Towards the end of last year, Christina and I took a weekend away and left our six boys with Christina’s incredibly gifted mother. We traveled to New York City for a conference, in hopes that we would have some time to catch a breather before the birth of our seventh boy.
I know what you're thinking: “NYC? For a breather?”
But we did it, and we were really excited to leave and get some alone time with each other. We decided to prioritize time for connecting and talking about stuff and have an adventure together. It was hard at first. We got out on the road and realized we didn't have much to talk about, but at the same time, we felt we had a lot to talk about. But how? And where to start?
I realized I was out of practice with conversation. I was genuinely stuck, and I kept thinking: “What happened to us?” In just a few short minutes we ran out of things to say. Go ahead, laugh. But this was a real problem with still three days and two nights left!
As it turns out, it's hard to engage in meaningful dialogue during dinner while kids throw food, and ask a million fun questions like: “Why a carrot is orange but not called an orange?”
We wondered if we had possibly lost the ability to communicate effectively. This fear weighed on me heavily going into this trip. It wasn't an excuse; it was our reality. But we gave each other space and grace. A day into our trip we finally began talking and really connecting. We realized that our mode of normal operation formed habits for survival as parents. It wasn't bad but led us to an unhealthy place.
Twenty-four hours later after pushing through the awkward, I realized something as we walked the streets of Brooklyn. In the midst of discussing our likes and dislikes, I thought: “I really like this chick. I mean I really like her. I think we are great together” I didn't think that we weren’t, but communication just brought some questions right into focus. What happened next was a little surprising. I got excited about going home with this person, this amazing woman that I love and love doing this crazy life with. Our crazy now seemed doable and fun. Connecting and communicating is powerful! Our God designed us this way. This very simple discovery led to a rediscovery of simple truths.
I think we can very easily come to a place of doing enough to survive, but it's not what God had in mind. I believe God desires for us to thrive. There is a level of communication with him that is a surviving level, and I think there is another level that is a thriving level.
I want to thrive in my relationship with God.
I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Three things come to mind when I think of a thriving relationship with God:
- He designed us with the desire and ability to communicate with him and others. The ability to hear and the ability to speak. I think I take this for granted. Is there more listening to be done? So my prayer is: "Jesus, help me to know how much time to commit to listening to you. "
- I'm a better prayer person for others than I am for myself. I can often fill up what time I have with God by making requests for others. I think God wants time with me, to talk and for connection. So I pray: "Jesus, help me to form more consistent connection time with you."
- Prayer is not a passive response; it is a powerful answer. I can get overwhelmed when someone shares major things going on in their world. I very quickly can think of several other things to offer them before prayer. Because prayer can seem like a pat response sometimes. I make the mistake of seeing prayer as a small thing compared to their big problem. What's crazy about this (and maybe you know what I am talking about) is I have experienced that inviting God in and asking him to move on my behalf is powerful many times over -- I just forget so quickly. And so I ask: "God, forgive me for my unbelief, help me to grow in putting my hope in you more."
I am not there yet but I know God takes me as I am. He provides space and grace, and we will walk together on this journey to grow.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.