Can I tell you a story?
There's a skillful painter, we'll call him Daniel, and he's young in his craft.
From the time he could hold a brush and make sculptures out of playdough, he was taken care of by master artists (we're talking Van Gough, maybe Michaelangelo level). His parents left him in their care all day every day, and because he was with them, he watched what they were doing and learned advanced technics before he was nine years old.
Critics would come into the studio where he spent all his time. Some marveled at his detail and brushstroke technique, the way he moved his hands over wet clay and recreated passionate images of human emotion. Overwhelming heartache, subtle happiness and pain, unspoken traumas and joys all captured by this boy, not even yet a teenager.
But while some marveled, others speculated his skill was only copying what he had seen.
"We see consistent similarities," they said, "in the styles he chooses. He's mirroring his mentors. But let him grow up and go away. He'll change entirely, maybe not be as much of a marvel."
Time passed, and the boy became a man. Daniel was accepted into many institutes but went with Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London.
He graduated with honors, and as years went by, his art never lessened in wonder and skill but only developed and changed as he did. Because a person who lives without change is a statue and a man who can't learn from mentors and elders is a fool.
Now, Daniel's not technically real, but maybe, in one way or another, there's part of us all in his story.
There's a widespread notion that people who grew up with Christian parents only inherit their faith, that those kids don't have a genuine faith they can own.
Heck, I know a good handful of people who thought I'd go completely off the rails and forget God after I left my power-house parents.
And while I've made my own mistakes, my relationship with Jesus hasn't lessened---it's grown more beautifully intimate.
Not to make this a tribute post, but I have an amazing mom and dad. Authenticity was exemplified in their relationship with God, each other, and me. They stewarded the presence of God and prioritized His voice in our household.
And their ceiling was my floor. Our mentors, teachers, parents---they can show us the door, but only we can choose to walk through and keep moving forward.
Whenever I brought a dilemma or choice to my dad, the first thing he would ask me was, "What did Holy Spirit say about it?"
Sometimes it would infuriate me. I wanted him to hand the answers to me like he did when I was seven doing math homework. But he taught me something invaluable: how to turn to God for every answer.
Still, being older with a longer to-do list, there isn't always the opportunity to go into your bedroom, lock the door, and worship for an hour and a half.
A friend recently asked me, "How do you go from living with family support in faith to making time on your own for Jesus?"
Johnathan David Helser tells this story about when he and Malissa first got married. He would get up early and spend a solid couple of hours with God, but Melissa slept in more often than not. He started wondering why, and God told him something along the lines of, "You give me a few hours, but she gives me the whole day."
Maybe making time for God isn't always where it's at.
But giving God our time is what Jesus showed us to do.
Maybe giving him our minds, our hearts, our every moment is how we become living sacrifices.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you," ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Praying endlessly doesn't look like being on your knees by your bedside twenty-four-seven. (Although sometimes God moves us to go into extended times of intercession. Reference Ester.)
But I think what verse seventeen is telling us is to just talk to God, to invite Him into our routines and responsibilities.
It's doesn't have to be out loud. But the way I see it is like this: He's calling us to constant communion because He knows everything we need is found there.
And if we're making our lives a continual conversation with God, well, consider it this way. Conversations don't consist of just you or just me talking. That's a one-way street. A blog post or something (haha).
Conversations are talking and listening. It's like a podcast in our heads where we're interviewing God, and He's giving us revelatory insight and advice.
Jesus was fully God and fully man. So, He knows what it's like to be completely human and seek connection with the Father, to live on every word that comes from His mouth.
“So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise." ~ John 5:19 ~
Nothing means no thing, not one! That includes abiding. Verse 20 says, "For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing."
It's from a place of love and connection that Jesus abides. It's not striving. There's no trying involved. There's no overworking or over-exertion. Now we are meant to put effort into our relationship with God just like any other relationship, but it's not hard because He’s right here.
As we pursue Him, He pursues us.
"You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” ~ Psalm 27:8
Pursuing, abiding, seeking these aren't demands from God. They aren't disciplines of man. These things are a passionate response in our daily living, a heartfelt cry of our souls to the Father saying, "I want to know You!"
And no one can live for us. No one can choose for us. No one can love God for us or buy us a ticket into His presence.
Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through me," (John 14:6).
When we come to Jesus Christ, He takes all the pieces---our past, the way we were raised, our choices, everything we have and don't have---and He brings us to the Father.
He's the only One who can tell us who we are, the only one who can show us what flawless love is, what new life is.
No one can engage in that relationship for us. They can show us what it looks like, but only Jesus can draw us into the reality of resurrection, and only we can choose how much of our lives, how much attention, how much time through the day in our minds and hearts we'll give Him.
What a wonderful opportunity it is; to have a choice.