I am a NASCAR fan. Whenever possible, I watch the whole race. I’m familiar with the tracks, the announcers, the drivers and their families and the sponsors. I know the rules and am immediately aware if a driver breaks one. I make occasional comments and noises as the race unfolds. My husband tells me he enjoys watching me watch the race.
Sometimes I have to record the race and watch it later. I’ve learned to NEVER talk to anyone who has already seen the end of the race. I say, “Please don’t tell me anything, because I haven’t seen it yet” and then they say something like, “Ok, but he sure is cute.” How many cute drivers do you think there are? One time the comment was, “Ok, but the winner broke a record”. I instantly knew the winner was Dale Jarrett. I was aware that if he won, he would break a record.
One August my family reunion was held at my older brother’s house in Colorado. That weekend was the inaugural “Brickyard” race. Some of the reunion was held in the yard and others of us were in the living room, yelling for our favorites.
Then I actually attended a race.
Believe me, there is no comparison between watching it on television…and actually being there. The sounds, smells and noises almost overwhelm your senses.
Watching it on television will never be the same again. I know more than I used to. I’m aware of so many “behind the scenes” activities that you never see on the screen. And when the race is at the track where I actually sat in the stands, it’s like old home week. A piece of me is still there. There is no way I can convey to another person exactly what it was like to be there. Their attendance at a race is the only way they can know for themselves.
I find a lot of parallels between my illustration about following the NASCAR circuit and about following Christ.
I am a Christian. I began attending church when I was a week old. We went twice on Sunday and once in the middle of the week. When there was a revival, we were there every night. I was familiar with the scriptures, knew how to pray, was acquainted with the other members of the congregation and knew exactly what God expected of me. I had the list of rules.
I was not alone in my beliefs. I was surrounded by people with the same ones. And so I did not understand there was anything better.
Flat on my back in a hospital bed, with a specialist looking down at me explaining what my medical issues were, for the first time, I talked to God. That is how the relationship began…having conversations with the maker of the universe…and of me.
Over the ensuing weeks, I began to understand the scripture that says to “pray continuously”. It became another form of breathing for me, as I grew in my faith and my health improved. As the months passed, I became aware of a deep abiding peace in my soul. Years of attending church had never given that to me. I desired to pray. Knowing how to pray for so many years had never given me the desire for more time with God.
There is no comparison between going to church, doing all the right things and avoiding the wrong things…and actually having a relationship with God. Sometimes the feelings of relief, of being safe, of being loved and cared for are overwhelming. I stand in awe of a “Presence” within and around me.
Attending church is not the same. I no longer go because “they” expect it, or for others to see how “good” I am. I go because it is a priority to me. I see the others who are going through the motions and I understand that they have never yet had the relationship. And until they personally have that communion with God, they will never understand my puny efforts to explain it to them.
But having tasted the “real thing”, it is hard to be patient. I want to shake them by the shoulders and say, “You don’t know what you’re missing”.
You can hear my passion and excitement about racing in my voice when I talk about it. I pray that when I talk about my relationship with God, I convey the same passion and excitement.
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