Stop and Stare: How to Place God at the Center of Your Life
In the self-centric culture of today, we are each expected—née encouraged—to put ourselves first in all things.
When I first began seriously walking with Christ, I so busied myself with making the practice of believing about me, my needs, my wants, my sins, and forgiveness, that I frequently missed the point of a Christ-centric love. I need not waste time writing at length why humans live this way; we exist in a fallen world, one which we believe spins exclusively for us, humanity being the supreme power and humans’ success and happiness being the sole meaning of its existence. But this is not true and those who believe it is, whether they realize it or not, suffer dearly for it.
I argue that an existence oriented around oneself, with one's internal thoughts, feelings, and opinions claiming authority and wisdom on all things external, is an exhausting way to live. I have known individuals like this, people I at first greatly admired for their self-assuredness, before witnessing how dead in spirit they were and how weary I grew for them. I lived this existence intermittently before I mindfully committed to Christ and I remember those periods as utterly nauseating: the thought that I alone was in charge of my life was terrifying; when I trusted myself, I didn’t trust others, and when I trusted others, I didn’t trust myself—a perpetual vertigo. When the time came, I was relieved to fall before God and wipe my hands of me.
Even so, I won’t demure to say a spirit of thanks is easy to obtain, much less maintain, with exuberance, every day; it’s not without obstacles. Oftentimes, we are our own obstacles. Waking up each morning with a spirit of gratitude to glorify our Creator is not at the top of most people’s to-do list if it makes the cut at all. We spend the majority of the hours in our days subconsciously me-thinking: What should I have for lunch? What outfit do I wear to the party this weekend? What does so-and-so think of my performance at work? Not to mention the staggering amount of actions we make on our own behalves from sunup to sundown: stopping by the nearest coffee shop to get our favorite drink order, calling our friends to gab about travel plans. All of these trivialities, as harmless as they are, when added up, amount to the importance we place on our own lives versus the importance we place on time spent with God, who freely gave us the gift of life, even while knowing how little of it we’d spend glorifying Him.
Colossians 3:17 says: “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
As I’ve written, meeting this command is not easy. To intentionally dedicate every word and every deed to and for the praising of Christ, and God the Father through Him, seems an unachievable task. But that’s the fault in most individuals’ perception: it is not a task, but a joy-filled effect of the overflow of grace through faith. When we commit our hearts to His love for us, and thereby commit ourselves to loving others, we will praise Him. When we begin praising Him, we will start to see in the world and other people His attributes, and we will commit to Him more still. And in committing to Him, we experience the greatest of His dreams for us, ones which we could never have the imagination or courage to dream for ourselves. But it all starts from a shift in perspective: the reorienting of the meaning of our lives from the seeking of self to the seeking of who Christ would have us become.
I’m still learning how to live so that my days revolve around God, but here are a few ways I’ve begun trying:
Go outside and be silent.
I’ve taken to venturing outdoors lately when I’m craving time alone with God. There’s something about feeling the sun on my face and hands as I leaf through my Bible, the spray of the river in the air, and the breeze that picks up flyaways and dances them across my face—I feel closer to Him. I feel still. Such silence and stillness bring clarity.
Look, not to judge, but to see goodness.
Some of the most extraordinary signs of God’s workings in your daily life are, I’ve found, in other people. Living in the big city that I do, it’s not difficult to look up and discover a sea of faces opposite yours, each one differently crafted, the intricacies of their lives written in their expressions. If I look carefully, sometimes I catch a fleeting moment of humanity, of its goodness: the wink of a young woman to a child shyly staring at her from beneath his father’s coat, the shuffling embrace of an elderly couple and the patient smile of the young man walking behind them.
Speak faith over another.
On days when I feel completely disconnected to Christ, almost always because I’ve neglected to make time for Him, to focus my day around Him as opposed to fitting Him in, I try to make an effort to speak faith-filled words over someone else. Even if I don’t feel the hope of them myself, even if the person I’m speaking faith over doesn’t know I’m praying for them, I try to walk one foot blindly in front of the other, believing, if not for me, then for that individual. When God strengthens their walk, even in the slightest way, mine grows stronger, too.
Don’t settle for the counterfeit this world masquerades and would have you devastate your life over. Train your eyes on Heaven. What most people consider “love” is neither the real thing nor even comparable to what God feels for us, what He actively shows us, every single moment. It’s not fashionable to believe it and may not physically fill the other seat at the table on Valentine’s Day. But it’s the greatest, and indeed, the only, love worth knowing—for through it you’ll find the truth of all of love’s other forms, and thereby, Whom this life is truly meant to be lived for.