Like most children born in the 80s or 90s, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Disney movies of the early 90s. Disney’s release of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King over five years can go toe-to-toe with any studio’s best run. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite of the bunch, but Genie may be one of Disney’s most classic characters.
Genie isn’t the only genie, though; there are plenty of stories about an all-powerful genie trapped inside a magic lamp. When the lamp is rubbed, the genie appears and grants three wishes. Thinking about genies often inspires the question: what would you wish for? Smart kids in elementary school said that they’d wish for infinity wishes; I always said that I’d wish to be on the Enterprise.
While we may never have a genie in a bottle, we do have a God in heaven. Plenty of pastors and speakers have drawn the comparison between how we treat God like a genie. Instead of surrendering our lives to him, we like to treat God like a genie in a bottle. We keep him stored away for when we’re really in trouble, rubbing his lamp by praying and then hoping he shows up.
This is definitely a crass way to view our relationship with God. God created the entire universe and holds it in his hands. Yet when we view him as a genie, we try to lock him away in something that we can hold in our very small, non-universe-creating hands. Hopefully most of us don’t view God that way and, if we ever have, hopefully we repented very quickly.
I thought I had done away with that mindset, however it may have reared its ugly head again. I don’t view God as a genie waiting at my beck and call. I do, though, sometimes view my spiritual disciplines as lamp; doing my spiritual disciplines is a lot like rubbing the lamp. If I do my disciples often enough, long enough and intently enough, then God is going to appear. Not to grant me three wishes, but just to be present in my life.
So while I don’t view God as a magical genie, I view my spiritual disciplines as a magical lamp that will summon God into my life. Or, in more culturally relevant terms, my spiritual disciplines are a lure and God is the best Pokémon ever.
That’s a terrible way to view both God and my spiritual disciplines.
That view turns God into some narcissist who only wants to spend time with me when I’m thinking about him or talking to him. That doesn’t sound like the kind of God who loved me enough to send his only Son to die on the cross so that we could be together. God wants to spend time with me and isn’t waiting for me to rub the lamp or come up with the magic words during my quiet time.
That view is also detrimental to my spiritual disciplines. Instead of viewing my disciplines as something I do with God, alongside my heavenly father, they turn into something I do for him. My spiritual disciplines aren’t some children’s pageant that God watches from the audience; they’re more like finger painting with God sitting on the floor next to me, creating something together.
I love Genie from Aladdin, but I don’t want him or any other magical creature living in a bottle influencing my spiritual disciplines. God isn’t a genie and my spiritual disciplines aren’t some magic practice to summon him. God doesn’t need to be summoned to my life because he’s already here; he’s already present. And my spiritual disciplines aren’t some show I do for God, but they’re a part of our relationship in which we both participate.
We don’t have to wish for infinite more time with God, because we already get to spend eternity with him. That clock starts now.
How have you treated God like a genie?