Have you ever helped a friend move a sofa, from one apartment or house to another? I’m not talking about a futon or a simple stuffed chair; I mean a full-size, oak-framed, pull-out sleeper sofa. Maybe you’re buff and tough, and just haul it up out of the pickup, hoist it up the stairs, angle it through the doorway, and carefully set it in the living room. For the rest of us, a sofa is best moved 1) by a team, and 2) in phases. The latter gives the team time to rest (and usually complain) in between each stage of the couch’s journey to its new home.
Some days, when I’m driving home from work, I feel like I just put my relationship with God on hold since I got out of the car in the morning. My morning drive is often a positive time with God, listening to music and news that encourages me to think about Him, and it’s a good opportunity to pray (with my eyes open, of course) as I drive on the familiar route. But, when I get back into the car at the end of the work day, I can feel like I forgot everything that I had resolved to do on the drive in. Somehow, there seems to be a messy, challenging gap between the morning commute with God, and the afternoon drive home.
In the same way, you may have heard pastors talk about taking the Sunday morning message to the world…on Monday! Unfortunately, my retention and absorption of lessons I’ve learned doesn’t always make it to the church parking lot (where grace is sometimes required!), much less the next day.
So, if you struggle with the same challenges as me, how can we carry our relationship with God, our heart for Jesus, and our leading by the Holy Spirit to the “other” times in life – where we really need them?
Let me offer this idea: sometimes, we seem to expand the sphere where God has dominion in our lives, a piece at a time. Maybe giving over our lives to God is like a sofa that we need to move as far as we can each week, without trying to strong-arm it all at once. After all, while God remains close to us, our own abilities are lacking.
Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Mark 14:38 NASB
If you’re able to surrender your entire life to God all at once, I applaud that. That’s how it’s supposed to be. This is our goal and our purpose, and the weight of doing that shouldn’t be an excuse to not give everything over to Him and to His plan. But, if you’re finding trouble even giving God a base of operations in certain parts of your life, here are some ideas to chip away at the solution:
If you struggle to take a positive worship experience out beyond Sunday morning, ask your church’s music leader to share with you a list of songs used during the service, or perhaps the groups and music that he or she listens to for inspiration. Then, purchase some of those songs for your own collection, or just steer your Spotify playlist towards the artists. By doing so, you can build some of those reminders into your commute, your workout, your study time, or just your work around the house. (For instance, our Worship Arts Pastor sometimes posts the songs for each service on the church’s website, and I can follow this in my news feed.)
If you struggle to remember your commitment to God (whether certain behaviors or something specific that you and God have been talking about) at specific times, bring reminders. This could be a keychain that reminds you of God when you get into or out of the car, an index card with a scripture verse you’re trying to memorize (placed somewhere you see often), a strategic background on your computer desktop, or even a reminder on your phone. I’ve even used a card with the Serenity Prayer (which is not a passage from the Bible, but contains some good reminders) at work, as an illustration to others of how I try to manage the stress.
If you are challenged by a particular person, anticipate where you are likely to cross paths with him or her, and take a minute to pray for help (and wisdom – see James 1:5) before you start. Ask God to make the conversation a positive investment, even if the other person keeps steering it sideways.
Making our awareness of God an ever-present part of our lives often takes time and work, and our enemies would like nothing better than to distract us. However, as we build habits and experience, talking with God regularly and observing His work in our lives, He becomes a more integral part of our daily choices. As we get closer to that, we should find that we are acting more like what He had in mind for us.
After all, when we invite Jesus into our hearts, He is already with us, and He doesn’t leave us. If we can set up a comfy couch in our hearts, where He can sit and be welcomed, that’s great. However, if it takes us a while for us to get rid of all our old “emotional furniture”, I think that He understands that, too.