Since the light came on in 1995 (that means I was born again), my journey with the Lord has been a fascinating shift from the darkness into the light. I have encountered many ups and downs, with the ups always coming from God and the downs always—and I do mean always—coming from Sam.
One thing is for sure: I have changed. He has changed me. I began with Jesus becoming my Savior but only that: a Savior. Over the years, he has become more and more my Lord… as in, Lord over my life. But not lording it over my life. Instead, he has provided a steady flow of his goodness, grace, and love, washing over me and flowing through me.
He is now my Lord, my friend, my guide, my encourager, and even my accountability partner, gently convicting me when I start to drift away. How did I get here? And how can we both always be digging deeper, discovering more and more of the riches of his Kingdom?
Intimacy develops through nourishing a relationship, not and never by just maintaining one.
Growing up as a child, God was a vague notion of some goodness and some badness… as in, punishment. After 1995, in my early years, my interaction with God was, at first, just that: an interaction with God… El Shaddai… this overwhelming cosmic power in the sky.
I mostly maintained an interaction—not a relationship—with fear and trembling. I didn’t want to disobey this huge God because I didn’t want him to be mad at me nor experience the bad consequences that would surely follow.
Consequently, there was absolutely no “life to the full” (John 10:10)
But as I grew, I started to see God in a different light: more goodness and grace than punishment. My perspective changed from not wanting to disobey God—so as to avoid bad consequences—to wanting to obey him but still mainly for the good consequences.
Still… a lot of maintenance and not much nourishment. And a shallow intimacy.
But then came another shift. It was slight at first, hardly noticeable to the outside world, but it was gathering steam toward a tectonic shift. I was changing, and my interaction with this huge God was shifting to a relationship with this intimate friend: my Savior, Jesus.
For intimacy to thrive, there must be transparency. And so, when I read with new eyes to see for the first time the following words of Jesus, I could sense the tectonic plates of my soul shifting:
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21, bold added)
This was game-changing.
“…show myself to him.”
Really? God himself, in the nature of the Son, Jesus, would become transparent with me so I could see him?
Jesus, the guy who rose from the dead, would show himself to me? Sinful, selfish, self-absorbed me?
Well, actually, no… not to the sinful, selfish, self-absorbed me but to the seeking, searching, surrendering me… the me, though still flawed, who was now seeing with more and more clarity this Jesus as someone with whom I could be intimate.
But was there a catch? “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” Uh oh. Is this the catch? I have to obey—as in, be squeaky clean… or, at least, extra holy—to share this intimacy?
Well, again, no. Notice Jesus’s words: “… he is the one who loves me.” He didn’t say, “When you obey me, you prove that you love me.” Instead, he was saying, “You will obey me out of love for me because of our growing intimacy.”
This sounds much more like a relationship. There’s nourishment here, not just maintenance. There’s transparency here, and intimacy thrives with nourishment and transparency.
Okay, but there actually is a catch: I can only change so much. Change is good, but this obedience from love is going to have to involve transformation.
What is the difference between change and transformation? Change is what I can do. Transformation is what God does in me.
Change to transformation.