I went to college back in the days before online registration. This was the era when email, the Backstreet Boys, Zima, and body glitter, were the hottest new things on the scene. And in those days, you had to call in from an actual landline phone in your dorm room to register for classes.
Note: I’d like to give a special nod to anyone reading this who remembers the days before you could even call in to register. You are warriors.
A week or so before the registration period we would pick up thick course catalogues and spend the next few days highlighting which classes we needed to take, which “sections” (aka dates and times) we preferred, and what our backups would be if our first choices were full. Then, at a time divinely appointed to each of us (aka assigned alphabetically by the Office of the Registrar), we would call into an automated system and follow the prompts to choose our courses. I remember waiting with baited breath on the other end of that phone line to hear the blessed words, “ED 211 is available.” And heaven forbid you punched in your numbers wrong, then you had to start all over.
In the days leading up to and following registration, I would pore through the catalogues much more thoroughly than was probably necessary. I’ve always been curious about what life is like for people who have taken different paths than I have, and the Oregon State University course catalogue gave me a small window into other students’ lives. A vocal music and elementary education major myself, I would often flip through the sections for other areas of study, particularly science and math-heavy areas like physics, biology, or engineering. Since it was all sooooo far out of my comfort zone and what I perceived to be my capabilities, I found it utterly fascinating. In fact, a decade later I married a guy who had actually been a chemical engineering major at the same college at the same time. I wonder if I ever browsed descriptions of the courses he had to take. How romantic..
What fascinated me the most about these course descriptions were the prerequisites , or “prereqs” (pronounced pre-wrecks) listed below the course descriptions. These were the classes that one had to have completed before one would even be allowed to enroll in the course being described. In order to take some of the 300 and 400-level science classes, you had to have taken a lot of other science classes, and don’t even get me started on the math. Some of them even had grades associated with it. Not only did you have to have completed differential calculus, you had to have gotten at least an 80% in the course. Lord, have mercy.
I admired the folks who were “smart enough” to hack it in these fields, to have taken all of the advanced calculus and organic chemistry and whatnot, perhaps that’s why I eventually married one of them. But I never got as far as trying it for myself. I would inevitably drop the dogeared tome in the recycle bin (in Oregon we were already recycling in the 90’s), and blissfully turn my attention to whatever child development or music history courses my “right-brained” self would be partaking in the next term.
It seems like many of us take a similar approach to our faith journeys. We are curious about God, interested in deepening our faith, perhaps even admiring of others’ relationships with Jesus. We feel a tug on our hearts to get closer to Him- and why wouldn’t we? Connection with God is what we were created for. As Martin Laird puts it, “God is our homeland. And the homing beacon of the human being is homed on God.”
But then, our brain kicks in and starts overriding our heart. There is a list in our minds of prerequisite experiences, skills, beliefs, mindsets, lifestyles, or whatever, we feel like one must have completed or locked down in order to be able to “go there.”
“I have too many questions.”
“I’m not self-disciplined enough to have a good prayer life.”
“I don’t even know if I believe in God.”
“I don’t do church, it’s not my thing.”
“But my past. Things I’ve done or have happened to me…”
“I don’t have a grateful or joyful heart.”
“I know I’ve got *pick any old sin* going on that probably isn’t making God very happy right now.”
“I’ll never have as much faith as ______________*”
And my personal siren song of defeat and discouragement, “I’m just not ____________________ enough.”
Wherever they come from, whatever they look like, we end up feeling discouraged and disqualified.
But listen up: This is not college. Or high school. Or even elementary school. You do not have to qualify for a seat in this course, God has a seat waiting for you and Jesus cleared the way for you to walk right in and sit down. There are not some people who are better-suited for deep and powerful faith than you are. There’s no dress code, no supply list, and you certainly don’t have to have to gotten a good grade in anything you’ve tried before. Whether you’re thinking about praying for the first time, trying your first fast, or wanting to strengthen your prayer routine, there is nothing that says you can’t.
Take a minute now to prayerfully consider what might be standing between you and deeper connection with God- or, if you’re just starting out, to any connection with God. What “prerequisites” might you be seeing between where you are and where you want to go?
Take a moment to breathe in, breathe out, and envision making room in your heart for God.
In what ways do you feel God drawing you near? Are there ways you feel Him encouraging you to strengthen your walk with Him? How is He calling you higher and deeper? What do you feel led to explore? Are there things you would like to do, to try, to learn more about?
Sit with that for a moment, take as long as you need.
When you’re ready, ask God to draw your mind to anything that might be holding you back. Are there any “prerequisites” that you’re holding on to, ways you think you’re disqualified from drawing near to God?
If it helps, you can pray Psalm 139:23-24, which says:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life
Tell God that you want to know Him more, to live more closely with Him, and ask Him to stand in the gaps. Rest in the peace that He wants you close to Him, He has great things planned for the two of you along the journey, and there is nothing that could ever disqualify you from that.
This is a relationship you are called to, one you were made for. Just as you are. The things you are good at and the things you love will help you draw closer to Him. There are no prerequisites to God. Come as you are. Amen.