Our lives are centered on our relationships with other people. The definition of relationship according to the Oxford dictionary is, the way in which two or more people are connected, or the state of being connected. In our current culture, we are told to balance as many old and new relationships as possible.
There is also a standard of how much effort we should give to each one depending on the person. To be considered “connected” to someone means you are constantly involved with them either through the internet or through the time you invest in them. This culture of constant interaction can blur the line involving authenticity, whether we are being genuine anymore with every relationship.
It can also distort our priorities when it comes to which relationships should be the most important in our lives. I personally have the habit of putting my relationships with friends and family above my relationship with God. Why am I okay with putting countless hours into my relationships on earth, but I cannot spare a moment for God?
During this recent summer I had the opportunity to dive into my own heart and unpack my reasons for not giving my all when it comes to God. I was given the amazing opportunity to explore this, working as a counselor at Camp War Eagle in northwest Arkansas for six weeks. It is high intensity summer camp for kids aged 7 to 17 and it became a great place to convict myself in my own faith and learn more about what it means to have this relationship I longed for with God.
I was personally challenged physically and given responsibilities that overwhelmed me and were completely new. This left me in a state of complete hopelessness; I felt I was not adequate for anybody. I could no longer rely on myself for any peace or comfort. So I went running to Jesus — I asked him to give me his strength, peace, wisdom and love to give these girls.
During our nightly devotionals, a common question we would be asked by our girls would be “why does God want to have a relationship with me?” We would be confused on how to answer this simple question because for us it was common sense that he would want a relationship with us. We tried to explain it to the best of our ability, but we ultimately gave them a verse that we thought would explain it better. We chose John 15:13, “For no one has greater love than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
If God died for you than why wouldn’t he want to get to know you and long to show you his love and mercy? Outwardly explaining this idea to children caused me to ask myself if I truly understood this as well.
Fast forward a couple weeks into my sophomore year of college I heard a witness given by a fellow student at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Campus Ministry. He talked about the immense love and desire that God has to be in communion with us personally. He used an excerpt from the catechism that explained it like this. For if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him into existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.
This shook me and I asked myself, “What does living fully look like?” I would look back to the counselors around me at camp and see how they entrusted to God their whole life and plans. They are honestly some of the most carefree, hardworking and peaceful people I have met. I finally understood why my longing for a relationship with God and wanting to understand what they had would be the same thing.
If I had a relationship with God that touched every aspect of my life, then I would live in his peace and truth. In Psalms 23, it says “it is not until we truly give ourselves to God that we feel freedom in our hearts. We must let God be the shepherd of our lives so he can lead us.” This clearly states that we must make God the number one priority in our lives and entering into a relationship with him is the first step in giving him control.
Olivia Parker is a sophomore at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock is her home parish.
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