set everything else aside and focus on your interaction with God.
If you don’t normally spend time with God by yourself, it may feel awkward at first. That is OK. You can even tell God, “I don’t know what I am doing. But I want to further my relationship with you.” God knows our heart as well as every hair on our head.
May you delight in the peace and happiness that results from firsthand spirituality.