This past Halloween may have been the last time I go trick-or-treating. Not because something bad happened, but because our youngest daughter, Nina, is now 10 and apparently growing out of it as her older sisters already have. In fact, without having to say it, her actions spoke loudly to us as we went from house to house with a friend from school. After 10 homes you could tell what was really important to them–being together as friends, not collecting candy. (We even had a hard time getting them to start!) After they collected what they felt was enough, they decided it was time to go home and hang out. Friendship, laughter, and 10-year-old silliness were valued more than filling a bag with treats.
What is important to you? There’s a saying that as adults, if we really want to know what is important to us, all we need to do is check our bank statement or calendar. The way we spend our time and money is indicative to what we value. There is definitely truth in that statement! What does your bank statement or calendar tell you?
Author and Professor Sean Young, in his book, “Stick With It,” writes that research reveals the top three most important things to people are money, social connections, and health. He goes on to write that if someone considers something important, they’ll “stick with it,” investing themselves in whatever endeavor it is.
As a pastor, it is interesting to consider how to quantify or track how important our relationship with Jesus is. Certainly, you can use metrics such as church attendance, volunteer hours or a year-end charitable giving statement, but at the end of the day how does that describe a life-long believer who now finds herself home bound and living on a fixed income in her golden years? Is her relationship with Christ less important now? Of course not.
Perhaps if there were an easy way of measuring our relationship with Christ we would be using it already, right? But what about you? How do you measure the importance of your spiritual and religious life? Is there a way which you use to evaluate your participation in the so-called “religious life?”
One, unusual way for me that I am consider as a means of evaluation is what I will call, “My Story.” That is, what is the over-arching narrative of my life of faith and walk with Christ? And, in that narrative, what has revealed itself as important?
But there’s a catch! What I am working towards in recalling this, is not really what is important to me and where I have succeeded or failed in the spiritual disciplines, but instead, where has God been faithful to me? Where has He showed me His grace and mercy? Where have I experienced His power at work? Where has He showed me I am important to Him?
Those are the tell-tales signs I want in my life to mark my journey. Not the hot/cold, on/off spirituality that is so much a part of our human condition, my condition.
Now, don’t think because you might not have those signs that you are not important to Him. It may be something as simple as you haven’t learned to recognize the signs. (No shame in that!) I know when I’m zipping down the highway I’m passing a multitude of signs, some of which catch my attention, but many don’t. We go through life like that, don’t we?
So, to get you started, I want you to think differently about evaluating what is important to you when it comes to your relationship with Christ. Consider the outward, visible signs we share in the Church: the Word of God, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Body of Christ. Consider the cross or even the empty tomb as a sign, a reality of God’s love for you. That is a corporate way of recognizing how important we are to God.
But, importantly, look at your own life and, by the very power of the Holy Spirit, ask the Lord to bring to mind those important experiences in your life which have shaped your faith. Ask Him to remind you of the faithful saints in your life who modeled a relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask Him to show you those times in your life which you can celebrate as moments where He affirmed your importance. With life flying by, can you write those down as reminders to yourself?
This is not to put God to the test to prove Himself, but instead, an opportunity for you and me to see the signs in our lives—the ones we know for sure and the ones we have missed during our lives—as a testimony of how important we are to Jesus.
My ten-year-old daughter may not understand how important friendships are yet, but one day she will, and she’ll be grateful for the memories such as Halloween, not because she can recall the candy she collected, but better yet, who she collected it with.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your faithfulness and for showing me how important I am to you. Thank you for the visible signs you give to us, Your Church, and those visible reminders in our personal lives. By the very power of Your Holy Spirit, guide me in my relationship with you so it will be of the utmost importance in my life. In Your name I pray, Amen.