I have a confession to make. I am a terrible friend.
My mom seems to deserve the blame for this. I remember a time when we were out on our patio enjoying a late summer cookout as a family, and my grandfather suddenly exclaimed, “Goodness you talk a lot!” My mother quickly responded, “I am afraid you got that from me. I talked a lot as a little girl.”
More recently, my husband and I moved into our first home, a moderate fixer upper. As we excitedly told our parents about the layers of wallpaper to remove, the flooring to put down, the windows and doors to seal and the numerous other small fixes, my dad commented that it was a lot of work for us to take on ourselves. Confidently, I assured him that it was something we could tackle and that we would learn and do it ourselves. Again, my mother responded, “I am afraid you got that from me, too.”
And so here I am, well into adulthood, still trying to do everything for myself and spending more than my fair share of time talking. I don’t mean to, and I love my friends deeply, but sometimes it’s just easier to take care of my needs without having to bother them. Or even worse (and probably more often), I will spend time with a good friend and get home only to realize that I got so caught up in whatever we were discussing that I did 90% of the talking and hadn’t actually heard much from them.
Perhaps you are like me (or you are nodding your head saying, “It’s about time, thank you!”). Maybe you find often in your relationships in which it is easy to focus on yourself and whether you have the time to connect or feel up to a phone call or if it’s a good night for dinner at your home. Whether you really are able to sit and listen to what’s on their heart. It can be so easy to swoop in and out, making just enough room for tidying up or a quick few words, but never truly slowing down. Not making room for them.
At church recently we have begun to talk and pray about inviting God into our lives in a more intentional way. I was driving to work this past week and found myself pondering what that might look like when God gently spoke up.
“You’ve got to make room for me.”
One of the things I treasure most is the relationship I have cultivated with God, and at that moment I felt yet again how terrible of a friend I had become.
We know that relationships are never one way and yet, like myself, we continue to hijack them with our one-way conversations and independent, busy lives. How many times does our relationship with God look eerily similar?
How often do I get immersed in my day, only to quickly offer up a half-hearted request or half-present update to keep God in the know? Some days I do much better, spending more frequent or consistent times in prayer, and yet I walk away feeling as though I have done 90% of the talking.
Or how often do I make plans to spend time with God in church or on my own, only to rush in and rush out, consumed with other thoughts, if I even make it to the agreed upon time?
Is it any wonder, then, our faith can feel so distant and disconnected?
Relationships are meant for two. Relationships require us to make room.
Instead of consuming our faith, one-sided, God invites us into a relationship with him. To make room for him. And oh, how much better things get when I get that balance right.
So what does that kind of relationship look like? Well, when it comes to prayer, I have learned to make more room for God to talk and me to listen. Sometimes that involves worship music or the Bible, but sometimes I have to let there be silence and wait for him to share in his way.
Making room for God can also happen throughout my day. As I get better at sharing our time and not hogging all the attention, I have become more aware of what he is doing or saying. Sometimes that involves a conversation I may have been too busy to have, or meeting someone I might have otherwise walked by. Occasionally it is discovering a need and being able to provide for it. Or at other times it is simply finding peace, grace, or comfort in my daily work and interactions.
Making room for God at church seems especially obvious, but even as someone who works in the church, I find it difficult at times to slow myself down and let God share himself. It is easy to get in routines and church can look embarrassingly like my unintentional one-way conversations with friends. If I am not careful, I can spend a whole Sunday talking about God, singing about him or listening to a sermon and walk away and not actually have spent time with him. What a humbling thought!
Making room for God on Sundays requires me to be more aware of him and less aware of me. Sometimes, I have found he has something very particular to say through another person to everyone present. Sometimes, he seems to want to take some time to heal or to comfort. Other times, he invites me to stay awhile longer than usual and enjoy his company.
And yet, for all these wonderful times God and I have spent together, here I am again, needing his gentle reminder to slow down and make room. To stop making my faith journey only about me. Sometimes I wonder if, like my grandfather, he chuckles, “Goodness you talk a lot!” Or if, like my father, he shakes his head at my determination to take on my faith by myself. Perhaps that’s why, as I pondered how I can do it “better,” he had to gently remind me, “Make room.”
How about you? Will you join me this week in making room? As you seek God’s presence in each area of your life, will you genuinely invite him to share his thoughts with you? And when he responds, will you allow yourself to be inconvenienced by relationship?
Relational God, you formed us from the beginning to be in a relationship with you, and it seems that every step of the way we walk further from that reality. As we seek to be like you, guide us again back to your presence. Make room in our hearts for conversation with you and make room in our lives for your presence to dwell. Forgive us for our self-striving efforts at faith and bring us once again to discover the joy of a partnership with your Holy Spirit. We quiet ourselves today and respond to your call, O Lord, “Make room.” Amen.
Director of Adult Sunday School and Assistant to Missions and Outreach