I grew up with the notion that God was distant and omnipotent, loving His people, but ready to punish and discipline as needed. I don’t fault my Sunday School teachers and their felt boards and characters, but the stories of Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Whale and even Daniel in the Lion’s Den didn’t do much to encourage a close, personal relationship with the All-Powerful. I was taught to pray before mealtime, at bedtime and at church. For years those prayers were rote words, recited out of fear and awe.
I am certain that the story of Jesus was taught at this time in my life, but beyond the basic message of salvation and the story of Zaccheus up in the tree, it’s all cloudy from the early years. Perhaps I was too young to understand grace and mercy, and only really heard about Jesus when I decided to listen, as a young adult. It was at this point that I understood the need for grace all too well. I began to pray my own words and my own heart for the first time, but because of all the mistakes and poor choices I had made, I spent years feeling unworthy of this gift of grace and relationship, rarely going beyond falling on my face with gratefulness.
I am so thankful that God has been patient with me, allowing me years to become comfortable enough to have an ongoing conversation with Him. It’s not that I now believe I’m worthy of this relationship, it’s more that I trust that He is good enough to make up for all that I lack. These days my prayers look very different; I see God as a constant presence in my day, going wherever I go and witnessing all that I say and do. This way of thinking helps me to stay in relationship with Him, and reminds me that what I am doing with my time matters. I try to let God guide my day, but I can still be pretty selfish and try to make my own way. I’m banking on His continual patience and steadfast love to grow me up into the person He wants me to be.