November 11, 2009

Sunday Morning

2009 1531 page31 cap WOKE UP THIS MORNING IN THE SAME CONDITION I’D BEEN IN FOR A FEW days—feeling disconnected from God. Not by choice of course. I enjoyed church yesterday, had my devotions last night, and want more than anything to return to the close walk with God I’ve been enjoying. But I wasn’t there when I woke up this morning. Not even after 15 minutes of praying that I’d be there.
I think it started on Thursday when I got home late and tried to have devotions. Friday’s schedule was full, and I couldn’t get planning out of my head as I distractedly prayed.
Friday night, aware of my slipping spiritual condition, I tried to refocus my thoughts—praying for help, reading the Bible, and listening to music, but I was still distracted and my negligence made it harder to concentrate. Sabbath morning I tried again, but I left my devotional time not much different from before I started.
By Sunday morning I worried that I was growing more comfortable with my broken relationship. My mind went back to when I’d enjoyed my God-time—remembering that when I spent more quality time with Him I felt happier and more at peace.
But now, my mind wandered easily. A song from a movie I watched late last night played in the background of my mind. As plans for the day popped into my head, I suddenly realized I was still trying to pray.
2009 1531 page31Feeling frustrated and hopeless after many failed attempts, I prayed out of sincere desperation, “God, help me to focus. You can handle any situation and restore anyone to communion with You. Bring me back to that communion that has so enriched my life.”
Then I noticed that Someone had turned off the distracting music in my mind. I could clearly think about Christ on the cross, crying in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” (Matt. 27:46, Jerusalem).* Communion with His Father was broken. His calls didn’t seem to be getting through, and His voice mails were not returned. Something was different. He’d faithfully sought to connect with His Father and as a result walked in full communion with God. He’d cherished that relationship and successfully led others to develop relationships with God. So why would He who was so careful, so perfect, and so responsible now feel abandoned? Why would He feel disconnected?
Then I realized that it was because of my times of disconnect that He subjected Himself to the cross. Christ’s torture was not about physical pain, but about the loss of connection to His Father. He didn’t cry out, “My God, my God, I’m so thirsty!” Or, “My God, my God, their words make Me want to come down from here.” What caused Him so much grief was His pain over a now-broken relationship with God.
Realizing this, I prayed a prayer that feels unfair. Actually, it doesn’t just feel unfair, it is unfair. “God, Christ took my sins and my deserved broken relationship with You and carried them to the cross. He suffered lost communion with You so that I wouldn’t have to. I accept Him taking my broken relationship as His own, and accept as mine the relationship He deserved. Resurrect my relationship with You this morning because of what Christ did for me. Restore my communion with You.”
That’s when my curtain of separation was torn and a flood of restored communion was mine to enjoy again. No more distraction, no separation, but a restored connection with my loving God. This all causes me to wonder, “My God, my God, why haven’t You forsaken me?” 
*Bible texts credited to Jerusalem are from The Jerusalem Bible, copyright ” 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd., and Doubleday & Company, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher.
Chandler Riley is the senior benefits specialist in the human resources office at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, Maryland. This article was printed November 12, 2009.