How You Are With People Is How You Are With God

“How you are with people is how you are with God.”

That’s one of those lines that just floated up in my consciousness while I was walking a labyrinth in the Chattahoochee Hills recently. I walk labyrinths to pray, but mostly the listening kind of prayer.    If you know me personally, you know I have a tendency to talk, sometimes way too much. Even God doesn’t get a break! Perhaps that’s why a few years ago I was led to explore the labyrinth as a spiritual tool. I have to concentrate on on following the path to the center. My mind and body are busy with the pattern. It gives the Other Person a chance to speak. 



How you are with people is how you are with God.

I wasn’t exactly sure what the phrase meant at first, or whether it was even entirely true.  I wasn’t sure it was my own mind or conscience, or truly the “still small voice” we long to hear.  

At the time, I was slightly uncomfortable with a very generous gesture a friend had bestowed on me, so uncomfortable that I wanted to pay her back in some way.  That was actually the question in my mind when I entered the labyrinth.

How you are with people is how you are with God. 

I remembered a conversation with another friend I’d run into while on a errand a few days earlier. She was shopping for birthday presents for her child  and telling me how much that child loved gifts.  She went on to say, “I’m not a good receiver.”  I don’t remember whatever polite response I hope I had, but I remember thinking, “You can’t have all God has for you if that’s true.”  I also remember thinking it with judgement. 

How you are with people is how you are with God. 

So here I am walking out the labyrinth, staring up at the morning blue sky and the North Georgia pine trees and remembering that moment shopping a few days before. I saw myself in my judgement of her, “I want to pay back my friend’s gesture  because I want to earn your love, God. I want to pay my part, don’t I?”   It’s humiliating to only receive.  It makes us feel needy, beggarly, poor. The balance of power shifts away from us when we receive. We love power, whether we admit it or not. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God. 

I realized the practice for me that week was to receive, to let my friend be generous and receive her offering to me as a gift from God.  It wasn’t easy. I constantly fought the temptation to find ways to ‘pay her back’. 

A scribe comes to Jesus at one point with the question, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus, being Jewish, begins his answer with “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  He then goes on to answer the question, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”   

Here is the second person of the Trinity saying God is One and love him with your whole one self - mind, body and spirit. Oneness. Wholeness. Then he says love your neighbors as you love yourself. Relationships. 

Oneness. Others. Wholeness. Relationships. This seems to be what is most important to him.  Sort of a “If you don’t remember anything else I ever said…” statement.

How you are with people is how you are with God. 

When the scribe answered Jesus that this was much more important that all the burnt offerings and sacrifices, ways of paying for and paying back, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  I wonder if he winked right then. I wonder if anyone standing around had any idea the irony of what he said.  "Not far" was the ultimate understatement.

I tend to want to be on equal footing with others, to pay back, to do my part. I tend to judge, to criticize -if only in my head.  I tend to want to be the giver who remains in control, not the receiver with empty hands.  I want a private life with God with ‘no holds barred’ conversation but I want to keep others at arm’s length or manage carefully their impression of me.

It doesn’t work that way.

How you are with people is how you are with God.