If you’ve seen Pixar’s film Finding Nemo, you might remember the scene in which a talkative-but-forgetful regal tang fish named Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) playfully admonishes, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”
It may sound simplistic, but I think we can find a parallel to our relationship with God in that advice. My version would go something like this: “Just keep talking to Him, just keep talking to Him.”
I’m at the end of my first year of blogging for Boundless, and I recently took a look back at some of the posts I’ve written since last September. One theme jumped out over and over, one that I’m not sure I was even aware that I wrote about so frequently, was this: the importance of talking to God about what’s happening in our lives.
There’s lots that I don’t have figured out in life. In fact, at the age of 42, I would say I have more questions and fewer answers than I had at 22. That said, one conviction I hold ever-more firmly as I get older (chronologically and in the faith) is how important it is to pour our hearts out to God. I think He wants to hear from us. In fact, I’m sure He does, as we read exactly that instruction in 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
God wants to hear about it all: the good stuff, the bad stuff, everything in between. He wants a relationship with us, and relationships, as we know, only grow when people are communicating with each other.
As far as growing in our faith goes, I know this isn’t rocket science. But — and this is a big but — how often do we let all sorts of things keep us from communicating openly, earnestly and often with God? Even though I believe this is so important, I only have to look at my own life to see all sorts of barriers that sometimes keep me from talking to Him.
In Mark 4, a chapter that includes what theologians call the “parable of the soils,” Jesus warns against our faith being choked out by the everyday challenges of life. “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word,” He observes, “but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19).
It’s a deceptively simple list of enemies to our relationship with God that Jesus lists here: worry, greed and wanting something other than Him. But as I look at what keeps me from talking to God, those are exactly the things that often do so. When I’m consumed with anxiety — and, honestly, I often am — sometimes I simply forget that God doesn’t want me to carry that burden on my own. Likewise, how often am I tempted to believe that if I just had a bit more money, all my problems would be solved. And as for desiring other things, well, I’m a natural born idolater. I can see how my infatuation with material things sometimes undermines my relationship with God, yet sometimes I’m more interested in them than I am in Him. In his song “If I Stand,” Rich Mullins put it this way: “The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things.”
Another conversation-stopper that’s not on the list above but certainly has been an issue for me is dashed expectations. When we experience repeated, deep disappointments in life, those experiences can leave layers of scar tissue on our hearts that quietly enable us to drift into bitterness and distrust in our relationship with God if we don’t deal with them. I remember one such succession of disappointments in my early 30s that involved several stinging romantic rejections in a row in a relatively short time frame. I got angrier and more confused with each one, and, frankly, less willing to talk to God about what I was feeling. After all, He obviously wasn’t giving me what I wanted — in fact, it felt at times like He was actively opposing me! Why would I want to talk to Him?
But in the end, not talking to God only amplified my distrust and accelerated the speed at which I was moving away from Him. Eventually, I had a moment — actually several days of emotional, at times angry, outpouring to Him — in which I was able to unload the hurt I’d been accumulating. That extended time of prayer didn’t magically make everything all better. My heart still hurt. But I was able to reclaim a sense of perspective that God did indeed hear and care for me, even if my circumstances at that moment suggested otherwise.
So what about you? What keeps you from talking to God? I think it’s worth taking some time to reflect on the barriers that keep each of us from the simple-but-profound act of just talking to the God who longs to hear from us.