‘religion’ vs. ‘relationship’…

One of my favorite things is when one of my daughters will come and sit on my lap and just hang out. We don’t have to really do anything. Just sit there and be together, and watch Hannah Montana for the 17th time, or talk about their day, or whatever.

I love them like crazy – and I hope they know that.

Please understand that it is important to me that they are grateful for what I provide for them. It’s important that they show respect for me. And it’s very important that they learn to listen to my voice and obey me. But, those things- obedience, gratitude, respect -they are the products of our relationship.

Those things are based on my daughters’ understanding of (and trust in) who I am and how much I love them. The relationship itself is what transforms them and causes those attributes to develop.

So, they can come up and sit on my lap whenever they want. Which, to be honest, doesn’t happen as much as I would like.

So here’s the deal. I don’t REQUIRE them to go through this little litany of telling me how great I am, telling me how sorry they are for not obeying me, and telling me how grateful they are BEFORE they can just sit on my lap and hang out. I don’t REQUIRE that because if I did, I believe something terrible would happen.

They would begin to believe that their relationship with me was based NOT on who I am and my love for them, but on whether or not they had ‘properly’ done those things. Just as soon as they began to perceive that our relationship was based on ‘doing those things’ instead of who I am and how much I love them, they would have done what I believe people have done with God.

They would have lost a relationship and settled for religion – and religion itself does not transform us.

In the grand sense, there is more to it than that, and those things are worth talking about. But that little shift in understanding, from ‘religion’ to ‘relationship’, has made all the difference in my spiritual life. That in turn has made all the difference in my day-to-day life.

Truth be told, that is why my wife and I walked away from our former careers (Social Work and Information Technology) and went into vocational missions work – because helping people make that little shift in understanding is the most important, most enduring thing we could do in this world.

And you know, I would write more, but I think there’s a re-run of Hannah Montana coming on, and there’s a good chance I’ll get to watch it with one of my daughters…