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Two or One

August 8, 2008

Back in 2001, when I started meeting with the followers of Jesus in the home based assembly, it must have been around 6 months or so that I started going on Sundays. I started enjoying the worship times, opening up my heart to the Lord in prayer, praising the Lord I loved, and appreciating His love for me. It turned out to be a time of great joy in my heart. I looked forward to Sunday meetings. During the week I went for the prayer meetings, whenever I could. Those were the times when I could pray with some other people – and we met at the same house.

Slowly I was also getting exposed to the so called “christian” aspects of the life that I was experiencing. Let me explain.

Special Language
First came some interesting change in the spoken language, that I was hearing from time to time in my conversations with other believers. The conversations and prayers would get sprinkled with various phrases, that seemed to be some sort of a standard. I started hearing words and phrases, like the following, commonly:

  1. Praise the Lord
  2. By the Grace of God
  3. Hallelujah
  4. Fellowship
  5. Will of the Lord
  6. If the Lord Wills
  7. In Christ

I started wondering, where are these phrases are coming from? To my un-christian ears, they were sounding different. Since I came from a Hindu background, and we never talked in such language before even when talking about our gods, this was something new. To those who are Christians for a long time, or have been born and brought up in a christian home these phrases may not sound unusual. But for me, they did.

I found almost all of them in the Bible.

And then came the questions –

  1. Do I need to use these phrases too?
  2. What do these phrases need to reflect?
  3. If I speak these phrases on Sunday, do I have the courage to speak them on other days when I am not among believers?
  4. Will other believers think differently about me if I do not use these phrases?
  5. Do I need to maintain two spoken languages now – one secular and one christian?

You might say, I am thinking too much about this. Well, I am sort of a person who thinks too much about everything. May be, that is the problem. But these were some honest and simple questions. They were forcing me to evaluate what I am learning in my christian life, especially having no such background.

Simply, I struggled to speak in these kind of phrases. So I decided I am not going to use them.

As I studied the Bible and started understanding the Lord more and more, I realized that it is not the words, but the heart that my Lord is interested in. There could be a time when I may just say these phrases, and get used to them, and not realize that my heart is actually not in the right state that relates with those words. It was extremely difficult for me to naturally utter any of these phrases or words easily in a snap, because I immediately started evaluating my heart and then it would be too late to say those words out loud.

I was not afraid of what others might think. So till to date, I avoid use of such phrases when my heart is not in the state where it reflects what I say. I decided not to learn another spoken language. And here was one of the many reasons that I came to base my decision on:

If I am in the company of people who are not followers of the Lord, which happens many times, will I say “Praise the Lord” if something worth praising the Lord happened? Most likely not. Then why should I say it when I am among believers? Another example – if I want to invite my friend who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, over to my house to chat or spend some time together, will I ask him “Do you want to have some time of fellowship this evening?”. Most likely not.

Is it encouraging to other believers to hear those phrases. May be, it is. But then the comfort could also delivered in conversations where one ends up praising the Lord, and not just using those specific terms.

I wanted to stick with the “one” spoken language I had learnt since my childhood and was comfortable speaking in at all the time, whether surrounded by believers or not, and I decided to stick with it. And then the rest, I left it to the Lord.

Now, I am not opposed to using these phrases – or even trying to pass judgement on those using it. It was something different for me – something additional to what I could say about my Lord – and having spent close to 8 years trying to walk with the Lord and not having to use these phrases, I have come to understand that I do not need some of them. There are some words, like Amen, that I do say and usually when ending a prayer. I have thought about that too. And I have said that word many times, without really meaning it. May be, its time for me to evaluate that too.

Daily Life

The second area in my life where I was faced with a similar “two” v/s “one” twist was my daily life. In my interactions with other believers and also in sermons and teachings, I was learning about the various dedicated times that people spent in their daily lives. Here are some examples:

  1. Quiet time
  2. Study time
  3. Prayer time
  4. Fellowship time
  5. Worship time

I really struggled against this. It was worst than the spoken language struggles. These “times” forced me to think – am I really working on spending time with the Lord?

I am of a nature where I cannot follow a routine. Routines become boring for me. All the years of my schooling, I did have specific times of study, but what I enjoyed the most was long unplanned hours of study times. My father tried to get me to follow a morning study routine for many years, with some serious discipline that involved heavy spanking, but it never worked.

I started reading the Bible and reading other related books, praying and meditating at random times. Sometimes, it started at 11pm in the night and ended at 3-4am in the morning. Sometimes, I went for days without studying the Bible – but continuing to meditate in my thoughts. I would read something and it would stay with me. I did enjoy the planned times of prayer every Tuesday with the group, but my personal prayer life was extremely random. It happened mostly at nights, or randomly during the day anytime I felt like praying.

Here is what I observed my “anti-habits” were emerging as:

  1. Read the Bible any time – the time does not matter
  2. Pray any time – whether I am driving, walking, taking a haircut, taking a bath or just lying on the bed
  3. Meditate any time – mostly during late nights

Fellowship is something I did not warm up to for many years. I liked spending time with most of my non-christian friends, who till this date are my closest friends. I used to visit families from the church, but the true fellowship was happening with my family and my old friends. It took some years for me, to enjoy fellowship with a few christian friends.

What I have come to understand is this – habits are important and they are beneficial. But they also come with a risk of routinizing the act. For me personally, routines kill the spirit of the act. And so I have stayed away from forming habits. Till this day, I do not have a set quiet time, not a set Bible study time and not a set prayer time. I meditate a lot on what I read – whether Biblical or related spiritual books. I constantly “converse” with the Lord – that is my prayer time. I think thoughts of praise, whenever they occur.

I have challenged myself to form habits – but it is like second nature to me. I have decided not to do it. And again, leaving it to the Lord. There is one thing I do want to do – find some time everyday – where I “talk” with my Lord. I know he “loves” it when I do that. The days when I have not done that, I know how the day turns out to be. It is like not talking to your spouse for a day. And I know how that affects my relationship with Uma. I do not want to experience that pain with my Lord. And so I try harder each day to “talk” with Him at least once. There are no special words, no special emotions – just straight talk.

I have been able to live and enjoy my walk with the Lord without forming a “habitual life” for a while – and still enjoying the Lord and growing in His understanding. May be, if I form some of these habits, they will benefit greatly. But is it about me and my habits or is it about my Lord? What habits did the Lord have?

I know the benefits and sometimes I sincerely wish I had some of the time based habits mentioned above. For now, I am continuing with my random life – and most likely the Lord is saying – “I am allowing that”. One thing I am confident and have a clear conscience about – I do not feel guilty about not having these time based habits. I love my Lord and I can give my Life to Him, if He asks me for it right this moment. I am willing to sacrifice anything He wants me to – even my random times with him if that is what the Lord convicts me of. And whenever I have not given Him priority, I have told that to Him, with the confidence that He will forgive me because He knows my heart. May be, that is what the Lord wants from me.

Conclusion

I know most of the new followers of the Lord face such simple dilemmas. And there is no right or wrong answer. There is joy in doing what brings joy to the Lord. And the Lord will constantly prompt us in those areas. We need to be mindful of what we have “actually” become when we follow the Lord. We have become a vessel that He is shaping. It may look like the same clay that the Lord is working with, but the task of shaping is His, not mine. My lump of life just spins on the wheel of His Life.

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