Coming Home – An Essay on How to Relate to God
This is Part 1 of a 4 Part series, Coming Home – An Essay on How to Relate to God.
At some point in our lives we will ask the question: How should I relate to God? This little essay is my humble attempt to answer that question – for I’ve concluded there is no greater issue in life.
Most people have some concept of God – viewing him as a higher power, a creator, a stern judge to be feared or a friend to be loved. At various times I’ve had all these impressions of God.
It is no accident that you have received and are reading this. Maybe you’ve been searching for truth. Or maybe you’ve begun your faith journey but need to solidify basic understandings. Perhaps you’ve been a long way from home, as I was years ago – uncertain about life’s purpose, its end, about eternity. Wherever you are, the adventure of growing and living in Christ never ends, but that process must be firmly rooted. The essential foundation is the transforming step of coming to Christ that I’ve described here.
My story in a nutshell
My quest to know who God is and how to relate to him began early, and has continued now for several decades. I was born in Ohio in 1938. My dad had recently begun his own business, a manufacturing company that made oil burners for home heating. The early years were very challenging. Not only was it under-financed, but with the onset of World War II, the company had to make radical adjustments just to survive.
In spite of the enormous energy consumed by the business, my parents devoted a lot of time to my two younger sisters and me. They took us to the Episcopal Church in our small town and made family vacations a priority. We never doubted that we were loved.
I wanted a career in engineering like my dad and was able to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston (M.I.T.) – the nation’s premier engineering school. Boston held lots of attractions. Though church was not foremost among them, I maintained the practice of packing off to Sunday morning services. What I heard and experienced, while good, was not fully satisfying. I would often come away wondering if there was something more that I was missing.
Following my first year of college, I met Wendy, a lovely gal from Toronto. She and her family were different from other families I had known, and my curiosity to find out why grew each time we were together. While they were also active in an Anglican (Episcopal) church, they spoke easily of a personal and intimate relationship with God. They had a joy in their faith that I hadn’t experienced before, and this caused my spiritual search to intensify. But I regularly ran into a conflict between their kind of abandon to God and the rational, logical approach that shaped my thinking and approach to issues.
After graduation, I began working in the aerospace industry in my home town in Ohio. Wendy and I were married a year later, and we began a family. A few years later, my dad asked me to join him in the family business – a small but stable company with twelve employees. It was a big change, but I sensed it was the right thing to do.
A one-two punch
After just a year working together, my dad had a fatal heart attack, and at age twenty-six I was left with the daunting challenge of leading the family business. Only a few months after his death, our factory caught fire and was almost destroyed.
These events had a huge impact on me. I was more earnest than ever in asking God for his help and guidance, yet compared to Wendy’s vibrant faith, I knew something was still missing. It was clear she had a much more vital relationship with God than I, yet I was unwilling to risk stepping fully into something that was not clear and logical to me.
God was patient with me – never forcing, never intruding. But he didn’t let me be satisfied either. After some years, I reached a point where I concluded I didn’t have to have it all figured out, that maybe a degree of pride was standing in the way of my trusting God more fully.
I can best describe what happened next as a surrender, a yielding to God, and to his son, Jesus Christ. In essence, I said, “I’m not sure what this all means, but I trust you, and I give myself to you. Be Lord of my life, and help me walk with you.”
What followed was an amazing peace – an assurance that he had accepted me just as I was. It was not because I had earned or deserved anything, but out of his love for me he had brought me to himself. I felt washed, clean, and for the first time, rightly related to God. It was as if I had come home.
My world began to change after encountering God in this way. I realized this newfound relationship was not intended solely for my private and family life, but should be influencing every aspect of my life, including my work. I began a process that has now continued over thirty years of integrating my faith and my work with results that have been nothing short of amazing. I’ve discovered many practical ways in which those two worlds come together, such as influencing employment practices, customer relations, finances and core values.
Since the early ’60s our small business has become our industry leader and we have spawned additional businesses, such that today we employ nearly six hundred people and generate about $100 million in sales. Our “experiment” – bringing faith and work together – has become internationally recognized and we have been able to help many other business leaders who are on a similar journey.
Now here is the key point.
Even though I was not fully aware of the significance of my step of faith, that step – when I released myself to God and to his care – was absolutely critical.
A business analogy
Look at it this way, if I can borrow from an important business concept. When our sales people are seeking a new customer, they work hard to build a relationship and create a desire for that customer to do business with us. That process can take a long time. But nothing is ultimately accomplished until a particular event occurs – we get an order or a contract. That transaction is absolutely pivotal. Then, of course, we work closely with the customer to fulfill his requirements. Success involves three distinct phases: a period of preparation; a specific transaction; and, an outworking or fulfillment.
There are similar stages when it comes to our spiritual journey. Initially, there’s a process in which God works to draw us to himself, and he has lots of ways of doing that – perhaps different for every person. He reveals himself to us, he woos us, he even allows us to go through difficult situations to get our attention. With me, he needed to bring me to the end of my independence and self-sufficiency. But regardless of how long it takes, his goal is to “complete a contract.” It is to bring us to a place where we trust him and release ourselves to his care.
At this point a new and deeply committed relationship begins. Spiritually, a person “comes home.” Life after that changes, and both parties delight in their new relationship – doing all they can to bring it to its fullest expression.
So why this essay?
I guess it’s because of the struggle and search I went through for years – when the way home was neither clear nor compelling. I have great sympathy for those who are confused. Perhaps like me, you think that it is enough to “be good,” to “do kind deeds,” to “be moral,” or to serve others. These are all important, but they are not transformational and cannot be equated with coming home spiritually by entering a personal, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
As a result of my experience, I have a deep desire to share what I’ve learned with others. I entered a relationship with God with a great example in Wendy and her family, but with very little understanding. Now, through insights gained from the Bible, from years of study and sound teaching, I have a much better grasp of how a person enters and walks out that vital relationship.
In the words that follow, I explain, as best I can, how one becomes properly related to God. I’m sure it won’t address every question. But I offer it to you as a reliable roadmap. I know it would have helped me on my journey, and I trust it will help you.