What does it mean to know God? At first thought, this question may seem rather simplistic, but upon further pondering, oddly ambiguous. Try to respond without summoning cookie-cutter Sunday school answers of your youth. It’s hard. It would be easier if I asked you to explain, “What is God like?” In response to this question you might respond with statements like: God is loving, kind, compassionate, understanding, thoughtful, perfect, gracious, merciful, and just. These are factual truth statements, rooted in Holy Scripture, that paint a picture of who God is and serve as an expression of His nature and character. However, they offer a limited perspective of God.
What is beautiful about our God is that He not only desires for us to know Him factually or conceptually, but experientially as well. One of the most profound truth statements about God is that He is intimate. From the beginning of time, God has desired an intimacy with His most prized creation, as is evidenced in Genesis 3 when He would come in the cool of the day to walk with Adam and Eve. It is through relational experiences that this intimacy is fostered with the Creator. Experiencing God is far more personal than simply knowing facts about Him, and propels us into deeper connection with Him.
Zephaniah 3:17 speaks to God’s intimate nature and relational desire by saying, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (ESV). God is captivatingly aware of everything that is happening in our lives and desires to reside over us with joy and gladness, while comforting us with His singing. What could be more foundationally important for middle school students than the understanding that this is how their God desires to relate to them? He longs to know them and be known by them intimately.
How, as parents, can we help foster the growth of this intimate relationship? How do we help students know who God is factually, as well as experientially? There is no silver-bullet answer to these questions. One intentional and creative way to foster and develop this intimate understanding of God is to start a “Knowing God” family journal. Once a week each member of the family will be encouraged to share what they know about God. The first thing that they will share is a truth statement about who God is. Each member will say a statement like, “God is faithful,” or “God is near,” etc. These statements will be recorded in the journal.
The second thing that will be shared is a God-sighting. A God-sighting is a simple statement or story about how a person experienced God during the course of his or her week. It is a chance to share and express how each member of the family is experiencing God on a regular basis. The factual knowledge is now being paired with experiential processing and will help students see how God is intimately involved in every aspect of their lives. Additionally, this process will also help students be on the lookout for God’s activity in their lives. This family journal will become a living document that highlights God’s work in the life of your family. End the journaling time with prayer and read Psalm 26:3, “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness” (ESV).