Rarely does a handwritten note lean inside my mailbox anymore. Now when I tip back its door, travel brochures lay this way and that, each covered with colorful scenes competing against other mailers.

Sometimes I trudge up the steep sidewalk with mail in hand and relax on a porch chair to peruse destinations on the fliers. The destinations usually include guided tours. Docents appeal to me in that they know what I don’t know and point out hidden, interesting trivia I would never discover on my own. On the other hand, guides can drone on about facts which don’t interest me. Also, since tours include lots of other people, necessity limits time allotted for each person to read placards but elongates the over-all time of waiting on everyone’ turn. After days of sightseeing, I usually forget most of the facts  anyway.

Exploring with my husband on our own, however, allows us to visit sites which intrigue us and bypass sites which bore us. As masters of our time, we hike as far as we choose. We stop for ice cream when we’re famished or collapse on a bench with a bottle of water when wrung out. We may get turned around occasionally, but discover a restaurant we still talk about years later.

Like waddling after a tour guide, I use apps and podcasts to lead me to spiritual truths and habit forming practices in prayer and Bible study. Speakers inspire me with new ideas but also irritate me with exercises which feel counterfeit.

Lately, I “hear” Jesus repeating a verse I memorized years ago, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,  yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40). 

In context, Jesus addresses Pharisees who study scripture to affirm their security in knowledge, but they refuse to acknowledge Jesus — the scriptures’ main character. 

The Holy Spirit uses this verse to say to me, “You use different methods to reach Me and listen to theologians to explain Me. You study scripture with your intellect but forget to seek Me to teach you. I AM the Word of God. The word is not Me but teaches about Me. Scripture is not a fourth person of the trinity.” 

“Put aside your guides and training wheels for a time and come straight to Me. Don’t try to control the conversation or reach some level of experience, not a sense of connection, a felt sorrow, or goal of determining My will. Let’s have lunch together. Let’s sit quietly and watch the birds. Just BE with me like a friend, like family. Then I will talk to you, and you can talk about what’s on your mind.”

Going offline with Jesus without a map or guide intimidates me. It feels like walking in the dark with my hands reaching out for a doorway to get my bearings, but feeling my way toward Him sometimes reveals that He is right beside me already. He is my tour guide, not that I don’t need others’ wisdom, but Jesus is the destination, and I can’t reach Him without approaching Him one-on-one. 

How do I meet with Someone who is invisible and nonverbal? I tell the LORD everything in simple language; I don’t leave out the boring bits or unsavory or pleasurable ones.  I also close my mouth, listen and observe. Sometimes I see His work in spring gardens, in people walking dogs, in the unwavering sun walking across the sky. He teaches me who He is through His creation. Sometimes, a scripture blooms in my thoughts, and God’s Spirit impresses how the verses relate to me. Sometimes nothing seems to come in or go out of me, except my acknowledgement of Him, and that’s enough.

Lots of the practices I learn through third parties I eventually abandon, just like I toss the travel brochures in the recycling bin after dreaming about a trip. Fliers may clue me in to points to visit, but they don’t benefit me until I actually go. To become like Jesus, to grow closer to Him, I must live with Him, not on the outside looking in or getting sidetracked focusing on methodologies. When I stop evaluating my approach and performance in seeking Him, but instead, look for Him to control our conversation or silence, this is when I arrive somewhere worthwhile—this is most often where I find He IS.

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