Sometimes hanging out with people is boring. Everyone’s sitting on a couch, chair, the floor, or each other watching TV or a movie while eating. All the while there really isn’t much conversation. Maybe if something funny happens on the screen, someone will chime in with something adding to the humor. Or if a great play happens everyone will cheer or boo, depending on which team they’re rooting for. But no one really talks about their day, their classes, friends that are frustrating them, or how they shouldn’t have had a burrito for lunch.
I’ve often wondered what Jesus would be up to if He had come in physical form in our day. The Gospels say He often ate dinner with people. So would He hang out with us as we watch baseball and drink beer? Would He wonder with us how a certain movie will end? And would He get frustrated at the popcorn stuck in His teeth?
Honestly, I think he would.
But only for a little while.
Why only a little while? Because I think Jesus is the kind of guy who’d do whatever it’d take to reach someone – to get on a level where they would clearly hear Him – and then use wisdom to bring us forward into something more. He would hang out with us intentionally; not just because He’s bored.
We often think – either consciously or sub-consciously – that our time with God ought to be at church or in the small Bible study. But really, He’s always with us. Jesus says that He’ll be with us always (Matthew 28:20), which I take to mean He’s there with me as I work at my job, as I drive behind the slow-moving car, as I wait in the excessively-long line at the DMV, and even as I write these words. Somehow, knowing that He is always there changes the way I seek Him.
I often find myself in the habit of extreme “devo-time.” No, I’m not sky-diving as I read through a Gospel. When I say “extreme,” I mean that I’m strictly following a set pattern of devotional time with God. I stick to whatever habit, whatever routine I’ve given myself and treat it as if it’s the only time that God is ever with me. I seem to “listen” to God as I read Scripture, but when I feel the urge to honk my horn at the guy who cut me off, I rarely choose to listen to Him.
As I said before, God is constantly hanging out with us whether we like it or not. Sometimes it feels like we’re on a date with Him; and yet other times it feels like dealing with the roommate who never showers. But no matter what, He’s right there.
I haven’t read through a daily-devotional book in quite a long time simply because I make such a routine out of it that I lose the sense of God’s presence in every aspect of my life. It changes the way I pray and worship, too: Instead of talking to God like He’s my best friend, I’m simply asking Him to do stuff for me; or instead of praising Him like He’s my favorite athlete, I simply focus on singing the songs right, standing when everyone stands, raising my hands when everyone else raises their hands, and sitting when everyone else is sitting. Books that structure how I read, pray, worship, and operate my day tend to make me less reliant on God and more reliant on the man-made system.
Man has had a long history of depending on our own systems instead of God. But God is right here with us; that’s what “Immanuel” means! We don’t need our daily devos, doctrines, dogmas, purification systems, systematic theologies, and formulaic beliefs about how God operates with us. Those all can be helpful at times, but we don’t need them like we need oxygen. We need God. And I think it’s just as easy as hanging out with friends.