I had just spent eight days vacationing in France and Switzerland with three very dear friends. We had so enjoyed being together and seeing all the beauty that God had placed in that part of the world. As I traveled back home, I was feeling refreshed, relaxed, and on top of the world. I returned to my job the next day and enjoyed recounting my trip with my coworkers. I ended my work day and drove home, only to be met at the door with the very painful news that another dear, sweet friend of mine had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. I had been so excited to see him and tell him about my trip and share my many experiences with him. But now, he was gone from this life and walking the golden streets of Heaven, enjoying everything that God had prepared for him. Oh, how my heart ached! He was a very active member of my church, my Sunday school teacher, a prayer warrior, and an encouragement and help to young and old alike. What a good and Godly man he was! What a huge hole was left in my life and in the lives of so many people in my church!
Truthfully, I felt lost and alone. The loss was deep, and I had so many questions. That was several months ago, and in that time, I have come to realize that God did not allow this loss in my life to hurt me. He allowed it in my life to bring me back to Him. You see, I had been backslidden and out of fellowship with Him for many years. My heart was cold, and I knew it; I just didn't care to acknowledge it. Even on my trip, I remember being almost annoyed at my friends who kept talking about lessons God had shown them in nature and in the beauty that surrounded us. I remember thinking at one point, "Can't you just enjoy the beauty here because it's here? Do we have to have a Bible spin on everything?" At least I had the small amount of wisdom to keep my mouth shut so as not to hurt my friends.
I had tried so hard to put on a good "front" for the people around me to see. Don't misunderstand me; I hadn't "gone off the deep end" and turned to some "wicked sin." I still attended church faithfully, worked in junior church, and played my trumpet in the church orchestra. In my eyes, all was well. My life was just fine the way it was. Maybe I had others fooled, but then again maybe not. God knew my heart was far from Him; God is never fooled by the things we do, the choices we make, or the way we act.
When we get saved, we begin a relationship with God. If we allow ourselves to grow in Christ, that relationship grows and becomes a thing of beauty. I had neglected my relationship with God and had stopped growing. I believe my relationship with God had become something ugly in God's eyes. I likened it to the field of the slothful in Proverbs 24:30--32, which says, "... I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction." I think that is a good picture of how my relationship with Jesus looked. My relationship (field) was there because of salvation, but through neglect, it had grown over and was an ugly thing to see. The longer I went without tending to it, the worse it became (nettles, thorns, and weeds).
I am reminded of the day we moved to the house where I now live. No one had lived here for a few years, and weeds were everywhere. The lawn was full of mole holes, and the trees needed to be trimmed. The flower and rose beds were weedy, and the ground was as hard as a rock. It took my family and me a couple of years to get it in shape. We burned or hauled away mounds of dead branches, dead flowers, vines, and roots. We brought in good soil and worked it into the flower beds, mowed, fertilized, and trimmed the lawns. Now it looks beautiful! So it was with my "field"--my relationship with Jesus. It needed work, and it needed it badly. I just didn't know where to begin.
I asked for and received some of the best advice anyone has ever given me. A very wise pastor's wife and dear friend told me, "No matter what the reason you neglected the relationship, a feeling of distance came. All you need to do is to spend time with God, and I don't just mean in Bible reading and prayer. God is with you where you are, so acknowledge Him. Just practice His presence. He wants to spend the whole day with you--not just the time you read your Bible and pray. He's with you as you drive to work, as you answer the phone, as you send out the orders, as you take your breaks, and then as you head home. Greet Him when you wake, and say good night as you sleep. Jesus just wants to be your Friend!"
Well, that advice sounded pretty easy to follow. I know how to become friends with people, but how was I supposed to become friends with Someone I couldn't see? That very thought came to my mind one day a few months ago as I left work. As I started my truck to leave, I invited Jesus to ride home with me. I usually drive the back roads home on Friday afternoons, and I did so on this day. I popped in a new CD I had just bought and turned up the volume. Then I thought, "That was rude! Invite a friend to ride with me and blare music at Him!" So off went the CD. Then I said, "How am I supposed to get to know You when I can't even see You?" My very next thought was, "Just look; I'm all around you!" For the next 40 minutes, I "saw" Him. Let me share with you how.
I love my drive home along the winding roads through the country, along the beautiful Clackamas River. On my way home I saw pine, cedar, white pine, scrub pine, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, maple, red maple, Japanese maple, and redwood trees. I also saw evergreen bushes, bushes of every kind, sunflowers, pansies, mums, and wildflowers. I saw weeds, grasses of every shape and size, golf course grass, and grassy lawns. There were farmers' fields with onions (and ohhhhh the smell!), corn, and every kind of vegetable still not harvested. God tells each tree when to change color, when to drop its leaves, when to produce its fruit and how much. He tells the flowers when to bloom, how often, and where to grow. When I had marveled in just about everything I could see, I turned the CD back on and "God of All Gods" was playing.
By this time, I was back on a main road. The traffic light turned green, and I turned left onto my highway. I had driven just a short distance when I saw a small doe was standing on the hillside beside the road! I have NEVER before seen a deer there at that time of day. I can't possibly tell you how completely overwhelmed I felt with how much God loved me at that moment. I find it ironic that God used the very thing I was criticizing my friends for--lessons learned from nature--to show Himself to me. I have driven those roads most of my life, but I have never before "seen" them. I was so amazed at all the things my new Friend pointed out to me!
God wants to fellowship, build a friendship, enjoy a relationship with us. When He created the Garden of Eden, He could have easily made the rocks or trees or birds or even the beasts of the field to talk with Him. Instead, He created and chose man to fellowship with Him! He chooses you and me! There is a place in God's heart that only we can fill. God made me just the way He wanted me to be. God made you to be just what He wanted you to be. He did this so we could fellowship and love Him in our own unique way. God doesn't expect you or me to love Him like anyone else can. We don't have to compete with one another.
Likewise, there is a place in our heart that only God can fill. There is nothing in this world that can or will fill that place other than God. We can't fill it with things. We can't fill it with the love for or the love of another person. It is God's place, and only He can fill it!
If you already have a walk with God, a good friendship, please keep it. Nurture it. Grow it. Love it. If you do not have one, please begin now. He loves you and wants to have fellowship with YOU and be near YOU! If you used to have a walk with God and have neglected it, it's time to fix it. Start today by inviting Him into your day. Psalm 145:18 says, "The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth." Psalm 86:5 says, "For thou, LORD, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee." The words of the song "Jesus Loves Even Me" say it so well: "Though I forget Him, and wander away, still He doth love me wherever I stray; back to His dear loving arms would I flee, when I remember that Jesus loves me."
I was reminiscing on my way home the other night of the time my dear friend moved back to Alabama to care for his sweet mamma. Oh, how I missed him! I felt lost without his teaching my Sunday school class, without his smile, and without his sharing something that had happened in his day. Then he returned, but only for a short while. Now he is truly gone until the day I see him again in Heaven. Then he can tell me all that has happened in Heaven--not just about his day! I still miss him, his sweet smile, his cute Southern accent, and I still miss hearing about something that happened in his day. I miss his emails, his text messages, his text reminders to be sure to be in church on Sunday. Then I was reminded that Jesus is my dear Friend-- One to Whom I will never have to say goodbye, One Whom I will never have to miss nor lose the sweetness of His fellowship. I have a Book full of letters from Him to read every day, and on the day I have to say goodbye to this world, I will see Him--my Friend--face to face!
This article was used by permission from Christian Womanhood. For more information on the Christian Womanhood magazine or to subscribe, go to: http://www.christianwomanhood.org