As with all relationships, first impressions are important. For those of us who have experienced “praying” whilst growing up, early impressions of God were vague, full of wonder and uncertainty. And on reaching adulthood it continued to be difficult. The build-up of any relationship involves making a connection with someone else, developing trust and caring toward one another. Compatibility, background interests and common goals and so on, all factor into whether the relationship will thrive or perish. Personal relationships can sometimes rapidly develop, soar as a hot flame, explode and disintegrate. Others can slow down to a dull crawl, become cold and even freeze up. However, in contemplating a meaningful relationship with God, the bar is placed quite high, and we really are embracing utmost complexity to an already varied and uncertain mix.
In a relationship that flames out or becomes cold, we can sometimes find ways to resolve the problems that lead to the break-down and re-establish the trust that seemingly has become lost. However, with God perhaps the biggest obstacle is first establishing a relationship, let alone getting that relationship back. A relationship with God, as with people, tends to grow and improve gradually. It most always takes time, lots of time. One has to strive and seek to find God’s awareness and presence. You certainly do not get to know God by grabbing him or her by the arm and saying, “Let’s be friends.” It is a personal journey, from deep within, where one has to find his or her own way.
Relationships are often difficult with those in our natural world let alone trying to hook up with someone of the supernatural. For many it’s too difficult to even try. The beginning of a relationship with God has to be based on one’s faith and belief, first and foremost that there is a God, and to have a growing desire to know God better. Getting to this level is perhaps the most critical of all. The process is not so much different from the early steps that we experience in getting a relationship underway with another person. Unlike a worldly relationship though, feedback from God may range from nuance to only the slightest possibility of any communication existing at all. It is during these early periods of wondering and doubting that so many of us just tire and drift away, as opposed to hanging in there and pursuing all possible avenues of getting to know someone. When you stop and think of it, just how a relationship with God could be anything but unimaginably complex. And requiring one to be dutifully patient and to pursue, even to the end of time. As temporary guests on this planet earth, none of us has all that much time.
Those of us who believe we have a relationship with God have difficulty in articulating what it really is. It is more of a sense of something going on in your life, rather than something you can talk about or explain. But you know it exists and that you are on to something fundamental, and that that something is of solid importance in your life. In our own natural world with its daily complexities and complications, it is most difficult to articulate the meaning of a relationship with another person. The very moment we speak it can misrepresent just what we really feel, and that these very feelings may be even changing as we speak.
Losing a relationship with God can have profound consequences. The loss of one’s faith can shake the very centre of our core, filling us with sadness, that can be likened to a lonely bird, perched on a lonely rock, by a lonely sea, engulfed in darkness and drear. Sadness lingers and a melancholy nakedness just grips us that will not let go. As with the loss of anything of great personal value – we must strive to get it back, and we are duty bound to arrive at a proper place of balance. It takes time to adjust to a loss, and we need to allow ourselves lots of it. As a faith-based model in coping with spiritual doubt, many of us aim to be neither too joyous or too sad, and as long as we can keep on thinking and allow ourselves time, the black cloud of doubt and uncertainty will lift and a silver lining will begin to appear. And we will find new avenues to explore and new challenges to embrace. By hanging on, we find that life is much like Ol’ Man River, “…he just keeps movin’ along.”