Where religion fades and relationship begins was a tenuous thread. A flimsy wooden bridge in the dark spaces in my heart.

My soul has been heavy for more time than I care to remember at this point. Long before COVID touched our lives, I wrestled with my faith.

Though I professed faith and belief in a God who saves I still felt uneasy. There was too much trauma. I’d been battered around by betrayals and disappointments too long.

I began to doubt my faith. One particular evening I cried out to God in the solace of my shower, “Why don’t you fix this, I’m angry with you!”

As tears mingled with water flowing over me, something broke. I was reminded of the father in Mark 9:24 as he cried out to Jesus, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

This I understood. This I could comprehend. Better than all the seemingly unanswered prayers, this plea made perfect sense.

In the previous verses the man had said to Jesus “if you can” to which Jesus responded, “What do you mean IF I can”?

This folks is the crux of religion fading so relationship begins.

It is tossing out the stiff, unbending rules and rites and rituals. It is embracing a God with skin on that came near so we could see Him, touch Him, watch Him and hear Him.

It is understanding we are loved in ways our human frailty can only catch a glimmer of. That we are infinitely precious. That God wants to commune with us.

Our faith creates spaces for relationship with God to flourish. As the CEV (Contemporary English version) puts verse 24: “I do have faith! Please help me to have even more”.

More God means less religion. Remember who Jesus annoyed the most? What group confronted Him with belligerent arrogance? Who it was that pushed for His crucifixion?

The religious establishment of the day. Folks we don’t need more religion. We need more Jesus.

My soul remains heavy right now and is scarred with the things I’ve yet to let go of. As I grow in relationship though God is teaching me that those things are not mine to carry. He bears our burdens. He alone can endure them.

Religion told me I needed to pray more, read my Bible more, go to church more. These are not bad things, they are part of enriching our relationship. But they are not the center of it.

Think of it like this. For a married couple, the date nights, taking care of kids and house duties, and even the sex is not the center of the husband and wife relationship.

In a healthy marriage the real relationship is built on the intimacy of fellowship with one another. It is communicating hopes and dreams with each other. Being transparent about tough issues. Sharing inside jokes, laughter and the tears.

Relationship is built in living out the “for better or worse”. It is forged in the trenches. And as a result of going through all the things in step with one another, the intimacy of fellowship deepens into decades of love.

Unconditional love. Religion cannot give us that. Let religion fade so relationship can begin.

It is the key to God’s kingdom and lightening the load in your soul.

Ammie Black