A fundamental part of the Christian walk is our personal relationship with the Lord (Matt. 7:21-23). Is it the basis on which we should expect to live our lives, yet it is very easy to allow a personal, intimate relationship become replaced with a distant, intellectual one. The following parable illustrates important characteristics of personal relationships in a familiar and tangible way.
Imagine a man named Bob wants to buy a very personal, special anniversary gift for his wife, Donna. How should he go about selecting it?
One strategy would be to read books and magazine articles that describe how to make women happy. The bookstore is full of books on relationships between the sexes. Or perhaps find a good magazine article about what women want for gifts. Just the other day Bob saw a magazine article in the checkout line titled “What Every Woman Really Wants”… Somehow that doesn’t seem to fit.
Perhaps Bob could talk to his wife’s friends. Donna’s taking a cooking class with one of her BFFs who gave her a cooking trinket for her birthday a couple years ago. Donna really enjoyed that gift; perhaps her friend could suggest something for him to buy. On the other hand, Bob had been married long enough to know that a kitchen appliance, no matter how well-intentioned, would probably not be a good idea (if he wanted to stay married).
Bob also has a friend that is really good at buying gifts for his own wife. Perhaps he could suggest something. After all, his friend knows Donna fairly well. On the other hand, Donna has much different tastes than his friend’s wife, so there’s some risk of a mistake. How could Bob be sure his friend’s suggestion would match Donna’s tastes? For Bob to buy Donna a gift that was obviously more suited to another woman would be a bad idea. (There’s that wanting to stay married thing again.)
Instead, Bob could talk to his wife himself. Not necessarily about a gift, but just spend time with her, talking about whatever she felt was important, listening to her heart, and getting to know her better personally. He could find out what she really cares about, and how she thinks of their relationship. She might mention something that would make a good gift. But even if not, he would be much better prepared to look for something himself. It all comes down to experiencing their relationship personally, instead of through others.
Now think about how this pictures our personal relationship with the Lord. We can gain a lot from reading books about the Lord, studying how others relate to Him, and talking with others who have deep relationships with Him. But these must not replace spending our own time and effort to know Him better, and listening to His heart. It is crucial to talk with the Lord through prayer and listening to Him from Scripture, and relate these to our daily life.