Pursue God: Restoring Rich Relationship
When my kids were little, I sputtered through my days, unable to think beyond the next diaper change. Exhausted, uninspired, and isolated from the rest of the world in the pre-blogging, pre-social media days of Web 1.0, I felt disconnected on all levels. I lost my old quiet time routine in the jumble of my children’s unpredictable waking-eating-sleeping needs. Coordinating three kids ages four and under was like, as they say, herding cats … with a lot more noise and spit up.
Sunday mornings at church served as a blessed break as I put my kids in the nursery and raced into the worship space. There, I’d pray, sing praise songs, and hear thoughtful teaching. Monday morning, though, I’d begin my week alone with the kids again. Sunday morning’s soul-settling peace faded with each shriek of a toddler at play and each blob of strained carrots hurled onto the kitchen floor.
Re-integrating the Divided Life
I didn’t think of my parenting life as secular, but that’s what it, in essence, had morphed into. Unwittingly, I’d divided my life into sacred and secular. I mean, Barney blared in the background every weekday afternoon. You can’t get much more secular than that.
I wanted to pursue God again, to find rituals and rhythms and practices that would lead me to worship God throughout every day, not just Sundays. I needed God to enter into my struggles, external and internal, no matter how ugly. I started searching for some way to restore a rich relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.
I read about Brother Lawrence, who saw no division between his work in the kitchen and his work of prayer. For Brother Lawrence, everything flowed together; the Lord was Lord over all. Pursuing God was as simple as interacting with Him moment by moment. I felt inspired. I, too, wanted to practice being aware of God’s presence. I began to pray while picking up Playmobil pieces and stirring spaghetti. I interacted with God in everyday moments, becoming more aware of God’s presence and building that relationship with Him.
I read about Susanna Wesley pulling an apron over her head to gain some solitude in the midst of mothering ten kids. She needed to interact with God throughout the day, sometimes privately. So did I. To that end, I set aside a tiny window in my day to pray privately—sometimes only for 15 or 20 minutes in my bedroom while a PBS show occupied my kids in the family room. Intimacy with God increased.
I read A. W. Tozer’s classic book, The Pursuit of God and found things like this:
We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. "No man can come to me," said our Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him" … The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the out working of that impulse is our following hard after Him … I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God … He waits to be wanted.
“He waits to be wanted.” That moved me, realizing all those days I’d ignored God, He’d been waiting for me to follow hard after Him and planting in me the desire to know Him better. I wanted to pursue God; God wanted that, too.
Our Fragmented Lives
In a Q Ideas article, Ann Voskamp points to the fragmentation I felt—that any of us feels—in this world: “[M]inistry, creativity, worship, volunteerism. We’re ripped into pieces, and putting our lives together again is like turkey stitching a crazy quilt—driving us a bit crazy.” How I would have benefited from her wisdom years ago! She assures readers that God is weaving the seemingly disparate parts of our lives together as a whole:
God doesn’t experience a disconnect between our screens and our sanctuaries, between the people on our street and the paintbrushes on our desk. We have these labels for the bits and pieces of who we are and what we do. But God takes up the all the threads of being and weaves them into a seamless silk. He calls it avodah.
In an article entitled “Good Work” for Ashland Theological Seminary, Doug Cooper describes how grasping a sacred calling in his marketplace work caused the lines between sacred and secular to disappear. “Helping a sales rep through his wife’s terminal illness: sacred. Being chosen to lead a team that would discern the ten-year trajectory of our company: sacred.” He continues:
Viewing all of this as good, sacred work gave my life divine purpose and freedom … He gave me the great privilege of seeing His Kingdom seep into conversations and situations all around me in ways that connected people with Him. My experience shook the way I had previously viewed the borders and approach of the Church.
Michael Stewart in Charisma Magazine warns, “Segmentation of life leads to justification of actions that otherwise violate the very core principles of the Bible … Many people see their lives as divided wedges, like pieces of pie, with little real connection to each other.” He points to the “life-pervading relationship with the living Lord,” which should lead to everything we do being “informed and influence by His Word and His power.” Stewart observes, “When all the parts of our lives are surrendered fully to the Lord and bringing honor to Him, then and only then are we truly living.”
Truly living. That’s what I wanted. My increased interaction with God led to a desire to memorize Bible verses so that His word was mobile and I could bring truths to mind at any moment. Our family began to observe some of the church calendar seasons, like Advent and Lent, as a family. When one of the kids brought home a cross made out pipe cleaners and empty spools of thread, I hung it on the rear-view mirror—a reminder that Jesus Christ was Lord of my days, even while I drove around town in a minivan. I began to live an integrated life of intimacy with God.
Take My Life
My kids are much older now, and my daily work looks much different than it did in those desperate, diaper-changing days. But I still want to be pursuing God, every moment of every day.
This past Sunday morning, I joined over a hundred other voices in our sanctuary singing “Take My Life and Let It Be,” offering up my whole life with the words composed by Frances Havergal. I sang them again today, at home, as I worked at my computer, and I should sing them again tomorrow, as I drive to meet a client: “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee / Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.”
What does it mean to pursue God in all aspects of life? How do we live in such a way that every area of our lives and every facet of ourselves is available to the pursuit of God? Are we living fragmented, viewing parts of our lives as sacred and other parts as secular? What would happen if we let the different parts of our lives exist together in an integrated life, pursuing God in every aspect of who we are at work, at home, and at church? Dictionary.com offers a few definitions of the word pursue, one of which includes the idea of following in order to overtake or capture, but who can capture God? Instead, let's consider an alternate definition that lifts up the idea of following close upon or going with. In this series, Pursue God, we'll consider how to go with God in every aspect of our lives—inviting him to integrate each part of our lives and to be Lord over all.