Amy and the kids returned home yesterday evening after being gone for nine days…  I was ready for them to come home, and they were ready to be home.  They enjoyed their time in Louisiana with our extended family and I enjoyed taking a seminary class in Ohio. But, we all missed each other very much and were ready to return to our normal routines.  I have been miserable these past few days without them.

Last night we just hung out together.  I picked up a pizza from our favorite pizza place to celebrate their return, the girls modeled their new clothes, we looked at pictures from last week’s adventures, and they all shared stories of good times and memories made during their visit to Louisiana. We left the television and all the other electronic distractions turned off and had a very good time simply enjoying each other.  Even though Amy and I were both exhausted, we ended the night by staying up well past our usual bed time just talking and sharing before we finally fell asleep.  And then this morning, even though I am usually well-disciplined in regard to getting up early to work out, I found myself turning the alarm clock off and just lying in bed with Amy while she slept, even though I was wide awake.  At that moment, it just seemed important to stay next to her for a while longer.

I missed my family last week.  I missed them because I love them dearly and their absence affected me.  I missed their presence, I missed their fellowship, and I missed communing with them on a daily basis.  Even the most mundane daily activities seemed devalued without their being there.  Absence does make the heart grow fonder; even fonder than you thought possible.

As I pondered these thoughts this afternoon I was reminded of a dynamic that I have often observed in Christendom.  I have observed that many of us pursue a relationship with God to use Him to get “what we want.”  I could easily build a list of various “things” we try to get from Him. “Things” like: eternal fire insurance, healing, fulfillment of our dreams, money, worldly possessions, etc.  This is especially noticeable in our western church culture, just flip through the religious channels on your television this evening and test my theory.  Many, if not all of us, have had conversations with God that sounded something like, “God, if you will do _____________________, then I will do ____________________ .”    –Fill in the blank with the phrases that fits your situation.  The sobering fact is: we often attempt to use God to get what we wantAnd sadly, for some people, using God is the basis of their relationship with Him. –If there is a relationship at all.

If I would have begun this post by saying that I missed my family last week because Amy was not around to cook and clean and my children were not around to wash cloths and do other chores around the house, most of you would have called me selfish and self-centered and might have even questioned the depth of my love for my family.  In the least, you might have said something like, “Eric’s love is an immature or selfish love.”  -And you would have been right to say so.  Why is it that we attempt to do that same thing to God?  God does want to bless us, just like we want to bless our own children.  But, He wants a genuine relationship first.

God created us in His own image to have a personal relationship with us, to fellowship with us, to share His presence with us, to commune with us and even sometimes to just “hang out” with us.  When we ruined this awesome opportunity with our sin, He sent His Son to die in our place, redeem us, impute His righteousness to us and transform us (back) into his own image, –if we are willing to allow Him.  The perfect and holy God of the universe did this all in an attempt to offer each and every one of us the marvelous opportunity to “know Him” and “be known by Him.”  Let us not pervert this wonderful gift by attempting to use or manipulate it.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. –Jeremiah 29:13