I had somewhat of an epiphany this afternoon as I was preparing my comments for this week's communion service.
I grew up in a very loving family. My parents and sisters and I were very close when I was a kid, and remain so to this day. In fact, some of the best times I can have are with my family. I enjoy them, and they (I think) enjoy me. I thank God for my family.
But while this may have been and is the case, my family has never excelled at communicating their affection for one another. We were never a hugging family. That is, there was little to no physical contact between us. Hugs were very few and far between, and there would never be any kissing - no way.
Moreover, we were never the type to tell one another "I love you," on a frequent basis. In fact, not really at all. Now that I think about it, I can't remember the last time I told one of my parents that I loved them, nor can I remember the last time they said as much to me. I think the last time I hugged my parents was at my wedding...almost 10 years ago.
For all intents and purposes, this setup has suited me just fine. I've always been somewhat of a hands-off kind of guy, and I'm not much for sentimentality just for the sake of it. And for the most part, this approach to communicating affection in relationships has served me well...until I got married. Turns out the Mrs. wants to be told "I love you," more often than once every ten years. Imagine that!
Although my family was, and remains, very reserved when it comes to communicating affection for one another, there has never been any doubt that that affection exists. Of course we love each other - it just usually manifests itself in sarcasm and friendly ribbing more than it does in hugs. You could say that we don't need to hug or say "I love you," because the emotions communicated by those displays is just assumed between us. We all know how we feel about each other. There doesn't seem to be any need for anything else.
As I prepared for communion this afternoon, and was reflecting on some texts I was looking at, it dawned on me that I sometimes treat my communion with God like I treat my family. In other words, sometimes I neglect prayer or meditation or self-examination because I assume God knows how I feel about him and about myself. When I have sinned and feel convicted, I can have the tendency not to address the issue in prayer because, meh, he already knows how I feel. Why do I need to tell him? Why do I need to talk to him about it? He already knows my thoughts before I share them with him; he already knows I feel convicted and want to change. What's the point of bringing it up and making a big deal over it?
I think it's likely that I sometimes approach my prayer life and self-examination in this way because of the way my family approached intimate issues, which as described above, was virtually non-existent. I never felt the need to tell my family how I felt about them because, meh, they already know how I feel about them. Could it be that I sometimes neglect prayer or self-examination because, "Meh, God already knows how I feel"? I think it is, and I'm surprised it's taken me 32 years to see this connection.
To be sure, this is not a good or positive trend in my spiritual life. Does God know how I feel? Of course. Does this preclude me from communicating my affection for him and coming to him in those times when I am convicted of sin? Absolutely not. God tells us to commune with him in prayer. Why? So he can get some new information on us he doesn't already have? No, he already has that information. Then why pray? Because it is a sign of dependency on our part, because it demonstrates obedience, and moreover, it serves to cause us to be introspective and look for how God might be moving in our lives. God doesn't "get" anything out of our prayers. He doesn't need our prayers, but he wants them. He has a desire to commune with us in prayer and in his word and in times of meditation and introspection in order to make us more like Jesus. The purpose of prayer is not to change God, but to change the one praying. To neglect these times would be unwise, and even sinful.
Don't get me wrong: I don't blame my parents or sisters or anyone else for my issues with intimacy with God. But it is a good indicator of how influential our upbringings, experiences, and family dynamics can be when it comes to how we think and feel about God. I grew up in a very affection-less family scenario, and there are times when my walk with God is rather affection-less too. It is highly unlikely the too are unrelated.
So does God know how I feel about him? Yes. Do I need to tell him I love him? Do I need to bring my cares and concerns and convictions to him? No, at least not in the sense that I need to do so in order to make him aware of them. But in another sense, yes, I do need to bring them to him for the sake of how the process of my bringing those things to him communicates my trust in and obedience to him.