Someone recently asked me “How do I have a relationship with Christ?” Then it dawned on me that I should have talked about this sooner. This whole blog is really about our struggle in walking with Christ amid the social temptations of today’s world. So let’s dive in...
This concept of “relationship with Christ” is not completely innate. It is a never-ending path we all should be navigating. It took me years to figure out what that relationship looks like in my life, and it's different and personal for everyone. It's not something you check off on a list of accomplishments or goals. It's an ever-growing relationship that you work on for the rest of your life.
There is also no way I can summarize this topic in just one blog post, or even a few. So please join me as I attempt to introduce this concept. After all, there are countless books written on this subject, and oh yeah, the whole Bible!
First step is to simply seek Him. St. Isaac the Syrian says, “Thirst after Jesus, and He will satisfy you with His love.” He will never ignore you. If you seek to know Him, you will find Him because He is always near. The Bible is filled with this promise. Here are just a few:
“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)
“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
“I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.” (Proverbs 8:17)
“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.” (Psalm 145:18-19)
Now you might just smile and nod at what I’m about to say, because it's the typical Sunday School answer you might have heard your entire life, but a relationship with God cannot exist without prayer, reading the Bible, and the sacraments! A relationship with Christ can be developed in many different forms and environments, but it starts with the sacraments in the church. Our Mother, the Orthodox Church, has placed essential sacraments to bind us to the Body of Christ, and instructed that we partake of them as babes to start our walk on the road leading to salvation. Once you’ve been baptized, chrismated, and communed you’ve taken your first steps in becoming one with Christ.
Once you’re old enough to bring yourself to church by your own will (and not just because your parents made you), you start to embark on your own spiritual journey. You seek out a priest to become your father of confession, and struggle to figure out what repentance is all about. You engage all of your senses in worship. You attend the liturgical services and close your eyes to really pray, and then open them to the beautiful icons in front of you representing the heavenly church. You hear with your ears the words and the majestic tunes prayed and sung out loud. You inhale the sweet aroma of the incense rising through the air. You gently open your mouth to praise Him. You raise up your hands in prayer and in awe. You bend your knees to prostrate and ask for His forgiveness.
While you go to church to experience all those wonderful things, you also need to get to know Him in your secret place. “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place...” (Matthew 6:6). That is where prayer and reading your Bible become essential tools you cannot forgo if you are truly seeking a relationship with Christ. Praying in secret can take many different shapes. It could be praying the Agpeya (Book of Hours) and using God’s own words (the Psalms and Gospels) with Him. It could be using your own words to utter your thanksgiving and your prayer requests. It could also be just standing in awe at a loss for words, and trust me, He still hears you.
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
I used to read the Old Testament and kind of envy the way God spoke directly with people back then. Like how the prophets would climb a mountain or go into seclusion and clearly hear God’s voice. Then I realized I have something (or Someone) just as great. I have the Holy Spirit inside of me! He guides me and speaks loudly in my consciousness. But to hear that voice you have to shut out all the other noise in your life. So many things try to steal our attention, its a tactic Satan uses to pull us away from Christ. We have to always be on guard and make sure we are lowering the volume on the worldly noise, and sharpening our spiritual ears. The Holy Spirit will lead us to get as close to Him as possible while still living on this earth.
No one will ever come to seek Christ and be turned away, and sometimes He will make the first move. Look at how He sought after the Samaritan woman or St. Paul. We have to be ready to also respond when He does seek us out.
I pray you can find your starting point if you haven’t made a deliberate effort to start a relationship with Christ yet. Or if you are in the middle of it and are struggling, I pray this gives you the little boost you needed to continue in your walk with Christ. I hope you persevere and fight like Jacob did to get His blessing, and that you never give up.
Life is beautiful with Him, and can be unbearable without Him. So I promise (and He promises) if you seek Him, you will find Him!