Book Report: “With”

by Phil Baker

I just finished reading the book “With” by Skye Jethani. He explains that most people assume one of 4 incorrect postures toward God – Life under God, life over God, life from God or life for God. Let me sum them up for you in my own way.

Someone who lives life under God believes the only way they can relate to Him is through rituals (church attendance, prayer, Bible reading) and morality (being a generally good person). TV’s “The Simpsons” illustrate this mentality.

“Whenever I enter a contest, I tell myself I’m going to win because sometime, if you believe hard enough, God cuts you a break. After all, He works for us. Our prayers pay His salary.”

Marge Simpson

 “Dear Lord, you got the wind I need, I’ve got the prayers you crave. Let’s make a deal!”

Bart Simpson

To live life over God is to put God in a box like known scientific principles that can be manipulated for a desired and predictable outcome. We fall into this category when we read about a character in the Bible, then reason that if we follow the steps of their life, we will become prosperous. Just peruse the self-help section of any book store and you’ll see volumes declaring that if you just follow their formula you too can be a success.

Life from God puts us at the center of the universe and sees God as our spiritual vending machine. Think of a spoiled child that has only known parents who have given in to his every need and want. This person also blames God for not giving them as much as the Joneses.

Finally, someone who lives life for God devotes their time and energy to a “mission” – feeding the homeless, raising money for missionaries, etc. Well meaning but still a little off. Have you ever viewed someone who went on mission as being more spiritual that you? Maybe you wished you were that close to God.

The book proposes that the divine intent behind our creation and redemption is life with God. The author points to the parable of the prodigal son. The father in the story doesn’t seem to care so much about his material possessions. What really seems to get him jazzed is being with his sons. The sons, though, don’t get this…neither of them. The prodigal expects to be punished when he returns home. He even resigns himself to servitude in his own father’s house. Instead he is receive with joy and reinstated into his place as a true son. The father, pleased-as-punch to have his missing son back, notices that the fellowship is still incomplete without the other son. That one is out pouting in the field. The father simply wants to have fellowship with both his sons.

This is the picture of God wanting to have a relationship with us. He doesn’t want to punish us for our mistakes. He doesn’t want us to toil way out in the fields, even if we think we are doing it for him. He simply wants to be with us. He wants us to seek to know him. He wants us to meditate on Him. He wants us to walk with Him. He wants us to talk to Him. And when we grow close to God, we will see the world through His eyes. Just like how I suddenly care about how I load the dishwasher because I know it is important to my wife.

I was struck by a story recounted in the book. Dan Rather interviewing Mother Teresa asked her what she said when she prayed to God. “I don’t say anything” she said. “I listen.” Rather then asked her what God says. “He doesn’t say anything” she replied again. “He listens.” Have you ever been so close to someone that your communication becomes more nonverbal, almost telepathic?

To me, this is a picture of Heaven. Heaven isn’t so much a physical place as it is proximity to God. Happily married people might say to their spouse “Home is anywhere you are.” I can attest to this. When my wife and I have been separated by business trips or familial obligations, our house doesn’t feel as “homey” for the one left behind. But all is right when we are reunited.

When we die, we will be fully reunited with our father. And it will feel like coming home because we will be fully and eternally “with” him. Until then, we can still be “with” Him.