Are We Growing Deeper in Relationship with God, Or Are We Just Making Coffee?
The personal question to reflect on for this session is this: If my personal relationship with God was truly the most important – the number one focus – in my life, how would my daily activities and routines be different than they are right now?
Honestly…even as I pose that question for my listeners and readers, I’m cringing a bit for myself. I know if I reflect on that question with any real depth, that I might be convicted to make some changes in my daily routine, and that can be hard for me because I’m a creature of habits, as we all are to a certain extent – and it’s hard to change habits. It takes a renewed commitment to do so.
Let’s look at another teaching presented by metaphor by Jesus. This one is another metaphor, or actually two, He uses two metaphors to make one point.
Now, this is a continuation of last week’s episode. Do you remember what was happening in our last teaching? Jesus and his disciples were being criticized because they were not fasting. They were not maintaining this tradition that the Pharisees were maintaining and that John's disciples were maintaining. And Jesus responded with a wedding metaphor. And what Jesus said was essentially –
Change your thinking about religious traditions. Some things are more important that religious traditions, such as relationships, our relationship with others and with God.
Then immediately after the metaphor about His reason for not following the fasting tradition at that time, Jesus tells two more metaphors. Here it is in Mark 2:21-22. Jesus said:
“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
What Jesus has done here, is He has taken his dialogue from a specific teaching on a specific tradition (the fasting tradition) and he then uses two additional metaphors in order to expand his point and make it even further reaching.
Jesus is telling his critics that, once again, they should re-examine their ways of thinking and their ways of doing things. With these two metaphors, Jesus tells them that what He teaches them is going to seem new to them, and His ways are not going to easily mesh with the ways that they have been focusing on their traditions, their rules, and rituals
If you attach a patch made of new cloth onto an old, shrunken garment – it doesn’t work. When it is washed, the new patch will soon tear off and make the original tear even worse. Jesus is essentially telling them, “My teachings are not going to be something new that you can just tack on to what you are already doing. It’s not going to attach. It won’t stick. You will stay just as torn as you are and potentially even worse off.” Then, in the next metaphor, Jesus shares:
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
It’s the same idea, He is saying, “You can’t pour these new teachings into the vessel that you have been using. It’s going to burst the container. You need a completely new wineskin container. You need to change your understanding and your perspective so it is renewed.” And Jesus is saying all of this within the context of minimizing tradition and focusing on relationships – on the relationship with God and with others.
So let’s return back to the question for us today. Are there any traditions or routines that we have been using or relying on in our daily or weekly habits - that could be potentially hindering our growth with God - or at least maybe they are holding us back, or are substituting for a closer relationship with God?
Let me give you an example from my own marriage – in the mornings, my husband Corbin wakes up before I do, and he makes the coffee and he typically makes my cup of coffee for me. He has been doing this routine act of kindness for years. It’s to the point now where if he wakes up later than me, or if for some reason the coffee isn’t made by the time I wake up, I will joke and say, “I guess I have to make my own coffee today?” I am intending that to be sarcastic and a bit funny when I say it– but I’m not sure it always comes off that way. The point that I am trying to make is that what started as an act of thoughtfulness and kindness has become routine and with less thought put into it. And as it becomes more routine it becomes more of an expectation on my end. The tradition of my husband making my coffee for me is now routine and it does not substitute for other things that are needed to keep our relationship strong. Now, I realize I’m going to probably get in a little trouble for saying this – so Corbin, if you do listen to this or read it, I want you to know that I love you and I’m very thankful for all the cups of coffee you have prepared for me over the years! I’m just trying to make a point here – that is all.
The traditions, the issue with our religious traditions and routines is – we often rely on those, after they have become habits – as the only thing we are doing to represent our closeness with God. Just like a cup of coffee in the morning does not substitute for the love and growth in a close relationship.
So if we are really seeking a closeness with God…how would our daily routines and activities change? Would they need to change?
The spiritual truths don't just attach by tacking them on.
Sometimes I have to stop and reflect, “Do I think that I have grown spiritually with God over the past year – or have I backslid or stagnated?” One way to measure this is to consider the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Have we become more loving over the past year? More patient? More kind? More peaceful? Are we more joyful than we were a year ago? Are we able to withstand difficulties and trials with more peace than before? For me, if the answer is no – or if the answer is that I have stagnated – it usually come down to this reason: I have allowed my relationship with God to become marked by routines and habits, a quick morning prayer here, a quick scripture reading there without actually reflecting on it. It’s kind of like I’m just making cups of coffee, and yes it once was a special act, but it’s become so routine it’s not as meaningful anymore, and I am no longer growing because the relationship isn’t growing.
So let’s realize that it may be time to consider that just “making the coffee” and doing the spiritual daily habits aren’t moving us forward into new ways of growing and walking with God. We need to consider if we are really present in our own time with Him, and if not, we will hopefully find these teachings of Jesus to be motivators for us to refresh our thinking and refresh our daily habits so that we truly are in a growing relationship with God, and not just in a stagnant routine.
Finally, if you think you would benefit from some additional readings on methods and strategies which may be new for you and may help you in renewing the time you spend with God, then I have written a short but powerful book which can be found on Amazon. It is called Closer toGod: Simple Methods, Starting Today. I have received good
many who have read it, and they have told me it has helped them to renew and
get re-motivated again in their relationship with God. It is only available at
Amazon and if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership, you can read it for free.
If you don’t have a Kindle Unlimited membership you can get a membership, usually
free for the first 30 days and you can still read it for free during that first
month. It’s also available as a Kindle book and as a paperback. It’s just a
resource I want my readers and listeners to know is readily available if anyone
is trying to think of some renewed strategies to help us with our spiritual
motivation and to be more present with God in our day to day lives. Again it is
titled, Closer to God: Simple Methods, Starting Today and it is
published under the author name: Sherry Elaine Evans