I don’t know when it happened. Or how it happened.
It certainly wasn’t intentional. I barely noticed it.
But somewhere along the way, as the future became less clear, as everyday life became a battle to survive, as my own selfishness became too prominent, I began holding the Lord at arm’s length – at a perceived safe distance. There, but not present. Close, but not intimate.
And in the moment when I realized it, as my heart sank and the tears flowed, all I could think was, “I know better.”
But that was just it.
The “know better” part of me gets caught up in thinking I can somehow do this on my own. That I can get close to God, do all the right things, build this relationship, and somehow win His favor, His grace, and His love.
And yes, my heart’s desire is to please Him, and that’s a really good thing, but when it’s born out of trying harder and doing better and achieving more, it’s all wrong.
I can’t do any of this on my own apart from Him. I am nothing and have nothing apart from Him.
And I don’t have to do anything to win His favor. I already have it.
The grace and love that I too often try so hard to earn is already mine to rest in and enjoy.
Yet I still somehow had been approaching God as if He was like me, as if because I had been holding Him at a safe distance, He had been holding me there, too.
But for the record, He is nothing like me.
He is not made in my image. He is not made at all.
He holds all things together, this Sovereign Creator, and He doesn’t put me in a corner when I mess up or stray or fail.
Yes, He disciplines like a loving Father to teach me, to prune me, to sanctify me, but He doesn’t leave me in the process.
Even when I leave Him.
So this holding Him at a safe distance?
It’s wrong. It’s self-centered and self-serving. It’s lacking in trust and honesty and brokenness and humility. It’s hiding. It’s prideful.
None of which works with Him at all.
God never intended for me to view Him in my image. He never intended for me to project onto His character the human elements of my own.
He is not bound by my rules. He does not regard me the way I far too often regard Him.
He IS better, higher, greater.
He is God.
But in the words of Chris Tomlin, “The God of angel armies is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine…”
And yes, that’s said with a healthy dose of reverence, fear, and adoration. It’s said with the recognition of His righteousness, His holiness, His sovereignty, and His greatness.
But He’s so close – He’s here – before me, beside me, behind me.
He’s not a God who will allow me to keep Him at a distance.
And in that very moment of recognition when I stripped it all down bare – when I removed all of the complicated layers, the circular logic, the selfish needs and desires – and prayed, the purest question on my heart was simply:
“God, where do you want me?”
His answer wasn’t a particular job or a physical location or a ministry direction. It was just this:
And with that, all I wanted was to collapse into His everlasting arms, completely exhausted from all of the trying, to rest in His presence with the renewed realization that this life is so much less about what I do for Him and so much more about simply knowing Him and trusting Him through all of the unknown details, to allow Him to spill over into every area of my being.
He’s not lost on this journey and He hasn’t lost me. He sees the whole, while I only see a small part. And He’s already written the ending.
And no, complacency is not okay, but maybe contentment is somehow settling into the details that He’s already written and just walking with Him along the way.
Yes, He’s the great God of angel armies, but He’s also the ever present, never leaving or forsaking, God with me.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)