A relationship with God is like a marriage. It’s a coming together of two people, often different in ideas, orientation and background who see a future together. It’s trust, compromise and commitment. It’s also the good and the bad, the disagreements, fights and arguments. And making up, forgiving and continuous loving. That’s marriage and that’s our relationship with God. For when we hear or read the words “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” it couldn’t be more true. For even in the after life this relationship still endures.
That is the ideal.
In reality it couldn’t be further from the truth. Primarily because keeping to the terms of this relationship is not easy, it has never been. We see this as a recurrent theme in the Old Testament, with the Israelites who were described over and again as the adulterous bride of God.
Much in the same way that human marriages break down where love, commitment and fidelity have been eroded, many man – God marriages are broken. We are merely two very different ships, passing through and bound by nothing but space, proximity and in some cases societal pressure.
Of the different reasons often given for the breakdown of marriages and relationships, one that is common is lack of commitment. Irrespective of whether its both parties or just one person that lacks commitment, it has the capacity to destroy any relationship and can destroy a marriage. Well, what then is commitment? For we utter words that allude to the making of a commitment when we say our marriage vows, but commitment goes a bit further than the articulation of pleasant sounding promises. It’s a state or quality of being dedicated to something or someone.
Much in the same way that human marriages break down where love, commitment and fidelity have been eroded, many man – God marriages are broken.
This is perhaps the most important quality in any relationship because many other issues, ranging from financial difficulty, lack of trust or communication to abuse in its numerous forms, can be dealt with if both parties in the relationship are committed to making the other happy and to making their relationship work. If each one is committed and decides to put aside their preferences, wants and needs in order to meet the needs of the other, the relationship stands a chance. That’s how powerful commitment can be in a human marriage and that’s how powerful it can be with the divine.
Other words synonymous with commitment are dedication, devotion, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity and allegiance and it must follow that when people are committed to a partner and to a relationship, they will do all they can to preserve, honour and sustain it or them. Interestingly, these adjectives are often used in the Bible to describe the type of relationship God wants with his people. The lack of which is portrayed as infidelity and unfaithfulness to God – a malaise that plagued Israelites then, just as much as it plagues Christians now.
Unfortunately, this relationship with God, though it mirrors the human marriage is not quite as popular or successful. I know we read about this relationship in the bible and we hear about it from the pulpit but when it comes to living it out in our daily lives, we fall short. For some reason, we limit our relationship with God to specific days of the week or times in the day. We are married to him at church, during prayer times or when we are congregated at church related events. Sometimes we take it a step further and remember our relationship with him during religious arguments or discussions. But that’s about it folks. And that’s what causes us problems in our relationship with God.
We limit our relationship with God to specific days of the week or times in the day.
A man and a woman who get married, live together, share a home, share children, share ideas, dreams and goals. They love each other and try to show it, they work at romance and communication and trust. They support each other and work at remaining faithful to each other.
When it comes to God it’s quite the opposite. Most times we don’t involve God in the choices we make or the ones we don’t make – the houses we buy, the company we keep, the jobs we take or the names we give our children. At best, God is a spectator in our lives and not one with whom we have any relationship, much less a marriage.
The easiest comparison to our perspective of God is the relationship we have with the ATM. Just as we go to the ATM to get money, we see God as a quick access point to whatever our requests may be at that very point in time. From money to jobs, children, husbands or wives, the bank of God crosses all aspects of the human need. Yet, as easy as this comparison is, it’s still fundamentally flawed. Why? Well, because at least with an ATM, there is a bank account linked; you ought to have put something in your account to get something out. With God, we make requests of his bank without having put anything, and I mean anything, in at all. Perhaps the closest thing to what we call a relationship with God is as children dealing with Father Christmas. We make our requests based on what we think we deserve and expect to see presents at Christmas time.
Ok. I hear you ask whether this relationship is not more akin to Father and children. And to that I say thank you! Why? Well, not only should a father know his children, but the children should know their father. So I ask, do we know our father? If we do, do we honour him, do we converse with him, do we love to please him – not because of what we can get from him but just because he is our father? Malachi 1:6 Do we take him seriously, obey him or even consider his perspective on our every day decisions like a child should of his or her father? I think not.
If God is our father, do we honour him, do we converse with him, do we love to please him?
Again, I hear you protest that you give offerings to the church and you pay your tithes; that you are a regular in your church and even take up official roles within the church giving much of your time. To that I say, well done and good job. But there’s more. You see, God loves all that but it’s all part of the ceremonial part of knowing and worshipping him. He’s just as concerned with what we do for him outside the church, with strangers and in places where he is not recognised. He’s concerned with how we treat the poor, hurt and homeless, Leviticus 25:35-38 and like Jesus’ parable of the Final Judgement Matthew 25:31-40, he wants us to take his opinion into consideration when we have to deal with someone who is hungry, thirsty, in prison or labelled unsavoury by society.
You see, when God said in Hosea 6:6 that he wanted obedience and loyalty not sacrifice, he was simply saying ‘I want a relationship, not eye – service.’ God is interested in walking with people who are interested in walking with him fully and not trying to buy his allegiance with just tithes, offerings or attendance at church alone. God wants commitment. Simple.
The Bible, in its entirety is a story of a committed God. You might argue otherwise and tell me that it’s a collection of stories about ancient people and cultures, some in a relationship with God and some who are not. You are right. But the constant in all the stories is God – how God interacts with humanity and how he would like them to respond to him. From the story of Adam and Eve right to the death and resurrection of Christ we see a love story unfurl. The story of a God who loves the world he made and the people he put in it. How he doggedly sought a relationship with those people – from the time he strolled through the garden with Adam, clothing him and Eve when they sinned, to reaching out to a bunch of slaves to save them from captivity, up to the point where he sent his only begotten son into the entire world to die for their sins and reconcile them to him. God’s commitment never ceased. Yes, on some occasions it may have strained and when his love was rejected he kept his distance and even showed anger, but he never abandoned or gave up on those he loved in this epic story of God – the Bible.
He is still that way. God sits in the pews with us in church, hoping that when we get up to go home, we take him with us. He’s there on the bus waiting and hoping that before we react to that hateful comment, we consider what he thinks. He’s with us at home, at that point before an irritation becomes a grievance hoping that we lean on him to help us not to hold a grudge. God is with us when we walk by that hungry and homeless stranger we see everyday on our way to work hoping that today would be the day we wonder whether or not he would like us to extend some charity. God is still here and he is still committed.
The Bible, in its entirety is a story of a committed God.
Just like he did with the children of Israel, God wants the same commitment from us. He wants us to involve him in every aspect of our lives, whether spiritual, physical or material. Like Solomon aptly put it let us “trust in the Lord with all our hearts, lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 As Jesus put it, much like the prophets and leaders before him, let us learn to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. Matthew 22:37
We may not all have been in love, but we know the feeling we get when we meet someone new that we really like. We want to spend time with them, get to know them and we find pleasure in doing the things that make them happy. When the feelings are reciprocated, it’s usually amazing, but when they are not, it can be one of the most heartbreaking things that can happen to a person. Rejection has never been an emotion anyone likes to feel. Yet, imagine that we do that to God everyday. Imagine that it’s not just one person rejecting God’s love, but a few billions of us, who profess that we love him but really don’t show it. No one would want to be in that position.
There is an interesting story about a couple who were going through difficulties and had been attending marriage counselling sessions. One day after sitting through sessions filled with heated arguments and accusations, the counsellor asked both husband and wife to make a list of what they need from their spouse in order to be emotionally satisfied. Each person’s list was as long as the other’s, sighting things such as no nagging, a clean house, romance and eating dinner together as a family. After lists had been completed, the counsellor informed the couple that their homework was that each person was to study the list they had written up. Then go home and work at giving the other person what you have put on your list as essential. Start being to your partner, the husband or wife you want your partner to be to you. It worked!
Let us be committed to saving our relationship with God.
In biblical speak, all the counsellor asked was that they do or be unto the other what they would have them do or be unto themselves. Needless to say, being selfless and actively interested in making each other happy saved this relationship. This is commitment in action.
God’s been patiently waiting for us. He’s been loving us while we pay him little or no mind. With his actions, he’s been showing us what he wants from us in this relationship, but for some reason we just can’t see it. Instead we have a list of things we want from him that we shove in his face at every given opportunity, without thinking about what he might need from us return.
Let’s take a step back and re-evaluate our relationship with God and let’s learn to reciprocate his love. Let us be committed to saving our marriage with God and I’m certain we’ll be pleased with where this relationship will lead.