The word relationship means “a connection, association or involvement.” The definition of religion is “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.”
The meaning of these two words is clearly different. So why do so many people get them confused? I hear all the time “I hate religion.” I think God does too.
I hate to burst your bubble, but attending church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than attending a graduation makes you a college graduate, attending a friend’s wedding makes you married or attending a concert makes you a singer. You can go to mass every morning and twice on Sunday and not have a relationship with God.
The fact that God WANTS to have a relationship with you might be a hard concept to even wrap your head around. You might ask “how can I have a relationship with God that doesn’t seem possible?” But it is, and He wants it, but again how? Well, actually the answer is very simple. You have a relationship with God in the same way you would have a relationship with anyone else.
Right now I don’t know you. I know nothing about you. We have never spoken. You have never introduced yourself to me. I didn’t know you existed. Does that mean that you don’t exist? No, it means I just don’t have a relationship with you. You might have a hundred other relationships – with friends, with relatives with co-workers – you, and I just don’t have one.
So that changes one day. We meet by happenstance for instance. We start a conversation one lunchtime when we both eat lunch at the same sub shop. Just a word or two at first. An exchange of names. The conversation continues. We talk about our past. Where we grew up, where we went to school, some of our life experiences, our family composition. We find out we both like to play tennis. We decide to meet again.
Weeks go by and we play every Saturday morning. We share some conversation. We talk on the phone during the week – sometimes just a few minutes – sometimes when time allows ten full minutes -on rare occasions twenty. Years go by, and we walk through some stuff together. The death of loved ones, illnesses,lean times, fearful times. We have a history. We have built a history. I know whether I can depend on you when I need you. You know whether you can depend on me when you need me. I show I care about you by entering your world and caring about some of the things that you care about. Fifteen years later the relationship we had at our first hellos is very different from the relationship we now have after fifteen years of walking through this journey we call life together. This relationship was built conversation after conversation.
“But God is not a person I can talk to so how I can I have a relationship with him?” you ask. Every mother who has a baby can tell you all about her baby even though the spoken conversation is one ended. “My baby hates carrots.” “My baby loves to hear music.” “My baby is tired now.” As the mother spends time with her baby and grows into her role as mother, she learns more about the unique personality of her child. This relationship is important to her. She doesn’t wait until her child can talk to her at the age of two before beginning a relationship. In fact, if she doesn’t talk to her child, her child won’t be able to talk at the age of two.
Are there any dog owners in the house? I am not one, but every dog owner I have ever met can tell me in great detail about their dog’s characteristics and likes and dislikes. “My dog is a good watch dog and barks as soon as someone comes to the door. My dog loves to have her belly rubbed. My dog loves dog biscuits.” You can tell me every day what your dog is feeling, wanting, what makes your dog happy, but I have yet to meet a dog who can hold a human conversation.
You have established a relationship over time. By hanging out. By taking a walk around the block together. By spending a lazy Sunday afternoon watching old movies side by side. One weekend, you must fly out of town,and there is no one to watch your dog. You ask me if I can do it. I reluctantly agree, but I don’t know anything much about dogs. We meet and you tell me all about your dog. About what your dog likes. About what your dog doesn’t like. I have never had a dog and quite honestly, I think you are nuts because you know this much about something that cannot speak.
Friday night we kind of get to know each other. I am real hesitant about the entire situation. But it is going okay. Saturday morning I take my new friend to the dog park. We hang out. I observe. I start knowing more about this dog. The dog jumps into bed with me. Quite honestly, this makes me a bit uncomfortable. I have never been a big fan of dogs sleeping in the bed. All those hairs on the sheet. But the dog insists. Won’t stop barking at me, until I allow that closeness. I try to fight it but eventually give up. We snuggle. It isn’t so bad. In fact, I kind of like having my new found four legged friend this close.
Day three comes and we are really starting to communicate, but the fact that the dog doesn’t converse in the English language has not changed. What has changed is my understanding of this dog by the simple act of spending time together – hanging. Sunday is a great day. We have formed a bond. Didn’t think that would happen at all – let alone so quickly, but the dog just pulled me in. When you arrive home on Sunday to pick up your dog, I excitedly tell you all about our adventures. All about the how your dog made me feel loved. I realize there were areas that needed to be healed and somehow this dog helped heal those areas simply by his silent but very real presence.
You give birth, and they hand you this baby and say here she is. She is all yours. We are letting you leave the hospital with her even though you never even baby sat for a child a day in your life. Even though you have never even held a baby one time in your life before this moment. They wheelchair you to the hospital exit and help you into your car, the baby is placed in the carseat. Now what? You start a relationship. You start getting to know your child. You learn how to take care of your child. You learn how to please your child. You form a bond that is eternal. You learn what love is over the years. You thought you knew what love was. But this is love that could never be described to you. This is love like you never knew existed.
A Relationship Begins
So how do you start a relationship with God? With the first word is my answer. “God I’m not really sure about you. I don’t agree with the things that happen on this earth. I’m not sure you love me. I don’t even feel worthy of your love. I feel you have been unjust and unfair to me in my life.” You say, those are not things I would ever say to God. Well, guess what? Whether you want to believe it or not God knows everything about you. He knows the number of hairs on your head – even though He needs to do a recount each morning. He knows your thoughts. He knows everything good you have ever done, and everything bad you have ever done. Yet, He desires to have a relationship with you. A real relationship – from a place of honesty.
It all starts with one small step. Whether you are seven or seventy, it is not too early, and it never too late. Don’t wait until you are ready to breathe your last breath to utter your first word directed at heaven. Ask your questions. Tell Him your concerns. Read His Word. Attend a bible teaching church. Every relationship in the history of mankind has started with one small step.
As you hang together, share your innermost thoughts and dreams and desires, walk through some stuff together, your relationship will grow and deepen. Your love for Him will grow as you experience His faithfulness, His great love for you. As your love grows, your desire to care about the things He cares about will grow. As your desire to care about the things He cares about grows, your desire to help Him accomplish these goals will grow, and you will be the one telling someone who doesn’t know Him all about Him and showing them how to start their own relationship – one small step at a time.
Take that small step. Don’t wait. There is no time like the present. Don’t put it off another second. That small step taken in faith -that first word spoken in truth – will lead you on a journey you could never have dreamed or imagined!