my steel city epiphany

so last night i got back from a 2-day retreat in pittsburgh. it was amazing. i’m tempted just to stop there and leave it at that, but this is a blog, after all, so i s’pose i’ll unpack that.

i don’t often blog about personal things, i mean, really personal things, because the internet is basically a giant bulletin board and you have no idea who might stop by and read. i usually like my posts to mimic the internet audience: vague and undefined. (I know that in reality there are probably 7 people reading this and half of them are related to me, but that’s beside the point). but i can’t really talk about the past few days without getting personal, so i might as well just shut up about it already.

if Erica ever stopped showing me love, stopped spending time with me, stopped telling me that she loved me, it would definitely affect our relationship. i would become bitter, hurt, and angry. i would have low self-esteem and a very negative image of myself. right or wrong, that’s what would happen.

those feelings would be manifested in my actions. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to do things for her. i might not let her sleep in on saturdays, i might not give her backrubs, i might have a short fuse when we disagreed, those sort of things. I’m not saying that she would deserve this treatment, but I’m guessing that in the above situation it is how i might act. And if so, shame on me.

Well, for reasons i don’t understand, Erica treats me wonderfully. Better than i deserve. So what was the point of the last two paragraphs? It’s just a realization that i came to this weekend that the thing that motivates us to do what we do is usually love. and even though we know that love can exist even when it is not felt, it usually is felt, and that is a good thing. It SHOULD be the reason we do what we do.

As Christians, we love to tell people “it’s a relationship not a religion”. We say this because it is true, and it is something that sets Christianity apart from other faiths. But the thing is, many of us say that, and then we go about our day as if it has nothing to do with relationship and everything to do with religion. We have lists of words to say and not say, lists of things we can do and cant do, the spiritual checklist we try to complete each day (quiet time, prayer, evangelize, rinse, repeat), and at the end of the day we take inventory, hope we didnt sin too much, and plan to try harder again tomorrow. That stuff isnt necessarily terrible stuff, but lost in all of it is Jesus.

It’s no wonder i’ve been feeling apathetic off and on about my faith for the past few months. I really havent spent much time with my creator. I’ll sing along with Chris Tomlin that You and I were made to worship, but i’ll go a week or two without truly doing it, and wonder why i was feeling spiritually blah. It’s like living with Erica for 2 weeks but never really stopping what i was doing to look her in the eye and tell her that i love her, and to hear her say it to me. Without having those moments together, the stuff we do for each other would become duty. It would become some sort of marriage religion, not a marriage relationship.

So yeah, i had a great weekend in Pittsburgh. I learned a lot about music, sound, songwriting, singing, and leadership. I really enjoyed the talents of the Desperation Band and Paul Baloche. But most of all, i had an amazing time re-connecting with the One who loves me deeper than even Erica does. It was so inspiring and fulfilling to give God the praise He deserves. And it motivated me to let Him sleep in on saturday want to spend time with Him and do those things on that Spiritual Checklist.

In fact, why even have a checklist anyway? I’m not saying we should not try to be disciplined, because discipline is what we need for those times when we don’t feel it. But still, I don’t have a checklist for things i should do for Erica, i just do them because i love her. If she saw me checking off a checklist that said “say i love you”, “spend 10 minutes of quality time talking”, “tell her she is pretty”, it would completely devalue those things to her. She’d wonder if i really meant it or if i was just saying it to get it done and move on to the next point. Maybe God feels the same way when we treat Him like that? I dont know, but it makes me wonder.

So my goal is to try and cultivate this mysterious relationship with God like never before. To spend time with Him and express my gratitude and praise to Him as much as possible. And i won’t be doing these things so that it’s easier to finish my checklist…I’m throwing away the checklist. I just want to spend time with Him, and let Him shape me and mold me and use me for the things He wants. It’s a bit scary, but I’m pretty sure it’s what i was made for.

And I apologize if you’re reading this and it sounds like a bunch of typical christian crap to you. Not my intent at all. i’m just trying to be honest in this moment, even though the big www might not be the best place to do that. and in the end it doesn’t matter because there’s only 7 of you reading anyway.

So maybe my big epiphany isn’t really an epiphany at all. It’s just that i should spend more time with the people that i love. And that i should not forget to include Jesus in that list as well.