What does a long-term relationship with the risen Lord look like? I can’t tell you what yours looks like, but I can explain mine and maybe get you thinking about yours.
I remember so clearly the day I asked Jesus Christ to be Lord of my life. I was 5 months into a painful separation from my first husband, trying to figure out a life for myself and three small children. I didn’t have a job. I had no money. I was living on state money. I had been rejected. My life wasn’t supposed to be like that. Never. I was never going to get divorced. I was never going to live on welfare. All those “nevers” that I lived and breathed every day.
Despair. Depression. They were constant companions. Until I met Jesus one day in the office of a pastor I didn’t know. Then I experienced a high like I had never known from a love I didn’t know could ever exist for me. For someone suffering from depression, that high was almost incomprehensible. I would compare it to the high I felt when my second husband, my best friend, asked me to marry him. And the joy of those first months of marriage until life happens.
As in a marriage, the extreme joy you feel at the beginning settles down as you experience life together. As Jesus and I walked through some tough years together, our relationship grew and shrunk at times and at other times, felt like it didn’t even exist anymore. Then we would reconnect on a deeper level. A love beyond description where I knew I was held tightly in His mighty arms. That love was always there, but sometimes I lived away from it. I chose distractions. I chose to give in to my worries instead of giving up to His rest.
Like in a marriage where we get so busy we lose the intimacy we once had, in my relationship with Jesus, I would get busy with things and lose my intimacy with Him. My relationship to Jesus is a commitment I made that I will not break, no matter what. When I felt the lack of closeness in our relationship, it was time to be intentional about living life together again. That’s when I would get out my Bible, which, I know, it should have never been left to gather dust, brush it off, and start studying Christ again. I would start spending time in prayer with Him again. I would start listening and even though it’s a huge struggle for me, start obeying again.
And like in marriage, each time I came back, it strengthened our relationship. Each experience I had with Jesus gave me history with Him. The more history, the closer our bond was. He didn’t need to get to know me. He created me and knew the number of hairs on my head and the number of days in my living. I needed to know Him and that can only be accomplished through that history, through living life together. Through studying Him. Talking to Him. Relying on Him. Crying in His arms. Laughing while skipping through puddles with Him. Seeing Him. Seeing His activity in my life.
To do any of this, I have to be intentional. The devil would want me distant from my husband. He would want to see our relationship fail because he is in the business of destruction, especially destroying anyone belonging to Jesus. He would do anything to destroy my relationship with Jesus. That is his number one goal.
I need to put on my armor as taught in Ephesians 6:10-20. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). The very first piece of armor we are to put on is the belt of truth. If we don’t know Jesus, if we have not read His Word, prayed, trusted, how do we discern the devil’s lies and put on the belt of truth. The Bible is the truth. We wear it just like we wear the breastplate of righteousness. We wear right living, depending on Christ, thanking Him, loving Him, living for Him. As we honor our spouses by not having affairs, not lying to them, not putting them down, we honor Jesus by living the way He would want us to live.
The shield of faith. Ah! Both my favorite and my worst piece of armor. Years of marriage to Jim have taught me I can trust him. He is not going to leave me. He won’t have an affair. The shield of faith is my favorite because having faith in Jim gives me peace and relying on his strength in hard times, gives me strength as well. The same is true of Jesus. As he answers my prayers, upholds me in trying times, gives me strength, my faith gets stronger. However, the shield of faith can also be my worst one because when life gets hard, I can stop trusting Jesus to see my through, to strengthen me, to give me peace. When I forget all He has already done for me, when I begin to doubt He will continue to care for me, that’s when that shield wavers and sometimes winds up in the mud. Then I have to pick it back up, clean it up, and raise it again to protect me from those lies of the devils.
Those lies that tell me, “You can’t trust Jesus any more than you can trust Jim” or “Jesus and Jim both expect too much from you. You can never measure up.” Those lies can destroy my relationship with Jesus and they can destroy my marriage. I have to lean down, pick up the shield, put on the belt of truth, and fight. That’s intentional. In order to pick up that shield, my Sword of the Spirit must be strong. Being intentional is being on the offense. We take on the battle through the Word of God.
There are other pieces of the armor we must put on every single day; the shoes of readiness and the helmet of salvation. We must know who we are and WHO we belong to. Put on our teaching and training in Christ’s gospel and experience His peace.
All that takes history. It doesn’t happen in a day or a month. It takes time. Like marriage, the bond gets stronger over time when we are committed and intentional about growing and maintaining our relationship. We learn trust. Faith comes from a decision but grows from hearing and experiencing. I trust my husband to keep us warm because he has filled the wood furnace for years, cut the wood, piled it in the wood shed, ready for the cold. I trust Jesus when every single time I ask Him to hear me, He listens. I’m experiencing Him.
I see my relationship with Jesus, not the same as my marriage, but similar. Over the years, it has grown in intimacy, mellowed with understanding, strengthened through hardships, and blossomed with love. I don’t look for the high type of love that makes me giddy anymore. Once in a while, it’s there. I have learned to trust my relationship, to trust my God. I don’t need the highs. I have the quality and quantity. That’s enough. For the rest of my life, our relationship will continue to grow in intimacy, understanding, strength, and love. He wraps me in warmth. Someday, He will wrap me in His holy arms. In the meantime, I live, I mess up, I pick back up, and I love intentionally. I never give up. I live with and for Him forever. Simple enough.