“I refuse to be a slave when I am intended to be a friend,” Those words fell from my lips and landed in the depths of my heart. I was talking to God, of course, and contending at that. I was frustrated because I lived as a slave, bound by my own legalistic confinements of prayer, fasting and Bible reading. I had forgotten that I am a friend of God. My usual routine of obligatory spiritual rhetoric began tasting stale and extremely unpleasant to my truth-seeking heart. I knew something was not right in connecting with God because I would walk away from my times of prayer and fasting frustrated, confused and very unsatisfied. I would wonder, “Didn’t Christ say He came to give life in the fullest capacity?” I knew I was living on “E” when it came to fulfillment in my walk with Him, so I began to search deep inside myself.
This was the beginning of my discovery of the hopeless romantic I had missed in God. I can’t imagine what it would feel like if my wife handed me a list on our wedding day of requirements I had to fulfill in order to prove my love to her. Things like, buy flowers every week, make breakfast on Saturday mornings and say “I love you” at least five times daily. Even if I lived up to that list of expectations, my love would not be authentic because I was required to give those gifts regardless of the desire in my heart. After a few weeks of fulfilling the requirements, they would become more of a burden than an act of affection. I would be my wife’s slave and not her lovesick companion.
The Father’s desire is for me, even in my weakest and darkest hour. His love is constantly searching and yearning to simply be with me. It is His pursuit that has awakened the deep desire to serve Him with unrestricted love. The key to my discovery? Give up! Give up? Like throw the towel in, quit, peace-out? Exactly. Isn’t giving up synonymous for surrender? I had to stop trying so hard to please God and instead, began to listen to the desire of my heart that was craving His touch.
I had to stop doing and start being. The very fact that I was made in His image and for His glory means that by simply existing in an awareness of my deep desire for Him, I was connecting at deeper levels with the heart of God than when I would force myself to pray for an hour.
God does not have a list of requirements for me. He does not get upset when I don’t punch in on my quiet time clock or forget to fast the first Monday of every month. He desires my heart to be awakened to His love and in return produce greater love, which causes my heart to actively pursue Him.
Now my prayer, fasting and Bible reading are my end and no longer my means of attempting to evoke God’s presence. The spiritual disciplines are now fruits of a heart that is obsessed with loving God. I no longer live in confusion, guilt and shame, but now I serve my Love in liberty and freedom. I now have a greater understanding of what Christ meant when He said, "no longer do I call you slaves … but I have called you friends” (John 15:15).[Joey Papa is a 24-year-old college grad, who is currently the Road Manager for Acquire the Fire Conventions. Has a great passion & desire for the restoration of the arts in the church.]