How each of us renews our strength with God depends on our relationship with God. Most people use the traditional methods of reading the Bible or devotional books, prayer, and going to worship services. For anyone who is part of a ministry, be it spoken word or musical ministry, often the worship services that sustain others can be a spiritual drain. Everyone needs their own private source of refilling. We have to come close to God on our own time and in our own way to do this. This is where the personal relationship that one has with God becomes critical. If the relationship with God is weak, one is unable to connect to God independently. Perhaps that person relies on a church or a style of worship or something external to be able to connect to God. If something happens to that worship or church service, then the relationship with God is off and the believer often feels like he/she has been set adrift, unable to connect to their spiritual part. At this point the believer must develop the independent relationship with God or walk away from the entire experience. Indeed God often intentionally takes away our spiritual props to stimulate a deepening of the relationship. This is also true in cases where we must defend our faith to others. Often we walk away from these encounters knowing intellectually that we are right but feeling like we have just been spiritually beaten up. At this point we desperately need the refilling of God that our straight brothers and sisters in Christ have just told us we cannot have! This is a unique problem for gay and lesbian Christians.
All humans know about God. Many different beliefs and interpretations about God abound. Some don’t believe in God, some aren’t sure. But everyone has heard about God in some context. The concept of an all knowing, all powerful , superior intelligence is present in every culture and at every time throughout history. Even when repressive governments tried to stomp out “myths” about God, the stories were still told. God exists in some context for millions of people. However millions of people also only know of God. They don’t know God personally. This is very much like knowing that you have a neighbor next door that you’ve never personally met. We are all born with the capacity to know our creator. The fundamentalists call this being “born again”. The best definition I have ever read of the relationship experience comes from Dallas Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy. He describes it as being “interactively joined with a dynamic, unseen system of divine reality, in the midst of which all of humanity moves about-whether it knows it or not.” This is the relationship with our creator that we can know. To become keenly aware of God around us and with us, is a divine gift. We can interact with God’s presence on a daily basis. Ever one has different methods of interaction — prayer, thoughts, visions, prophecy. But all of these interactive methods require a meditative process. We have to be able to get quiet and listen.
I call my God, Jesus, and therefore myself a Christian. But others in other religions have also manifested the outward behavior of a life changed by God. Consider Ghandi, Anwar Sadat, or even Malcolm X in his later years. The historic lives of these men are open for public display. They had an experience with God, no matter what name God was called by. They were devoted to God and God’s ministries at some public point in their lives. We were born to have a relationship with God. What name we call God will depend a lot on our background, culture and upbringing. Whether we connect to a quiet God or a God that dances in the aisles, is irrelevant. It is a life changing, life enhancing and life enriching experience. But we must take the time out of our busy lives to reach out and touch God for renewal. To put God first in a world with increasing distractions is a constant challenge. According to Willard:
“The ability to see and the practice of seeing God and God’s world comes through a process of seeking and growing in intimacy with God . . . . The heavens progressively open to us as our character and understanding are increasingly attuned to the reality of God’s rule from the heavens.”
One can not spill out onto others unless they have refilled themselves at God’s well of love and grace.