I've had something I've been thinking about lately which is the difference between relationship and ritual. It's something that those of us in the church have heard about 1,ooo times and I doubt I have anything new to offer, but here goes.
Some churches offer something people have grown to expect... they may not enjoy it... doing the same thing over and over again... but it sort of comforts them. Our black lab enjoys tearing around the back yard free and untethered. Yet every morning when I go out to feed her and say good morning, she stands there and allows me... no, wants me to attach that zip line leash to her collar. Then she runs off happy, to spend her day getting tangled and ensnared in anything she possibly can. People are like that. They want to recite things that they have heard their parents recite... they want to kneel, (or jump, depending on the church) at all the appropriate times. It's a comfort. Then after they feel they have been appropriately attached to something, they run off to spend their days getting entangled.
I have a friend who believes church is a good habit... which makes a lot of sense. I mean, if you are going to do something repetitively, why not something as positive as an event focused on God, right? You get dressed up, you try to make it on time, you get the kids settled into their class, you visit with like minded people (for the most part), you then talk about and sing about Who? The Creator of your soul. How could this be anything but good? But it's not that it's not good... it's is it enough?! When is enough, enough with God?
When I was a kid, I was always cutting up and my family would say the same thing to me, over and over. "Beth, you never know when enough is enough." (Can someone say therapy!) :) The thing that always struck me was that they did. How did they know? Cause they were making the rules. They decided when enough was enough and they let me know when I reached that point... that's how I knew. It's like that in church... a lot of us let our parents or our mentors, pastors, peers... tell us when enough is enough with God. "Go this far, but go no further." "Know Him this much, but no more." "Love Him this deeply, but don't go overboard." When does sitting, rising, reciting and just showing up... become enough for us when it comes to knowing the almighty GOD?!
I owe Him so much. If He never did anything for me, after He died for my sins... would He be less to me? I can be so ungrateful at times. We have a friend who believed if God loved him, he would have wealth. He couldn't stick with a job for more than a year, but he expected wealth all the same. He was so affected by this belief that he eventually left his wife and kids and took off to chase dreams. He never realized his wealth lied in his hands all along... he threw it away. His relationship with God consisted of putting in the time at church that he felt was his part in his "relationship" with God and waiting for his ever elusive idea of success. As he sipped from the toilet tank, he never realized there was a river of running water to drink deeply from. I do that too. I settle for the least at times when God would give me the strength I needed to be victorious in every area of my life. We so often throw away the meat and gnaw on the bone.
May I encourage you not to go to church alone... but this Sunday as you make your way to where ever it is you go, go to God instead. Ask Him, "Who are You, and Who are You to me? Who am I to You? What do You have for me and how can I lay hold of this? Somewhere within those questions, lie the relationship over the ritual. Those who seek will find, those who repeat actions, will always end up with the same results. You always hear that Albert Einstein only used 7% of his brain... what a smidgen and look at all he accomplished! Don't be afraid to try something new with God... to go deeper... chances are you haven't come close to tapping into the wealth that lies within!