Long distance relationships (commonly known in internet world as LDRs) have their ups, their downs, and their own set of challenges. If you find your relationship is geographically challenged… you’re in a LDR. I have had the pleasure of experiencing one of these LDRs and I can tell you, they aren’t for the faint of heart.
In my experience, there is only so much that you can do to make the relationship exciting and thriving long term. FaceTime, texting, phone calls, photos, Snapchat, or drive to meet up on weekends (if you are lucky)… If you really want to spice things up, you can write bae a hand-written love letter (oh, how romantic!), and send it through snail mail. Sometimes these things are enough for both parties, especially if the couple has a plan to relocate to be together. Other times, your relationship with this special person feels more like a love affair with your handheld technological device. At least in my experiences with LDRs, without a light at the end of the tunnel, there comes a time a few months down the road where the relationship is another daily task. Coffee? Check. Home work? Check. Laundry? Check. Text bae goodnight so they don’t get mad at me? Check.
My point is, it is not impossible; however, it becomes emotionally draining to maintain the upkeep for a LDR. Eventually things feel stale, even if you really love that person. You don’t get to have face-to-face interaction, go on many dates or adventures together, or experience life doing day to day tasks with your person. Sometimes you’re just too tired to communicate well or too lazy to talk at the end of the day. One or both partners may feel jealousy or neediness from lack of attention. Often times one person is putting in more of the effort to make the relationship work, causing a strain on the whole relationship. Someone has to eventually cave and sacrifice their location before the connection begins to wear thin.
I think the vast majority of us would probably pick a IRL (in real life, aka not over the internet) relationship over a LDR. It’s more exciting, more convenient, more intimate, more interactive, more memorable, even more hopeful! There is an actual chance to thrive and grow without the relationship being on standby…
So why do so many of us treat our relationship with Jesus like it’s a LDR?
Wondering what I mean? If you only pray when it’s over your food or before bed, ya might be in a LDR. If you only open your bible on Sunday at church, ya might be in a LDR. If you act one way around your Christian friends and a different way around your work friends, ya might be in a LDR. If the last time you were in church was for Christmas Eve service, ya might be in a LDR. #YaMightBeInALDR. All jokes aside, If you feel like your time with God is religion rather than relationship this might be your situation.
I love the quote by A. W. Tozer, “A true disciple does not consider Christianity a part-time commitment. He has become a Christian in all parts of his life. He has reached the point where there is no turning back.”
Can I encourage you that being a Christian is not about doing a series of mundane religious tasks out of obligation or shame. Rather, consider it a thrilling, challenging, unexpected, fulfilling relationship IRL with our Creator! Treating your relationship with God like it’s a LDR is not beneficial to you nor is it meeting its full potential. As I mentioned in my past blog post, God’s love is eternal; He made sacrifices for you, He rejoices over you with singing, and He loved you first. So let me tell you: if your Christian walk feels stale, monotonous, boring, and disconnected, it is possibly because you are treating it like a lackluster LDR. I know this because I spent 16 years of my life with God this way. I allowed God in just enough for my salvation, but I didn’t understand that there was more available in my relationship with Him. So here is a few areas I’ll touch on to hopefully help you analyze your relationship with Him that helped me. The best part is you can begin strengthening that relationship with Him today.
Have you occasionally felt God is so far away that He doesn’t hear you? Do you feel like you are mailing your prayer to the Lord somewhere out in the universe, chilling out on Saturn’s rings, where it may get lost along the way? You might feel like it’s a LDR with Him, but without a second doubt, He’s definitely NOT in one with you! He is Emmanuel, God WITH us. In Romans 8:26 the Bible says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through the wordless groans.” In other words, He is SO close to you that even when you can’t find the words to lift a prayer, He knows what you need. He hears your wordless frustrations. He hears your long sigh on a lagging work day. He hears your huff at the car driving too slow in front of you. He hears your groaning at the amount of homework you have this week. He is THAT close.
Healthy relationships require great communication and setting aside time for your special someone. You are going to have to make some room for them at some point in your life, right? These sacrifices show how we desire to be with that person, being eager to learn more about them, and making fond memories. It shows you want to invest in that person. It’s difficult to reach that stage in any relationship, or even friendship for that matter, if we aren’t willing to invest our time and attention into them. The awesome thing about our relationships with God is regardless of our efforts, His love doesn’t waver from us. We have to allow God to meet us where we are. It is entirely our choice how deep we want to go into our relationship with Him. Just attending church on Sunday isn’t enough time (though, it is a great place to spend time in worship and listen to God’s word). Let’s use a few other examples to explain what I mean. Imagine you took someone on a first date. You didn’t talk to them at all for six days, then met up again the following week… do you feel like that relationship grew much in that time? Would that person feel confident in your actions? Or, If you picked up a new instrument and practiced for only a couple hours once a week, would you expect to become a proficient player and be ready to perform anytime soon?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Key Word: Continually. Continually, without interruption, constantly.
Communication is key in any relationship. When we communicate with God, we enter His presence with prayer. Being in God’s presence isn’t about having your eyes closed and head bowed. In my relationship with Christ, it looks more like coffee talks, listening for His voice, journaling what He shows me in the Bible, or us singing in the car together. It’s waking up extra early to read a devotional, or serving in church, and teaching the next generation more about Jesus. Even writing this blog requires me to spend more time with Him; I get to know more of His heart more so I can share what God reveals to me with you. It’s how I use my free moments that I can completely devote to him. Even in the moments when I can’t devote completely to Him, I feel His presence with me, guiding my conversations, and helping me respond to things that come my way in life.
The other part of this is God wants your heart; He desires your attention and time. In essence, your commitment to Him. So when He doesn’t receive it from us, we experience what His jealousy looks like. His jealousy is not the kind of jealousy you and I are used to hearing about; it isn’t envious, but zealous. It is not explained in the Bible as envious either; it describes more of the measure of His devotion to what belongs to Him.
Exodus 20:4-5 says, ” You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…”
In a marriage, a husband can experience jealousy if his wife spends much of her time with another man. Like how the wife is the husband’s bride, the church is God’s bride. He doesn’t like when His bride devotes her time to anything above Him. God stirs when we give glory to idols we create in our life. That glory belongs to Him and through our idolatry…we are ultimately committing adultery against God. Yet, He remains faithful; He forgives, fights, and pursues for what rightly belongs to Him. This idol can look like a lot of things for different people. It’s whatever we make a bigger priority over Him. In the book Killing Kryptonite, John Bevere explains that the Lord revealed to his wife Lisa, “Idolatry is what you draw your strength from or give your strength to. A believer is drawn into idolatry when he allows his heart to be stirred with discontentment and looks for satisfaction outside of obedience to God. This satisfaction could be a person, possession, or activity.”
Are you making something into a priority in your life that is over God? What part of your life are you not surrendering or trusting God with? These things can place a palpable wedge between you and God creating this LDR. Is it your phone, social media, your likes, your public image? Is it video games, Netflix, and distractions from reality? Is it your social life, parties, drugs, drinking? Work, gambling, money? Is it your health, body image, work out schedule, and meal prep obsession? Is it intimacy, relationships, dating, sex?
When I began (finally) investing in this journey with God early 2016, I didn’t spend much time reading the Word. It was a struggle to make it a priority. I was in a place in my life where everything was new: moving to a new city, living in a new apartment, starting a new job. My old life had left me shaken and starving for worth. God showed me during this time Jeremiah 29 during my reading. Even now I still have some of the verses as part of my home screen on my phone, serving as a daily reminder of where my future and hope comes from. Jeremiah 29 is a letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent out to the Jews who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. As a Christian, earth may feel much like Babylon to us; however, God continues to encourage us during our exile. He tells us to build houses, plant gardens, to marry, and create families. He says that during this time we should seek peace and prosperity in this place he has brought us. In essence, God is saying, “Don’t sit around and wait 70 years. Be proactive to keep pressing forward. Strive for what is good, pray for it, and be a blessing to your new, temporary home.” Our home on earth is temporary. Heaven is our Jerusalem He promises to return us to.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
Let me encourage you: if you are new to your faith or find yourself struggling with your faith, begin to work with your communication and quality time with God. Set aside 15-30 minutes a day to read the Word, pray, journal, or worship. You just might notice some revelations about who you are in God’s eyes, ways you can glorify Him, and finding your purpose in this life as you invest more of your time with Him. Watch as He begins molding your life like clay and your will begins to look like His. Eventually it doesn’t feel like an investment but rather a hunger for more.
(PSA: If you haven’t already noticed at the bottom of each post I’ve been adding a worship song that really touches my soul, that I feel is incorporated with the post and inspired me during the time I wrote it. I add it in hopes that you find peace and hope in them as well and can use them during your personal time with God if you wish.)
Song of the Week: