Some people turn to God for explanations, others turn to God just to be with him. Lately, life’s been teaching me that those who build a faith on a relationship, rather than explanations, build something that lasts.
Jesus told this one story about two guys, one who builds his house on a foundation of stone, and the other on sand. When a storm hits, only the stonebuilt house remains. I grew up hearing this story in Sunday school, and there was even a funky little children’s song with hand motions to go along with it. I used to hear that story and figured it just meant to invest your life and your time in things that mattered. While I still think that’s true, I’m starting to see how it applies to the way we build our faith. If our commitment goes as far as choosing the best explanation for life, storms are guaranteed to knock faith apart.
As I’m picking up on this, I’m noticing different friends walk through storms, from the stressful, to the downright tragic. We all face some challenges daily, but eventually, we run into a true storm. What I’m seeing from a lot of my friends, though, is a faith that is as strong as ever. Losing faith after tragedy isn’t too uncommon of a story, but the reason I think my friends stay the course, is because of a firm friendship with God. You can change your mind about a belief, but you can’t un-meet somebody.
That’s the sort of relationship I’d like with God. One firmly rooted in friendship. Storms will come, and when they do, relationships provide where explanations fail. The faith I want is one that is able to withstand storms, and also manifests itself in my character on a daily basis. I grew up learning that it was important to pray, read the Bible, go to church, and all that, but I found often that I was still investing myself in finding explanations rather than relationship. I wanted to go deeper than empty practices- I want to know God more deeply.
The challenge with this desire was that it’s so amorphous. There’s not really a quantitative way to measure how well you know someone. And there’s not much of a formula to it, either. If I met a person I thought was cool and wanted to be friends with him, there’s no concrete system to get me there. Understanding this, however, helped me further my relationship with God. I realized that some of the principles that made certain friendships great also readily applied to a relationship with God. At the same time, it’s not something understood through a method, but through doing.
In this light, spending time with God becomes all the more significant. Prayer isn’t so much an obligation; it’s more like a date or a hang-out session. It definitely isn’t just a scheduled appointment to present requests or make demands. It’s simply time to spend with God, sometimes in conversation, or even just in reflection of who he is and what he does in my life. I’ve also stopped thinking of personal prayer as the only time I get to spend with God- I think as I grow closer to God, I’ll be better able to find God through all things. Even moments where God is apparently more silent can be more like going on a long road trip with a good friend where conversation slows, but the presence of each others’ company is still enjoyed. But, just like scheduling dates and hang-out sessions are important in our other relationships, setting aside some time dedicated to spend with God one-on-one is also important. After spending time with God for a while, I don’t feel as though I understand him any more than before- at times it even feels like the opposite is true, but I do feel much closer, and more secure.
I used to want a faith that explained everything so badly. While coming to know God has helped me understand a few things I’ve found important to living a good life, I also find that the more I get to know God, the more I realize how little I actually know. While I still think asking why is sometimes healthy, we miss out when we can’t accept the limits to understanding things. In fact, I think we happen to overestimate what we’re able to understand with our heads and underestimate what we can understand with our hearts.
Relationships beat explanations. Every time. If you’ve ever been comforted by the mere presence of somebody in a difficult and confusing time, you might’ve experienced this. A solid faith is one that relates to God best, rather than one that explains Him the best.