Sometimes you have to be intentional about the path you take. When I was a child, my parents had a good friend who often skied with us. He approached every slope in the same way. Regardless of the contours of the mountain, the visibility or the presence of blind ridges, he pointed straight down the hill, picked up as much speed as he could and hoped that it would end well. I always looked on with a sense of horrified anticipation. With his balance entirely at the mercy of the terrain, every turn carried the real possibility, even the likelihood, of a spectacular crash. His style was chaotic, risky and volatile.
In contrast, I loved to watch the skiers who had grown up in the mountains. Each turn looked effortless, yet I knew enough about skiing to realise that the clean, perfectly formed lines they left in the snow were evidence of a lifetime of training. The instinctive shifting of weight that seemed second nature was born out of endless hours on the hill. Turning. Carving. Again and again and again until the line between body and skis became blurred.
One of the lines from JJ Heller's "This Year" has been stuck in my head since the start of the year.
"Let's fight a good fight, train our eyes to find the light and make this year the best one yet."
Train our eyes to find the light. The pace of 21st century life does not lend itself easily to the rhythms required for that kind of training. Sometimes it seems that every waking moment is held hostage by phones and clocks and pick-up times and meal preparation. An endless list of good things that so often banish the best things to the "maybe someday, when life calms down a bit" list.
It turns out that this problem has more to do with the human heart than the century we find ourselves living in. Right back at the beginning of His journey with the people of Israel, God placed rhythms into the life of the nation. Markers to return to again and again, forcing their days, weeks and months into a pattern which would draw them consistently into God's presence, whatever the circumstances.
There is something deeply calming about being intentional in the way we come to God. Intentional about the place. Intentional about the time. Even intentional about the words. Carving out gentle rhythms that train us to listen for the voice of God.
Our relationship with God was never meant to be shaped by our emotions and our circumstances. I sometimes wonder when we bought into the lie that we have no part to play in our relationship with God. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting that we can work to make God accept us. The fact that God embraces me in my brokenness, simply because of what Christ did on the cross, is an unshakeable truth that holds me firm when everything else gives way.
The difficulty comes when we try to apply that same principle to knowing Him. His love for us is a constant, immovable force which surrounds us whether we squander it or live in the good of it.
Knowing Him intimately is a choice.
It's easier to believe that we can sit back and wait for God to show Himself. The hard work of pursuing Him in His Word, or waiting for His voice in the silence, or choosing obedience when it is not convenient are sometimes exactly that; hard work. Some days, it's all we can do to show up. Yet, over the passage of time, these countless daily choices form the rythms of our weeks and months and years, carving out patterns that draw us consistently into God's presence and train us to listen for His voice, whatever the circumstances.