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Making Room for God

Guilty pleasures—something we really like doing, but feel guilty about; not because there is something wrong with it, but because we are afraid other people will judge us for having such lowbrow tastes. One of my favorite movies gets at the heart of guilty pleasures. In the movie What About Bob; Bill Murray’s character said there are two different types of people in the world, people who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t. Who would say they like Neil Diamond after that! I confess, I belong to the first group, but I won’t wear my concert t-shirt. TV reality shows qualify as guilty pleasures. Most of my friends like them but hate to admit it. Some like Amazing Race, Duck Dynasty, Hell’s Kitchen, Jersey Shore, The Bachelor, American Idol, or Storage Wars. I like some of these, but others I just don’t understand their appeal. There is one reality show I not only don’t get, but it causes me anxiety just to flip by it on my way to other shows. The show is called Hoarders. In case you don’t know, it is a show about people who for a variety of reasons cannot throw anything away and those who love them and want to help free them from their clutter prisons. The hoarders often have stacks of paper and garbage from floor to ceiling filling their homes. Even when it seems like there is no way they could possibly fit one more thing into their house, they manage to somehow find a nook or cranny to squeeze it into. Their philosophy is “there is always room for more.” The result of their hoarding is they often miss out on the most important things in life because they fear losing the inconsequential. I don’t like the show for two reasons. The first is I am not fond of clutter, the other is the show is a metaphor for life in the United States. Everyone I know is a time hoarder. We keep adding stuff to our lives without taking anything away. We keep cramming more and more activities into our lives even though we don’t have any room for it. Consequently, even our relationships are spoken of in terms of making time for this person or that. When someone asks me if I can we can get together for dinner this week; I like a hoarder with an over packed house, ask my wife if we can “fit it in” the calendar. Sometimes I view God from this same perspective. How will I fit God into my over-packed life? Prayer becomes about time management rather than me seeking out an intimate relationship with the God who created me. The title of this post is a bit misleading. You probably thought I was going to give you three tips for squeezing God into the plies of your life. There is only problem with trying to “make room for God”, God won’t cooperate it. After years of frustration I finally figured out why. God has no desire to fit into our lives. He will not go along with my attempts to fit him in like some neglected friend waiting to see if he is important enough to get on our calendar. This is what I discovered: God designed our relationship with him to work in only one way—with him at the center. So, what do we do? Well, instead of trying to add one more thing to your life to try and give God more attention why don’t you try doing what you are already but just a bit differently? How? Learn to be present to God in the midst of what you are doing. One of the primary ways we grow to know God is by being present to our thoughts. Why? God communicates to us through our thoughts, and we need to learn how to be present to our thoughts if we want to be present to God. Stay with me. Whether it’s encountering God in the reading the Bible, hearing a sermon, listening to a friend or hearing God’s still small voice, the primary vehicle of God’s communication to us is our thoughts. Unfortunately, we have become experts in the art of distraction. But if you want to know God you need to be trained by God to be present to your thoughts. Now, there are two basic approaches to learning how to be present to your thoughts; both are long-term investments in your relationship with God. Today we are going to focus on one. These are not quick fixes, but with God’s help you may start to see some changes right away. The way to make room for God is to Modify. What I do mean by modify? Instead of adding something to your already packed life, you intentionally decide to do what are already doing, but just a bit differently. You can pick of one of these ideas: Instead of driving with the radio on or texting, you learn to drive in silence and use the time to speak and listen to God. This will train you to be more comfortable with silence and instead of distracting you from God’s presence it will be a trigger to help you pay attention. When you go for a walk or exercise, unplug from your IPod a few times a week and use the time to listen and talk with God. At work, you can invite Jesus to help you do your job. I say this often, Jesus is smartest person who ever lived. The fact that He is God means there is no one smarter. And He wants to help you do the best job you can at work. You can modify Sundays. Instead of Sunday looking like every other day of week, intentionally carve out 2-3 hours of rest and make yourself available to God. Also, when you spend time with other people whether a friend, family member, or at your child’s sporting events leave your phone in the car. It will train you to be present to what is in front of you, the people, your thoughts, and the God who longs to reveal himself in every part of your life. Once a week, every week, fast from technology. Don’t freak out. I have a smart phone, I know all the rationalizations. But I encourage you to give it a try; you will be surprised at what good can happen. Is your life packed? Too packed for God? I don’t think so.

– Steven Nickles, M.Div.

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