I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of "surrender." The word itself conjures up pictures of a battlefield and a white flag waving in the breeze. But in the context of faith, I think that's the one word I would say could define what I believe relationship with God is all about.
This idea of surrender has been coming up in conversations I've had with a close friend about measuring spirituality. Both of us grew up in a church culture that taught us to measure spirituality by the external things we did to conform to that culture - maybe it was reading the Bible or praying, or maybe it was wearing dresses and acting respectfully in church. But I see a lot more in Jesus's teachings about our inner attitudes of the heart and being open to allowing him to move in and through us. The Pharisees were pretty excited about external measures of faith too... and Jesus was always challenging them that they were "whitewashed tombs" - dead on the inside but looking pretty good on the outside.
Romans 12 talks about offering yourself as a living sacrifice to God, and the Old Testament is filled with pictures of holiness, or the idea that God's people are to be set apart and consecrated to the service of God.
If that's the heart of what it means to walk with God, then I think that this attitude of surrender is really relevant to how to walk through barriers to faith. If we see faith as a relationship with a being, then barriers are an opportunity to be vulnerable and real and honest about where we are. Once we identify these barriers, we can offer them to God and invite him to work in them and through them to bring us into closer relationship with him and to make us more like him.
The constant challenge is to abide Christ. Jesus spoke about this in John 15. The life that he describes in that passage sounds wonderful, yet so undefined. The picture he gives is of a vine, giving life to its branches. The branches have to stay rooted and fed and watered through that vine, or they will die.
I think barriers to faith are an opportunity to choose to abide. We can allow those barriers to choke out the life and nourishment of the Vine, or we can use them as opportunities to return to the Vine and to ask the hard questions. With emotional barriers in particular, it's important to give voice to the emotion and the pain that has created the barrier. It's only when we recognize and give voice to those things that the Vine, who is also the Truth, is able to speak to and minister to and nurture our growth.
It's always a leap of faith--this surrender, this choice to abide. But until we are willing to daily take that leap in our own lives, it's really hard to be the voice of encouragement and support to those around us who are struggling with their own barriers to relationship with God.