By Chris Bonderer
One of the most cliché phrases as a revitalized Catholic (I was raised Catholic but only recently sought a relationship with God) was “Your relationship with God needs to be PERSONAL.” There was this emphasis on “personal”, and I was so excited to be holy that I accepted this from my mentor and the folks I admired without a second thought. As I continued to grow closer and closer to God through Jesus, I had this idea of what it meant for my relationship with God to be personal. At the time, it meant that Jesus knew who I was. He met in the high moments and the low moments in my life. He was there. Crying with me when I was sad and laughing with me when I was happy. He was there in Bible study and in prayer showing me new things about what life following Him looks and feels like. All of this meant a great deal to me, and I thought that I had finally discovered what the “personal” part of a relationship with God was all about.
Then I spent a summer working all day, every day. I woke up each morning before sunrise to make sure I could pray and listened to music that reminded me of God. However, something fell away. My priorities slowly slipped until God was hard to find in the top five…and then the top ten. How could this be?? I was still praying! And I was having wonderful moments of conversation with God! I was reading Scripture! I was attending Mass several times a week! I was carving time in my day to make sure He was a priority!
None of these decisions and choices mattered because what fell away was more important. I lost sight of WHO GOD IS. I saw Him as a job, a lifestyle, a religion. These are all effects of a relationship with God, but they can also exist without Him. Really thinking about these words, it is easy to see that all of these can be maintained without the person who established them. They certainly seem legitimate, but they lose their passion and energy after a while. Without the water, a waterfall remains a visible geographical formation; but it loses its meaning and beauty. Similarly, religion without God can remain but it loses its passion, energy, love, and eventually, its truth. It is not a relationship. This is what I lost sight of. I lost sight of My Father. My Lord. My creator. My Savior.
Our God is a person. He even became human for us to see how much of a person He is! We cannot truly be connected to Him unless we see Him this way because He does not exist in another way. The trap that I had fallen into was praying because I was Catholic rather than praying because my Father wanted to talk to me. It’s so easy to forget how personal our faith is, but it is essential for growth in our relationship with God. We must never forget that our highest priority as Christian is to follow Jesus’s greatest desire for us. He says this so clearly in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” God certainly desires for our participation in the church and the people in our life. But infinitely more so, God desires conversation and connection with us. He thirsts for the details in our lives shared through prayer. He hungers for us to know Him so deeply that we can’t help ourselves to trust Him, love Him, and give our entire selves to Him.