We can also mistake people, places, and things for God’s presence. For example, you might think that simply because you attend church, that you’ve spent time with God. Not so. Many pews are warmed from Sunday to Sunday by folks just going through the motions and playing church. Or perhaps you think that frequent theological discussions with your pastor or Sunday school teacher constitute a personal encounter with God. But we don’t need an intermediary to help us experience God. In fact, a dependence on a seemingly more spiritually mature middleman is an inadequate substitute for a personal, passionate pursuit of knowing God ourselves. Even time spent reading great books about God cannot take the place of our own interactions with God Himself.
This truth was brought home to me the other day when I was talking with a dear friend about how much joy our special friendship brings me. We talk often, calling or emailing each other several times throughout the day whenever something spurs our thoughts in the other’s direction. We think very highly of each other, and it comforts me that another human being is so interested in sharing my life and in sharing her life with me. While I was expressing my feelings to her on one of our walks, I also had the thought that many people could claim to know me because they’ve read some very intimate details of my life in books I’ve written. But to know me through a book can’t compare with how my friend knows me so personally and so intimately.
Suddenly I sensed God saying, “Uh-huh! That’s exactly how I feel, Shannon. Lots of people know many things about me because they’ve read my Book, but they have yet to experience the joy of being in an intimate friendship with me.”
Think about it. Would you enter a room where your closest friend was waiting, sit down near her, pick up a book about her life and read a chapter or two, then stand up and leave without personally interacting with her? Of course not. So why are we tempted to do that with God?