ah… the word devotion, such a heavy, weighty word. This word has many different meanings to many different people, Devotion has many faces, there is the mother devoted to her child, the priest devoted to his church, the drug addict devoted to his addiction- different faces with one thing in common, they give of themselves freely and adamantly to the focus of their devotion.
For the mother her devotion to her children has influence in every area of her life, in every decision she makes, and every step she takes. So is the same for everyone alive, for we will always give of ourselves wholly to one thing or another. We may have many things we like or admire but one will stand much farther out than the others. That is why the Bible says that you cannot serve two masters, there must be just one thing that is the focus of your devotion and everything else in your life will fall in line rotating around that much like the planets around the sun.
So what does devotion look like for me?
I had seen many levels of devotion in the place I grew up. the one that sticks out most in my memory is the devotion to religion, or good, Christian behavior strictly imposed up on you for no other communicated reason other than to save face for your family and that you will surely go to hell if you choose otherwise.
Now that I am abruptly alone in another country I must see what devotion looks like for me, now I must choose for myself what devotion is for me. from what I can tell there are many levels of devotion, ranging from full, abnegated devotion to a mere act of devotion when others are looking. I have to say that for the majority of the people around me their devotion is almost like an act of penance; a voluntary self-punishing for their sins. Their devotion seems to come from a place of exchange for being a human and a sinner. When they slip up and do wrong, their devotion to the mission and the foundation and ultimately God, becomes stronger. So, they find themselves in a constant delicately balanced dance between slipping in devotion, slipping into something wrong, and then sharply returning to an even stricter sense of devotion; constantly one trying desperately to balance out the other. This does not work for me, I fear in this cycle I would live in a constant state of penance.
I truly believe that God not only knows that I am a human and so very capable of slipping from his ever so perfectly placed principles, but I also believe that He is the supreme being and has known me from the beginning, He formed me and created me, He has known my end from before my beginning and absolutely nothing that I have done or ever will do will catch Him off guard; because He knows me. And let’s not forget Jesus, who was a friend to the sinners, we read or hear the bible stories growing up like when he found Zacchaeus the corrupt tax collector who had schemed and cheated his fellow people for years, up in a tree He did not say “Zacchaeus, for the love of God, get down from there. Tuck in your shirt and stand up straight, walk with your head up and stop embarrassing yourself and me. Behave yourself for others are watching.” No, I just laughed out loud from the idea of such and exchange between Zacchaeus and Jesus, He told him that he wished to go and visit with Him. For some reason we believe our sin is worse, and that His love does not cover our sins like it does others’ sins.
Now, please do not misunderstand, I do not believe that we should just blatantly go about sinning; mainly because, as I know all too well, it does bring a separation in our lives from God who is all holy; and sin has consequences that many times are not just our own to pay, but those closest to us also pay the consequences of our sins. Nevertheless, it has always been a comfort of sorts for me to know that God is neither surprised nor caught off guard at the things I do, because He already knew I was going to do them before I even knew. This means that my sins were already paid for on the cross.
Reading a book one day I came across an excerpt from another book, this excerpt from J.I Packer has always meant so much to me:
“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it- the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palm of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, as one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment therefore, when His care falters.
This is monumental knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort… In knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love for me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.
There is… Great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His son to die in order to realize this purpose.”
Coming back to me finding what devotions means to me, searching out my thoughts one day I came to the conclusion that the only way devotion would “work” for me was being devoted from a place of love, much like a marriage should be. In all my life one thing that I certainly, without a doubt know to be true is that God loves me, and He has never left me once. This makes it easy to be devoted to Him, this takes the weight of having to be perfect and trade my devotion as a penance for my imperfect human state. This means my devotion to God stems from His unwavering, loving devotion to me. Ah, this I can do.