Christmas break is always my favorite time of year. For the last couple of years, it’s been the extended relief from papers, projects, midterms, and finals that I had desperately needed. This year is no different; fall term really kicked my ass with all sorts new challenges and to have some time to recover is just awesome. And even though it’s a great time to kick back and relax with the family, I have found that this break is a critical time for one’s walk with God.
With the sudden change in routine that Christmas break brings comes the strong possibility – even the likelihood – of becoming spiritually lethargic. When we’re in school, we tend to rely upon a steady schedule in order to get by. And a great part of our spiritual lives revolves around that schedule (i.e. a college-aged ministry usually only meets during a term of school, so usually we’re only being fed at that time). So unless we make the right adjustment in the wake of a major scheduling change, our walk with God is likely to become rather stale.
When I was in high school, I took advantage of the Christmas break in a different way; I’d head to Lincoln City’s only indoor driving range (at Chinook Winds or Lakeside as we used to know it) to work on my golf swing. It paid off pretty well, I think. In a matter of three years I went from a beginner to a state competitor; relying mostly on straight shots and a disciplined short game. And while much of my golfing success must be attributed to a great coach and an addiction to Tiger Woods 2004, much of my golf swing was developed during the Christmas breaks I had.
God has taught me quite a bit through golf. He has taught me the importance of discipline, patience, focus, and most importantly, endurance. My faith in God either rises or falls depending mostly on these four elements. And like a good golf swing, a strong faith in God will prove fruitful. No, I don’t mean I’ll be rich and famous because of a strong faith in God; but I will experience less stress, less worry, less anxiety, and more joy, deeper peace, and a greater overall happiness by efficiently remaining faithful to Him. The mistakes I make will be minimized and I’ll have greater strength to finish the round.
But if my walk with God is like a golf swing, then in order to make it better – regardless of how good or bad it is – I must continually practice the ways of God. And I don’t mean practicing them in such a way that is removed from faith; one’s golfing abilities are not defined by what they do on the driving range. I must practice in a way that prepares for hard times, struggles, or challenges to the faith in general. I must hit each range ball how I’d hit a real ball in a tournament. I must practice my faith in God in such a way that when I’m actually challenged, there’ll be no change in how I act. I’ll be aware of the challenge just like I was aware of the tournament atmosphere. But I tried to allow no difference between how I practiced and how I played. And I find I must carry the same attitude towards walking with God.
Like I said before, this last term really rocked me. I will enjoy some time to relax and recharge for next term, but at the same time, in order to improve how I function spiritually, I must do something during this break to prepare for the pending challenges. What exactly does “doing something” look like? Well, for me, I like to read and write. Much of what I’ve learned about God has come from reading something from a pastor or Biblical scholar and then writing in response to what I read. So I’ve decided to read through some articles discussing the issue of Christianity and consumerism and then blog about each one as I go. It’ll keep me active in reading and writing as well as in my walk with God. On top of that, I’ve ordered an Oxford Bible Commentary to supplement and maybe even challenge what I read in Scripture. And on top of all of this, I’ve got several books on Systematic Theology to help give me a wide-range of perspectives.
My overall focus is to improve my walk with God. No, it isn’t one-sided; how well I walk with God doesn’t depend on me being simply more obedient. God actually lives, breathes, and moves through us to help us along the way. That’s what it means to be the church; the body of Christ through which God accomplishes His purpose and will. But in order to accomplish His will, we must know what it is; in order to know what it is, we must hear it from Him; in order to hear it from Him, He must speak to us; and in order to hear Him speak, we must draw near to Him. That happens when we dedicate more of our time, more of our energy, and more of our focus to Him.
Essentially, we have the ability to make or break our break; how we use this time away from school (and maybe even work) will affect our walk with God and how we handle challenges to our faith or to our life in general. If we are faithful to Him now, He’ll remain faithful then. It just depends on what we choose to do now.
God bless and Merry Christmas!