By Edward Thal /
Enjoying a relationship with God is not difficult. The difficult part is deciding that you want a relationship with God. Most people don’t. It’s not that they are unbelievers; there’s overwhelming acknowledgement, everywhere, of some form of deity who is sought for help and favors. But this begs the question: if most people believe in the existence of a higher power and call on their gods from time to time, why do so few seem to enjoy an actual relationship with the true God? Why is God so distant and mysterious and virtually unknown to the vast mass of humanity? Where is the disconnect?
The answer lies in the fact that while it is natural to draw comfort from the thought of a friendly deity watching over us, to protect us and pass along occasional gifts (a new baby, a nice house, good fortune or perhaps just a nice day), it goes against rebellious, self-centered human nature to cede control of ourselves to anybody else, even God. Perhaps especially God. He is presumed to be Very Big and Strong, like a heavenly Drill Sergeant, and when He says “jump!” we gotta jump!
Reactions to the thought of giving God access to our innermost being range from intimidated to offended, with a lot of excuses thrown in for good measure. There’s a bunch of stuff we want to keep just for ourselves. Even those of us who may not have much in terms of wealth or status in the community still have that secret place within where it’s all “I. Me. Mine.” The result is a delicate balancing act where we find out what God likes (phony religion tells us, usually in much detail), and then we do things or give things or don’t do certain things and we do remember to say our prayers to keep God happy – like a well-trained guard dog quietly gnawing on a bone until we yell for help.
Some of us (mainly in well-educated, affluent, sophisticated Western Europe and North America) can’t be bothered to do all that religious stuff so we pretend that God is not real. We whistle through the graveyard or hum loudly inside our heads when its dark and we hear a noise in the closet, but most of the time we manage to just sail along, unaware, unafraid and uncaring. Until death or disaster looms, and then it gets a little tricky because the best time to try and figure out your theology is not when you’re staring into the abyss.
But what’s truly sad is that it is rather easy to have a life-changing encounter with God. The answer lies not in all those very inventive and complicated religions but in first acknowledging our inner corruption (we used to call it sin, but the word is so out of fashion these days), and then submitting gladly to our Creator, recognizing that He alone is able to clean us up in this life and take us home with Him in the next. The transaction is free to us, but it was not cheap to Him when He took on human form as Jesus of Nazareth and paid the full price for our redemption from the consequences of our massive failures.
Which is why, when our debt is totaled and the bill comes due, God has no mercy on those who try to appease Him with counterfeit stuff, or simply reject Him as a meddlesome presence or a fraud.