Why does the Christian life seem so complicated? I try to do the right things, but I either fail outright, or think I’m getting it, only to realize I missed the boat again. I want to follow Christ, but I can’t seem to get out of my own head and into the heart of the matter. I’ve read every book out there, I listen to podcasts and sermons, but I still struggle to figure it out.
Because I keep getting questions with this common theme, it tells me that there’s a true need among us to figure out how to walk with Christ. We’re taught from our baby Christian days that Bible study and prayer are the keys to a successful journey with Jesus. I’m not here to dispute that notion, because these are the best tools in our toolbox. But truly, the best relationships are more personal and less formulaic. It’s not: if you pray this prayer, if you read the Bible in a year, if you follow these steps (whatever the flavor of the day prescribes), you will have arrived.
It’s not formulaic. Nor does it have to be hard – Jesus was the one who said his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Like the rabbis of old who took the fairly straightforward law and turned it into something far more complicated, we are guilty, too, but with a new twist: taking the simple Gospel and muddying it up with opinions and interpretations, adding layer upon layer to the beautiful simplicity of the message of redemption.
I remember a discipleship program I participated in many years ago. One of the assignments was to have a quiet time 14 days in a row. If you missed one day, you had to start counting all over again, and you couldn’t move on until you completed the task of 14 quiet times in a row. I walked away from that exercise with two feelings. First, I did sense a genuine gratitude for the push to develop that kind of a habit, having been, to that point, unsuccessful. But second, I felt a little empty, like I had not really gotten any farther in knowing or loving God…I’d just ticked a box and could now graduate to the next book.
I’ve pondered this a lot through the years and I think that the way to peace with God is not so hard after all. It’s certainly easier than a lifetime of willing oneself to be more obedient while trying to discover the right combination of doing my part while allowing God to do His. It’s not meant to be frustrating or something where a secret cipher code has to be decrypted in order to figure it out. We are the ones that make it so much harder than it really is.
Stay tuned for more on this. I feel a series coming on.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. –Mark 12:30 (NIV)