I was recently sharing with a friend about the ease of having a relationship with Christ. It took me years to get this but considering that I am still relatively young, I'm thankful I've come to this realization now rather than later. I've said it before but Christ did not come to create a religion but to forge relationship. When one is in a genuine relationship there are not all of these silly formalities.
When I first met Caren I would come over and knock at her door. She would come to the door, open it and invite me in. It quickly went from that to knocking and then a shout from inside to "come in!" Now I hardly give a courtesy knock before just letting myself in with a "Hey! It's me!" A relationship with Christ should be more like that and less of the standing outside the door of His chambers waiting for the door to open and a personal invite in.
I remember when I was in like 8th grade...I think...and I was touring in a youth musical with my church youth group (or was it on a ski trip...?) Anywhoo...I was rooming with a gal named Shari. I think she was like 20 years old at the time (so maybe I wasn't in Jr.High but I was young.) We were talking about prayer times and relating to God and I said, "I love how Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof, just talks to God like He's there. He's just walking about doing his job and then he's like, 'God, could you help my horse? His leg hurts. And what about this God? I'm just wondering what You are thinking about that and Hey, why aren't I rich?' and then he shimmies and stomps and breaks into song. Why can't I just talk to God like that?"
To which Shari said, "You can."
Well that sounds pretty simple. And it is. It still took years of me getting frustrated with myself because I did not spend an hour each morning "before God" in prayer or meditation. I wasn't combing through the pages of the Bible everyday like I "should." I had to be the worst Christian ever. So I thought. Then one day I was frustratedly praying and I accidentally cussed.
"Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! It's just that I am beside myself with this and I don't even know why I'm freaking out about that... *light bulb* You knew I was going to say that and You know my heart. You know every disgusting bit of darkness in me so why do I even bother to try and shield that part of me from You?"
I suddenly realized that there was no trick to this. I did not need to stand on one leg, pat my head and rub my stomach in order to talk to God. There is no special posture I need to take or a correct lingo I need to use. So I stopped doing that and just started having conversation with God.
"Just like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof," I told Shalah once.
"You do realize that your life really isn't a musical, right?" she asked.
I'm honestly not ready to accept that notion but seriously Tevye was doing it right.
And now I'm going to say something a little shocking: I don't believe you even really need the Bible to have a relationship with Christ. I have never read the full Bible cover to cover. (Breathe in. Breathe out. You OK reader? Good.) I have my favorite parts that I like to go back over from time to time but a good chunk of it is a total Snoozapalooza. The New Testament is the best part for me because of A. the good news of redemption in Christ and B. it's much less cryptic then the Old Testament. The Old is more ancient and is harder to read. I mean if you really want to "get" that part you need to do research so you can consider the context it was written in, the culture, the language.
I really loved a series Matthew Hoffman preached on the Old Testament (he covered one book a week) because he did all of that research and work for me. It's also why I like Bible studies because then I have some direction on how to research it.
Mostly though my Bible is a resource book for me. When I am wondering what God's heart is on a matter I open my Bible and hunt down an answer. He is always faithful to direct me to just the right verse. I'm not saying that the Bible is not important but look at all of the example with in the Bible of people who had personal relationship with God and were used by God and the Bible had not even been written yet. Don't you think that God can reach anybody anywhere? You don't have to have a Bible to hear from Him. In fact many people obtain a Bible after the fact.
For me the Bible is like looking into a house through a window. If you look into the window of my house you will see the living room and dining room. You will see a touch of the kitchen. You will be able to ascertain a bit about my style through my decor. You won't be able to see down the hall. You won't see the bathroom, the bedrooms or any of the rooms down in the basement. The Bible gives me a pretty good view of who God is and a sense of His "style" (i.e. heart) but there are corridors and room after room after room and basement below basement below basements of God that I will never get just from looking in that window. I will only see those rooms when I just open the door and walk in with a "Hey! It's me!"
Here's the other great thing about starting a relationship with Christ. You don't have to change a thing about yourself. (Take a deep breath in again.....and shhhhhhhhhh let it all out. Very good.) One thing you can learn from reading the Old Testament is that God used pretty messed up people to do His will. Not only that but He blessed those people and moved for those people when called upon. Samson was a a drunkard and whored around and God would empower him when he called upon Him. He did not wait for Samson to first get his act together either. I mean the guy literally was sweating gin out of his pores and had just rolled out of a whore's bed when he asked God to help him and the Lord did. I love the verse in U2's City of Blinding Lights that says, "blessings are not just for those who kneel, luckily."
There have been times where my children have come to me needing my comfort and they reek of boy-ness. I embrace my weeping child and kiss his head and the whole time I'm thinking "Damn boy! You smell like a toilet!" I kid you not, I have gagged from their stench during just such a time before. But I did not push my son away and order him to clean up first and then I'll wrap you in my arms and soothe your sorrow. No! I just held him, rocked him *GAG* kissed his head *HEAVE* and as soon as freakin' possible got his dirty ass in the tub! God is the same with us. We are just one big hot beautiful mess!
So you don't have to change a thing but you might find that it happens anyway. Ever notice someone saying something that you do? One day a friend of mine said that she heard her daughter exclaim "Oh my lands!" That's a Michalism. I also refer to the children as "The Littles." And if there are young kids and older kids I use that to differentiate. For example: "The Littles will ride with us and The Bigs can ride with the dads." That has become a part of many of my friends vocabulary.
I have picked up on other people's vocab myself. Or behaviors. After becoming friends with Caren I have repeatedly found myself baking. From scratch! What the....? Yeah. I do. Because my friend Caren does and she's made me realize that it's not an impossible thing to do. In fact it's kind of fun and quite rewarding! She's also taught me a lot about how to be a Mountain Woman. Yesterday I had to go to my sons school and it was snowing. It was snowing hard enough that I needed to drive with my lights on and it was noon. Half way to the school I realized that just a few months ago I would've been freaked out to do this and probably would've called Caren and ask her to drive me!
I did not change before moving here. I changed after I got here. I find things about people that I just really love and I emulate it. I don't even do it on purpose. (In fact when people do emulate or copy someone on purpose it is weird and annoying. It's just as annoying when people are forcibly trying to be Holy. Gross.) It just happens because we spend time together. It doesn't mean that I stop singing musicals because that is just who I am. I have tweaked other things (like my baking habits) because my friend has revealed things to me about it that are good. I am not afraid to drive in the snow anymore because this gal I have a relationship with taught me there was nothing to fear. People adopt my Michalisms because it's how I talk and they are talking to me.
So you don't need to change to have a relationship with God. Having a relationship with God will change you. He will teach you things, reveal things to you, and you will find yourself spouting scripture and speaking Truths because you spend time a lot of time with Him and He kind of rubs off on people.
You often hear people/pastors pray and say things like "we are going to wait on the Lord's presence right now." Or "Jesus, we invite you into this place of worship." I find this kind of funny. God is omnipresent. He's everywhere. He's already here. You don't have to wait for Him to show up or invite Him. He walked in the door a long time ago and is practically sitting in your lap. It's US that need to tap into His presence and there is no special formula for that. His presence is like oxygen. It's all over the place. If you hold your breath the oxygen is not going to seep into your nose and fill your lungs. You have to inhale and breathe it in. It's really is as simple as breathing to tap into God's presence! Stop holding your breath waiting for Him to give you mouth-to-mouth or for some spiritual snorkel to allow you to take in His presence. Just breathe.
Do it with me: Breathe in. Breathe out.