“I went to a general store. They wouldn’t let me buy anything specifically.” —Stephen Wright
Generally speaking, I’ve been a Christian for most of my life.
But after four decades of living, I discovered I was short on some important specifics.
After years of studying the Scriptures and trying to apply them, I had become a pretty good teacher of things I knew very little about. I could explain Biblical texts as theory, but I could not speak as one who had entered very deeply into the Biblical realities.
I related to God on general terms. I used God’s membership card to shop for my spiritual staples at heaven’s general store:
- general love
- geneal acceptance
- general guidance
- general counsel
- general knowledge
- general purpose
- general providence
- general blessings
As a citizen of heaven, I had a share in the common graces dispensed by God to His people. I had the privilege of community access to the divine resources He made available at heaven’s general store. I prayed for general things like grace, strength, peace, guidance, and provision. And then I thanked God for things I saw in my life that seemed to fit those general descriptions.
But then I came to a crossroads, and what I desperately needed I couldn’t get at the general store. I needed personalized counsel for my particular circumstances, I needed to experience God’s very real presence with me personally. I needed to discern the Spirit’s specific counsel concerning God’s will for me, and receive His enabling power to carry it out.
What I desperately needed was personal intimacy with God.
And I needed it right away. But I searched in vain for a sign that said, “IN EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS.”
Developing relational intimacy with God requires time and God’s process–a lot of both in my case. But along the way I have discovered that God loves each of us particularly, interacts with each one of us uniquely, and reveals His unfolding agenda for our lives with more specificity than I would have ever dreamed back in the days when I was using my God’s Club membership card.
Spiritual life is not a general transaction, but an intimate encounter. As we learn to relate deeply with God, we will also learn to recognize and receive the particular gifts that He has especially appointed for each of us.
By the way, have I ever bumped into you while shopping at heaven’s general store?