During our time in quarantine, the first, second, and for many of us, three times...we all seemed to pick up new skills, passions, or at the very least, a new taste in TV shows.
For Viv and I, we picked up strange skills like video editing, cabinet making, and learning where to sleep in your vehicle safely at night in every city we go to (iOverlander... If you've never heard of it, you're welcome). In fact, we have spent so much time throughout the year learning new things that there is a glaring hole in our skillset that many of us can relate to...
You see, not only did we social distance from one another during this crazy time, but we found ourselves distanced further and further from the Lord.
Can you relate?
As youth pastors, our skillset was meeting students right in the thick of teenage drama and working with them to find the ways that God was working and to guide them towards scripture to root them in a firm foundation for handling life's problems.
But with social distancing in place, we were out of our element...and to make matters worse, we were laid off. Forcing us to find a completely new element to learn all together! Needless to say, we needed pastors of our own to remind us how to navigate the waters of life, and COVID, to see the way the Lord was at work. And from there who to make choices, rooted in scripture to bring us closer to Him.
So the question for you is simple: While you spent the last year socially distant from your loved ones your city, your job, your life...did you also spend the last year social distancing from God?
I know everyone is probably sick of talking about the pandemic and the past year, but since it has been over one year since a national pandemic was declared, we have some reflections to share with you.
1. A more than social distance from God.
After traveling to several states and talking to many churches, there has been an ongoing pattern we have noticed. Although many churches have valued the gathering and done as much as possible to engage with the community, people have started to social distance from God. I am not talking about being six feet away from God, I am talking about foregoing a deep personal relationship with our Creator. We might not be physically six feet away from God, but our hearts are slowly pushing away what it means to be known, deeply.
This dangerous trend leads to a precarious way of thinking...
2. How close do we even need to be?
Can we watch church from our couches (or from the van in our case) and call it good? Why is a relationship with other believers and a community with them important? God created us to be in a relationship. With him, with others, with our families. Never was it God's intention to leave us to our own devices and to make it through by our own strength and to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps". Let's take a look...
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).
James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
We are to carry each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2)
And to care for each other's practical needs (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:16)
We should warn each other of sin (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
And rejoice and mourn with each other (Romans 12:15).
In fact, even in the beginning, when God created Adam, the only thing that he said WASN'T GOOD was that Adam was alone (Genesis 2:18).
You see, God's purpose from the beginning of his interaction with us was to bring us together in a relationship with one another to also deepen our relationship with HIM! And in the process, we need to be with one another - ACTIVE in our pursuit of him together.
3. God doesn’t want us to social distance from Him.
Being fully known, even if it is by a God that we don't physically touch and see every day, is extremely scary. Sometimes there is a TON of junk that we simply don't want him to know. Is telling God "God...I want to be closer to you." enough to stir up a relationship?
Well, the simple answer is...YES.
Relationships are two-way streets. As Viv succinctly put "If I spend my whole day assuming John wants to be close to me, but the humidity is 99%, I smell like I haven't showered in a week and he doesn't know that I want that, how can I be mad at him for keeping his distance?"
It starts with one simple conversation to outline how you are feeling and simply state what you want. "God I want to be closer to you!" From there, something amazing happens. You begin interacting with the Almighty God of the universe who WANTS to be with you. Who DESIRES you.
He wants to know us. He wants to be known by us. So if you have spent the last year at an arm's length away from God, let’s do something about that.
What if there is something deeper holding us back from wanting to be closer to God? We talked about how there is a pattern in the church right now of people distancing themselves from being deeply known.
Well, the truth is, is that being really well known, seen, and completely vulnerable is... well scary? There is junk and maybe you don't want God to see all that. Well, the good news is that one...he already knows those things.
He knows everything. He is God after all.
But the beauty is that God doesn't ever focus on those things. In fact, when God looks at you, He simply sees His child whom He loves and with whom He deeply wants to be in communion.
So go to Him.
Go to your Father who. loves. you.
It starts with a simple prayer - God I want to be closer to you. and then from there, it can blossom into something profound. After your first prayer, Find someone else to share that with! Find a friend, a loved one, a church! Tell them about your desire to be closer to God and seek him above it all!
If you need prayer or guidance on some books, podcasts, scripture, or anything else please reach out to us! We are here for you!
John & Viv
What else have we learned while on the road?