What I Need is Not the Same as What You Need

Someone once told me his secret for growing close to God. He said he went for a walk everyday, and spent the whole time praying and blocking out the world around him.

He knew he’d connected with Jesus in the most powerful way if he reached his destination, and couldn’t remember how he got there. He liked to get so lost in prayer that he didn’t hear the birds, didn’t see the cars driving by on the street, and didn’t even notice any litter by the sidewalk. He knew he had reached a deep focus on God when everything else faded away.

And he said the people of his community would be wise to follow this same practice – go for a walk and tune everything out, talking to Jesus. He said we might have more litter, because no one would be noticing it and picking it up, but we would all be closer to God.

It was a strange moment for me to realize how incredibly opposite my experience was from this man’s. I have always measured the success of my daily walks by how present I can be. I actually feel closer to God when I am able to get out of my thoughts, and listen to the birds or pay attention to the shapes of the clouds or the colours of the sky. I know I’ve connected with Jesus when I notice the beauty of nature and feel the breeze on my face. I like to spend my walk thanking Him for the things I’m noticing around me, and feeling His peace settling into all the books and crannies of my overactive mind.

If I get home and I don’t remember how I got there, it means I have been so lost in my own thoughts, I have forgotten God on my walk.

What that man needed to refresh his spirit was exactly the opposite of what I need to refresh my spirit. But when I tried to explain this to him, he could hardly believe it. It had not occurred to him that there might be other ways for people to connect with Jesus. He really thought he had found The Best (and only?) Way.

I think this kind of thing happens often – we find the secret that works for us, the thing which unlocks focus or fervor, and it’s so successful or life-changing that we’re bursting with excitement and want to share it with the world! We have what they’re missing – we could help them! It worked for us! It will work for them!

Or sometimes it’s not quite that pure, and we can so easily see where someone else is obviously going wrong. If only they would do it our way, things would be right.

We make our choices because we think they are good choices. It can be hard to think of things using a different perspective. We like our own way of doing things, and we think others should like it, too.

But this way of thinking can be dangerous, because it suggests that what is right for me will always be right for you. And this is simply not true.

It’s tricky, because this can quickly morph into zero accountability, because “you do you”, and who can really say what is true or absolute anymore?

The extremes tend to be “Everyone should do it my way”, or “Everyone should be able to do their own thing”. It’s easiest to hang out on one end of an extreme. Balance is hard and fuzzy. It’s easier to be black or white instead of grey.

But I don’t think we were made for either of those extremes. We were made to live in community – to have our lives and feelings and opinions and habits constantly bumping into other people, overlapping and getting all mixed up and messy. It can be outrageously uncomfortable, but I think it’s a great way to learn, and to find balance.

I like hanging out with people who agree with me, but I have to reconsider, redirect, and refocus a lot more when I’m around people who don’t agree with me. I can’t stay stuck in my ways when I’m doing life with different kinds of people. I have to work harder to find balance. I have to admit that my way is not the only way. It might not even be the best way. It might be great for me, but not for everyone else.

If I’m being honest, I have to admit I got a bit frustrated with the man who thought we all should get lost in prayer on our walks in order to be close to Jesus. I felt like he was saying we all needed to be exactly the same. And because I didn’t like what he was saying, it made me think long and hard about why this bothered me, and what I thought was a better answer for me personally. I had to work at it. It took effort, but in the end, it was good for me, because I had to figure some things out.

Obviously, I’m not opposed to the idea of getting lost in prayer while walking. I just think there are different ways to go for a walk. And there are different ways to connect with Jesus.

There are many ways to do a lot of things. And when we start insisting on everyone doing things the way WE do them, we’re losing the chance to see a new perspective. We lose the chance to ask questions, be curious, and get a broader picture of all the beautiful, unique ways God chose to create people.

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