I am my beloved's and He is mine

 

I am ecstatic to be linking up with the lovely and talented Addie Zierman’s synchroblog today. It is taking place in celebration of her book, When We Were on Fire, which releases today.

 

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy. And since I finished it, I have not stopped recommending this book to everyone I meet.

 

The book is her story of growing up in the evangelical youth subculture, but it is so much more than that. It has the gripping "I can't put it down" power of a novel, mixed with the thought-provoking "I can't get that idea out of my head" power of nonfiction. Through inviting you into her story, she opens you to processing your own. And she does so with honesty, sincerity, critique, and hope. Her words may help all of us unravel and make sense of what it looks like to walk in a life of faith.

 

Seriously. Read this book. You won't regret it. You can get it on Amazon here. (This isn't an affiliate link. I'm not making any money by promoting this to you. I just want you to be able to share in the goodness of this book.)

 

Today I am linking up with a story about one of my own experiences in a cliché Christian environment. And, I hope you aren’t feeling too cynical today, because, in this case, my experience was a positive one.

 


 

Retreats are a staple in Christian-subculture.

 

I went on my first retreat {gasp} fifteen years ago, when I was in college. I had gone to one of the campus Christian groups several times, and everyone said I MUST go on the fall retreat. Time away from campus seemed like a good idea to me, so I signed up. I even volunteered to be one of the drivers.

 

Autumn was the perfect time of year to go to a retreat center in central Wisconsin. Changing leaves. Crisp air. Piercing blue skies.

 

There was horseback riding and cafeteria-style meals and bonfires and games and laughter.

 

And there was also talks. And worship. And space to go be with God.

 

These kinds of activities were not completely foreign to me. I had been dabbling in them for the previous year. But still, they were relatively novel.

 

On this retreat, we were encouraged to have a “quiet time.” (That was the lingo for bring your Bible and a journal to a quiet place and pray.) For many others on the retreat, who had been following God for longer, the act may have felt cliché and dry.

 

For me, the idea of a quiet time was fresh. I had never really thought God would or could interact with me personally. I believed in Him. I went to church. But my thoughts were more based in tradition than faith, and my experiences were more corporate than personal.

 

I don’t know if it was the speaker, the weather, or the peer pressure, but I grabbed my Bible and headed for the woods. I sat under a tree and wondered if God would meet me there. Didn’t it seem ridiculous to expect such a thing?

 

Not knowing any better, I went for the “drop and flop” method. I asked God to lead me to a passage that would show me He cared about me in that moment. Then, I cracked my Bible and let it fall open to a random page.

 

Now that I am older and “more experienced” in my faith, I have better methodology to my study. I know better. But God’s grace met me under that tree as the Bible flipped to Song of Songs 2.

 

I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. –Song of Songs 3:4

 My beloved is mine and I am his; -Song of Songs 2:16

 

I had never before considered that I might be God’s beloved.

 

I realize now how much I didn’t understand about the context I was reading, but in that moment, all I knew was that God spoke to me, and I was his beloved.

 

I ran into the hall, skipping and laughing like a girl newly in love. Because I was.

 

And later on, when we sang the classic “His Banner Over Me,” I was swept up in the emotions of it all. And I was filled with gratefulness.

 

That retreat was crammed with Christian clichés, bad methodology, and thin theology, but God’s grace was circled around all of it. He found me under that tree and told me I was his beloved.

 

(If somehow, you've never heard the 90's Vineyard song, "His Banner Over Me," I found it on YouTube here.)

 

my beloved

more than going to church

I grew up going to church. There were times I really liked it. There were times I really didn’t. But in the good times and bad, I was always left longing for more. More than sitting in a pew and listening to someone else open the Bible. More than putting in my hour and moving on with my week. More than ritual, routine, and tradition.

I wanted relationship. I didn’t want to hear that God loved me, I wanted to feel that God loved me.  I didn’t want to just be taught about God, I wanted to learn about God. I didn’t want to just spend time at church, I wanted to spend time with God.

But what in the world does that look like?

There are lots of words for this in Christian circles. Participating in spiritual disciplines. Having quiet times. Going through a process of spiritual formation or growth. Taking steps on a spiritual journey. Practicing discipleship.

It all sounds overwhelming and intimidating.

Sometimes it’s boiled down to the answer: sit at your table for one hour a day, preferably in the morning, to “spend time with God.” Read your Bible, journal, and pray.

For those who are naturally disciplined, this may be a great way to connect with God. But I am not a naturally disciplined person. When I try doing something like read my Bible for an hour every day, it doesn’t last. I burn out.

I’m guessing I’m not alone.

So what then? How do we “spend time with God?”

In order to ask that question, we need to step back and ask, why do we want to do it in the first place? Is it to check a box that says “Bible reading” from our to-do lists? Or is it to deepen our relationship with our Creator? To grow in our love for the God who loves us beyond measure?

The goal is not to burn out and quit. The goal is to grow in our love for God. The goal is to find spiritual rhythms that are sustainable and life-giving to faith.

This is not about pretense or perfection. This is about relationship.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. – Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

I am passionate about helping others with this journey. That is why this site exists. And so, I would like to introduce some new parts of Everyday Awe. Invitations to help you engage with God in your everyday life.

  • The Resources Page: This page contains free, simple printables that I have created. There are cards and pages with a variety of ideas for connecting with God. Some are short. Some are more time consuming. But hopefully all feel within reach. This page is not static. It will grow as more resources are created and suggested.
  • The Recommendations Page: This page contains links to some things that I have found encouraging on my journey of following Christ. I’m grateful for the various ways these resources have helped me. This page is also not static. I will add others as I learn about them, and I want to hear your recommendations too.
  • The Facebook Community:  Everyday Awe has a Facebook page that you can “like” by clicking on the icon in the sidebar. This page is a place where we can help each other. Use the wall to write questions or prayer requests. Read updates about this site. Spread the word to people in your life who you think may benefit. Meet others who are trying to engage with God, too.
  • Blog Posts: I hope that by getting a glimpse into how I find everyday awe, you will more easily find it too. There are two main categories of posts. “Reflections on the Journey” posts are about moments from everyday life that have caused me to think about who God is, how He is active in the world, or who He made me to be. “Light for my Path” posts are based on intentional study of God’s Word.

These pages are not exhaustive. They are simply spiritual practices I have found life-giving that I hope will be helpful to you as well. These pages are also not a promise. There is no formula for spiritual growth. Ultimately, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. These are simply ideas that can help us partner with Him. To open our eyes, ears, and lives to the way God wants to shape us.

And so, I invite you to explore. Engage. Be renewed. And hopefully, be transformed.

I would love to hear your feedback. What would help you engage with God in everyday life?