I used to wonder if it was really possible to have a "friendship" relationship with God. I used to wonder what that even meant. I was afraid of losing my salvation. I was afraid that God was punishing me when things didn't go right. I read books about having a relationship with God... even if I didn't completely understand them.
That was reality for me for a long time... but it all seems like ancient history now.
When I was trying so hard to be a good Pentecostal, I believed that having a close relationship with God meant living a powerful, supernatural, happy, healthy, and successful life. It would mean having that "direct line" to God that my pastors, leaders, and other spiritual superstars seemed to have. It meant never ever having any doubts. I thought that I could get there by living a certain way, memorizing lists of verses then repeating them, saying certain things, and avoiding other things. If I could experience a little bit of the supernatural or get a warm fuzzy emotional buzz during a worship service, then I could convince myself that I was "still saved"! But the real goal was to get to the point where every moment of every day was that same kind of emotional / spiritual high.
Needless to say, I never got there! Instead, I've found myself with a radically different understanding of what a relationship with God really is.
I'm not chasing a high anymore. I'm secure in my salvation, whether I feel anything at that moment or not. Of course, there's been a lot of emotion involved in what I've learned over the last few weeks--a lot of relief, joy, peace, and just plain excitement--but emotion fades, and that's OK. My relationship with God isn't any more or less real because of my mood.
I'm not afraid of circumstances anymore. Bad things will happen, and have happened even in the last few days. I still have obstacles to overcome... but now I can overcome them without feeling ashamed that I didn't have enough faith to just make them go away. Difficult times are even more difficult when faced alone--and I used to believe that if I was facing a difficult time it was because I had done something that prevented God from helping me. There is tremendous freedom and encouragement in knowing that God will be with me no matter what I go through, and He is just as close in the tears as He is in the laughter.
I'm not afraid of messing up anymore. I'm not talking about abusing grace, the attitude that you can do anything because God will always forgive--in fact, I want to please God more now than ever before. I'm learning what it means to really be motivated by love rather than fear. I'm learning what it means to receive His grace when I do mess up.
But the best part is knowing that this is just the beginning!