How do you keep God at the center of your relationship?

relationships-logoRELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS (#10 in a series)
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How do you keep God at the center of your relationship? How do you grow your relationship with God?

That first question gives me pause, because I worry about the possible compartmentalization of the spiritual life that the question implies. Let me explain with an illustration.

Two college students — let’s call them Adam and Eve — have met and fallen in love. They enjoy spending time together, and the more they do, the more they feel an almost gravitational pull toward greater physical intimacy. Though Adam wants to move things along faster than Eve does, they both feel a sense of yearning.

But they’re also both Christians, born and raised in the church. They want to remain chaste — at least they think they do! — but the hookup culture of their state university campus doesn’t help. “Everyone else is doing it,” they think privately, and the temptation is getting stronger. Thus, they’re desperate to know: “How do we keep God at the center of our relationship?”

I may be reading too much into the question, but I suspect something like Adam and Eve’s situation drives it. The easy answer to that first question is, “Whatever keeps God at the center of your life, whether you’re in a relationship or not.” Thus all the things one might say in answer to the second question are relevant: prayer, study of and meditation on the Scriptures, membership in a vibrant Christian community, the counsel of wise Christian friends, etc.

But here’s the problem. What needs to be determined is whether the relationship itself has become the center of one’s life. When that happens, the meaning of the question of how to keep God at the center shifts. Now, it becomes something more like, “We’re afraid that our relationship is pulling us toward things we’d feel guilty about — so what can we do to keep God in it?” Frankly, that’s a little bit like an alcoholic pouring himself a drink and asking what prayer he should recite to keep himself from drinking it.

Put simply: there are no magic behaviors or rituals that will keep God at the center of your relationship if the relationship itself has become the center. If it has, what’s needed is a shift in priorities. You don’t necessarily have to give up the relationship entirely — but you do need to honestly ask yourself (and each other, if possible) how the relationship is keeping you from seeking God’s kingdom. Figure out what God wants you to do about that and do it — and the original question will mostly take care of itself.