Encountering God in a '96 Saturn Sedan

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep living like this.

Etched into my memory, these were the first words that broke the unsettling silence within our car when sitting at a red-light that felt like an eternity.

Matt and I had just left Wednesday Night service and was met with typical traffic in Baton Rouge that night. The service itself wasn’t necessarily memorable. I don’t recall what songs were sung or the topic of the message. It was unusual anyway for us to attend church in the middle of the week because of our schedules, but even that isn’t the reason for recollection.

Instead, what I will never forget is the heavy presence that met us not during bible study but rather in the car ride home.

Described perfectly by my husband last week, our life at the time was fused together by a slew of productive activities but void of purpose. The day of the week decided where our attention was placed – whether on God, school, work, leisure or rest. This scheduled cycle went on for almost two years of our college career.

It was a pattern built on good works and best intentions in the life of believer. For anyone who has experienced this repetitive lifestyle, you can guess what happened next. Unfulfilled and drained, our breaking point had come sitting in a 1996 Saturn Sedan on Siegen Lane.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep living like this. This isn’t the life God intended for us, and we need to do something about it.

For the next hour, Matt and I peeled back the layers of our hearts. Vulnerable and honest, we poured over our drained lives that were void of God’s constant presence.

We were simply unsatisfied with only knowing His presence on Sundays. Like desert-bound wanderers in search for water, our dry souls were thirsty. Change happens when we are unwilling to allow life to continue in its current state.

I wish I could tell you that after an intense sob session we got on our knees at home, called out to God and changed our apathetic ways. Man, that would make for one great, intense turnaround story. It’s the Hallmark classic moment of Christian testimonies. That’s not what happened though.

In fact, there were no tears. There weren’t any prayers. An altar call wasn't available to us, and no change happened to our schedules. On paper, nothing at all seemed to shift, yet within our hearts – we were different.

In an effort to work toward freedom together and not ‘on-paper’ perfection, here are the overnight changes that happened in our belief (and not our behavior) that led to this defining moment.

We didn’t wait until church to respond to God

The perpetual return of Sunday – it’s both a springboard and a crutch. Which it is to you depends on your current perspective and life circumstances.

Because we were only making room to hear from God on Sundays, we were only making time to respond to God on Sundays. It simply took only one night of sleep to divide our purposeful plans, for by Monday our spiritual ears were shut until we walked in the church building again.

By Saturday evening, with our minds thinking about Sunday, we were hopeful that this would be the week we were pulled out of the mundane. Honestly, there was nothing stopping us from talking to God on Saturday evening… but with Sunday morning just a few hours away, why not just wait and talk to Him then?

I wonder how many reading this are waiting for a church service to respond to God, to talk to Him and hear in return. Sure, it definitely makes things easier when offered an atmosphere of worship and an opportunity to respond at the end. There’s no shame in that.

But what shift would our lives take if we decided in our hearts to make margin in our schedule and talk to him right now?

For us, our moments were in the seats of a college student’s car going down the highway. Maybe for you it’s at your work desk, in your shower or while taking a walk. The location doesn’t matter. All that does is opening our spiritual ears and starting the conversation.

We allowed God to be the center of our focus

With each day receiving a different focus, God was reserved only for Sundays. Now, our intentions were never to put God in one box of our week. Unfortunately though, lives aren’t built on intentions. Our actions spoke otherwise.

Waking up Thursday morning after our God-talk in the car, the same schedule set into play. We couldn’t stop everything, quit our jobs and drop out of school. We also don’t believe that’s what God would prefer anyway.

With the conversation already started, we simply continued the discussion throughout the day. So instead of our focuses being separated, the view point was seeing God in the middle of each focus. My life changed immediately. Let me give you an example.

My first class of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays was a two-hour journalism class. Normally, my focus would just be on the class, getting my projects done, etc. This following Thursday though, I remember feeling the same presence (yes, God speaking to me) that I had the night before.

In the middle of my journalism class, the Lord pointed out a specific person and told me to go pray with them. Hesitantly, I approached this person. After a few minutes of conversation, they told me they were having surgery the following week and was nervous about it.

What an amazing thing – it wasn’t God separate from my school. It was God in my school life. It didn’t stop there. He wanted all of my life – and with moments like these, I was happy to oblige.

Omnipotent and omnipresent, our God has the capability to force any of us to pay attention to Him. In true chivalry though, His gifts of liberty and free will graciously allow us to ignore Him if we so wish. If we only want to encounter Him on Sundays, His unreserved presence will meet on Sundays.

His faithfulness stands perfectly regardless of our attentiveness. While we won’t necessarily reap the productive, fruitful benefits with only one-day encounters, His promise to draw near to us if we draw near to Him continually holds up. (James 4:8)

We destroyed the Christian check-list

The weighty Christian check-list – AKA, a culturally combined to-do list of what every good Christian achieves. I’ve been familiar on a long-term basis with this catalogue of Christianity. It goes something like this…

  • Read your Bible
  • Give ten percent of your income to God
  • Serve faithfully at your local church
  • Pray over your food before you eat

The list is virtually much longer, but you get the drift. Like all things though, these tasks prove meaningless when done out of achievement and obligation rather than out of love for the Lord.

Upon waking up Thursday, I continued to read my Bible. I continued to serve at my local church. I continued to tithe and be generous when possible. My actions didn’t change, but my motivations did.

Instead of pursuing these ambitions out of task based accomplishments, I simply did them because I wanted to know God better. I wanted to be in communion with Him constantly, and with pure intentions, these healthy habits helped me connect with Him constantly throughout the week.

It wasn’t lofty moments filled with dramatic prayers that changed our lives. It wasn’t an energetic, famous speaker who challenged our motives. It all started with one unscheduled moment where we talked to God. It took you one moment today to read this blog -- how about taking one more to spend in conversation with Him.