Honestly, My Faith Is Doing Just Fine Without a “Personal Relationship with God”
I need to clarify something regarding this whole “personal relationship with God” issue I’ve been publicly delving into the past few days.1 I’m not down in the dumps. Unlike past seasons of life, this time around I wouldn’t say I’m struggling. To the contrary, I’m feeling increasingly comfortable in my own spiritual skin.1.Links to the last two posts:
– Miniblog #148: According to NPR, I Don’t Have a “Relationship with God”
– Miniblog #149: I’ve No Good Answers for How to Replace a “Relationship with God” It seldom bothers me anymore that I don’t “sense the Spirit’s presence” when I pray or “hear God’s voice” when I read Scripture. Seemingly with each passing month I’m coming to greater peace in that the Lord instead communicates with me primarily through the Body of Christ, providential circumstances, and a sort of unusual intellectual intuition/mysticism. No, the primary issue is that my faith experience doesn’t fit the virtually unquestioned schema of most American Christians: the personal relationship with God.22.That is, my communion with God–for lack of a better description–doesn’t comport with the typical conception within contemporary American Christianity.
In and of itself that’s not really a problem. I’m an oddity. Nothing newsworthy there. Where the difficulty arises, however, is the cultural expectation. Having this “personal relationship with God” has truly attained sacred cow status.33.Throughout this post I’m using quotations not as scare quotes, to belittle others, or the like. My intention is to accurately represent the exact terminology I commonly encounter. People not only assertively question but aggressively attack other faith narratives as corrosive, disingenuous, immature, inadequate, and even vile. Think I’m being hyperbolic? On an emotional level, what’s your immediate, gut reaction when I say that I don’t have a “personal relationship with God” and, Lord willing, will be ordained soon? Few will likely admit it here, but experience tells me most will immediately cast judgment. Their unflinching belief is that I have no business being a spiritual shepherd, all because the expression of my faith differs from the widespread assumptions of what it means to be a follower of Christ.44.It remains bizarre to me that this has become such a litmus test of genuine faith despite the fact Scripture never (explicitly) talks about having a “personal relationship with God.”
In conclusion, what I’ve been wrestling through these past few days is four-fold:
- Figuring out how to intellectually, psychologically, relationally, and spiritually live into who God has made me to be regardless of others’ expectations.55.Being myself ain’t hard. Dealing with people who are quick to accuse and slow to listen, that’s the hard part.
- Figuring out how (most) others perceive the world around them so I know where they’re coming from and how to serve them even as my faith is obviously quite unlike theirs.66.This may sound funny, but I really, truly don’t get how most people are wired or how they function as they do.
- Figuring out an effective rhetorical approach for explaining my spiritual life in such a way that it mitigates confusion and doesn’t place a stumbling block before other Christians.77.I have in mind those who are well-intentioned but aren’t particularly discerning.
- Figuring out how to challenge, encourage, and perhaps even protect those like me who so often feel accosted and lonely because their spiritual life doesn’t fit the status quo.88.Few dare admit it publicly, but I know a lot of devout Christians whose souls are in a perpetual state of turmoil because their faith experience doesn’t match that they’re told it should be.