Last night I asked a group of 7th-12th grade boys, "What are you working on this summer? Where do you need to improve?" We had some good conversation about baseball, business, woodworking, soccer, technology, and weightlifting.
The last topic was my contribution to the conversation. I'd like to see my strength numbers increase during the summer, and I know a big part of the increase will be directly connected to my improvement in technique. I can look at videos of my attempts, and I can see the weak spots. I'm catching the bar too high (mobility and technique), not pulling under the bar quickly enough, and throwing the bar slightly forward (away from my body) rather than straight up on the finish. The gains are there if the technique and mobility are there.
The same is true for nearly any topic of interest, but you have to choose an interest, and you have to know the rough spots needing work. Sometimes the point is accomplishment and achievement, for instance the scholarship that makes a college education possible, or making the high school team. Sometimes the point is simply improvement and enjoyment of a meaningful hobby. Sometimes the journey is tied to the learning of a new skill for work or career. But the journey never happens if I don't name something, see the growth areas, and get to work on them.
Back to the group of guys last night. Another question: "What are you working on in your relationship with God this summer? Where do you need to improve?" Some awkward conversation this time around. A few "Sunday School" answers: "I know I'm supposed to give a religious answer...." But also some wheels turning, and if the Holy Spirit was at work, and the Holy Spirit is always at work, perhaps a point made.
Like any relationship, the journey of faith demands recognition and action. A deep and meaningful relationship doesn't just happen. There is some work involved!
"Wait a minute, Pastor Dave," you protest, "I thought we were saved by grace, and not by our works." Correct. God's love for you is absolutely unconditional and unmerited. But, as Dallas Willard likes to say, "Grace is against earning. Grace is never against effort." We discover our relationship with God out of God's abundant love and mercy. We respond to such love out of gratitude. Gratitude invites us to obedience. Obedience invites us to examination and effort.
So, when it comes to your relationship with God this summer, what are you working on? Let me know if I can help.