A Good, Personal Relationship with God

Childhood, education and the great longing for sainthood

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
—Albert Einstein

I like to think of myself as someone who has a personal bond with God. I believe he is living beside me at all times; he hears my prayers and he listens to me whenever I call him. Life gets exciting because He stirs up a passion inside me to love people—and I don’t have to struggle to do the things He calls us to do. It just happens naturally.

As a child, I was blessed with a strong instinct that helped and guided me throughout my school days. Often when I am occupied in an idea or concept to be taught, I feel the urge to understand it better; and this curiosity opens lots of windows to learn. I tend to view everything happening around me as a stage set up to direct my quest for learning. As Shakespeare says in his famous book As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are mere players.” Perhaps I had taken a grasp of it. My intuition and the gladness I exhibited in enjoying the miracles of the Almighty put me deeper and deeper into the sea of knowledge.

I can also remember picking mangoes from the garden with other children. We never hesitated in picking the imlis from the roadside tamarind trees near the bus stop. The tamarind tree still stands erect showering sweet and sour imlis all around during summers. As kids we never cared about hygiene and directly stuffed all imlis into our mouth never caring about washing them. Sometimes we would forget to have our mid-day meals busy in these activities. I also remember going to the market with my father twice a week. An Indian weekly market is quite a fascinating place to look at. The haat (weekly market) had the fresh vegetables and fruits at a comparatively cheaper price. I remember once to have stepped into a pool of mud and cow dung inside the market. The obnoxious smell that came from my foot still makes me nauseous whenever I remember it. I cried a lot that day but my father carried me to the tubewell nearby and pumped water and washed my feet. Some bitter experiences of my childhood are also still fresh in my mind. One day I was suffering from high fever. My parents became anxious and took me to a specialist doctor. They prayed to GOD for my immediate recovery. I was silent because I was weak and was experiencing such an unusual incident for the first time.

We had a small garden in our frontyard where I enjoyed taking care of tiny plants. The lilies along with the marigold created a nice ambience around. I remember a squirrel which used to live in our garden. It always used to roam around the guava tree whenever I was leaving for school. It seemed as if it was bidding goodbye to me.

All these childhood memories flash into my mind whenever I am alone. I wish I were a child again; but it is not possible because those days are gone, and gone forever. Having noticed something in me that he thought to be my extraordinary spiritual powers, my father approached my Guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba to get me admitted at his school managed by the Central Trust. Baba told him to wait until I completed matriculation in Odisha as the school there was of Telugu medium. Accordingly, when I completed my matriculation, my father took me to Sai Baba. Baba called the Principal of Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Junior College of Muddenahally and I was admitted there. This was a Gurukul system school situated at a place adjoining the birth place of Bharat Ratna Sir M. Vishweswarya near Bangalore, which is now a constituent of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Puttaparthy. One of my brothers Badrinath also took admission along with me and we studied together the pre-university course. I used to grab every opportunity to play for ‘namasankirtan,’ which I consider a path that leads to Divine Grace. Poetry and stanzas of poetic couplets were forever present in my heart, which always came out when I expressed my thoughts in a poetic way, my classmates including my juniors would hear them and feel inspired.

I lived in solitude, surrounded by books on history of religion, which have always been my favourite reading. This accounts for a curious episode during my stay in the Sathya Sai Grama in Muddenahally. Being completely engrossed with such literature, one day I experienced a spell of spiritual awakening and I was overwhelmed with that feeling for days together. Nevertheless, it did not match the beauty of the architecture over there. It was an experience that could not be depicted in words, and I can only say that for a few minutes I was irradiated by a kind of heavenly joy, far more intense than anything that I ever knew. I just want to express a few paragraphs below that kept me awakening every moment.

God is not angry with you

I believe the greatest thing God wants to hear from us is, “I love You, Lord. Thank You for everything You’ve done in my life. I want to do what’s right. Keep teaching me.”
If there’s one thing people need to hear over and over again, it’s this: God loves you. That’s all there is to it. He may not like everything you do, but He’s never going to stop loving you.
God is not impressed with your words at all. What He cares about is your heart.
Many of us don’t pray and ask God for what we need because we don’t think we have a right to ask.
We shouldn’t be making up religious rules to live by, like having to read Holy scripts every single day; nor should we do whatever we want to because we know we’re going to heaven when we die.
Religion is about living a vibrant, exciting life in sainthood, and it goes hand in hand with developing a personal relationship with Him. God wants us to be in love with Him.

Know what truly matters

I was thinking one day about how judgmental I used to be about the way some people dressed. Not long ago, I might have thought that I couldn’t wear jeans and teach, but my son said to me, “Do you really think that God anoints polyester more than denim?”

It took some things like that to shock me into the realization that I was just holding on to a religious attitude, when God wanted us to refresh our look in order to reach more people.

Sure, it’s good to dress nicely when we go to God. But the bottom line is, we shouldn’t be so focused on our outward appearance that we lose sight of our main goal, which is developing a close, personal relationship with God.

Living your days with God

God wants to be involved in everything we do. He wants us to enjoy a fellowship with Him, which means communicating with Him throughout our day just like we do with someone who’s our close friend or family member.

Knowing God loves us, loving Him, spending time with Him, and being grateful for what He’s done and is doing in our lives can help us have a real relationship with Him.

Overcoming malevolence with good

Has anyone ever hurt your feelings? Maybe you found out somebody lied to you or you didn’t get the raise at work that you deserved, or maybe you were rejected or physically abused. Well, one of the most important things we need to learn is how to trust God and walk with faith when people don’t treat us the way they should. Our natural response is to get angry when we´re mistreated, and feeling angry is not wrong. But God’s Word reminds us that we shouldn’t return evil for evil or anger for anger.

What good does anger do?

Have you ever noticed that being angry never makes anything better? I know because I used to have a quick temper. In fact, I was angry more than I wasn’t. Sometimes, I voiced my aggression, and sometimes it was just seething inside me. The problem is that if we have unresolved anger, we either explode or we implode; we either blow up at somebody or we fall apart on the inside. And a lot of times we take it out on a person who has nothing to do with what we’re angry about. It’s just a miserable way to live.

But getting upset is not the way God wants us to fight our battles. Instead, when somebody hurts us, we can choose to trust God with our pain or the injustice meted out to us and overcome anger with good. But there is true freedom in doing the right thing. And we can choose to do what’s right no matter how we feel. We have to stop being afraid of hard things and trust God because the truth is He will give us the strength and grace to do anything we need to do.

Prayer brings harmony

It’s so much harder to live with anger than it is to live with God’s harmony, love and joy. And we have to take responsibility for our behaviour. One of the best things we can do is to learn how to pray for the people we’re mad at. The first thing to do when somebody mistreats you is pray: God, this hurts and I’m angry about it, but I know my anger won’t solve the problem or change the person. So I trust You. I’m going to stay sweet and keep being nice. I’m going to keep doing good because that’s what You put me here for. And as I trust You and go about blessing others, I’m going to watch You vindicate me and do what needs to be done in this situation. That is the way to fight and win your battles!

Make a decision today that you’re going to refuse to live angry. Ask God to help you take control of your feelings. And if you do act out in anger, confess it and God will forgive you. There will be a lot of battles in life, but God has an amazing plan for you! As you put your focus on Him as your Vindicator, it becomes easier and easier to conquer angry feelings and walk in peace. And you will be a blessing as you overcome evil with good!

How to say if you’re a people pleaser

One of the most freeing things that I have learned in my years with my God is how to break free from being a people pleaser. Now, I am not talking about living a healthy, unselfish life where we make the needs of others a priority. I am talking about a pressure to perform—an unhealthy drive to be accepted and approved by others. It is a desire so strong that it influences and controls the majority of our decisions.

I call this needing an “approval fix.” Like an addict who “needs” a certain drug, people pleasers have a need to be liked by other people. And when they can’t get their “fix”…watch out! The “withdrawal” symptoms kick in and they become unhappy, depressed and even angry.

Are you candid with others?

One of the greatest signs of being a people pleaser is not being completely truthful with others about who we are. We say we like things we really don’t like. We go places and say we are enjoying it, when in reality, it is the last place on earth we want to be. And we nod our heads in agreement to things we don’t feel right about in our hearts. Instead of telling people the truth about our desires, feelings and thoughts, we develop a pattern of telling others what we think they want to hear in order to remain accepted. There are also times when people are dishonest about their true thoughts and feelings because they are trying to keep the other person “fixed” or happy.

Do you do stuff out of duty or willingness?

Another big indicator that we are people pleasers is that we do things out of a sense of duty instead of desire. In other words, we do something for someone because we feel obligated, or it is expected of us—we are afraid if we don’t do it, others will get mad at us or think badly of us. But doing things because we feel forced to do them or are fearful of being rejected is doing things for the wrong reason.

Now, please understand that we do not have to want to do everything we need to do. There are some things that we are required to do, and if we don’t do them, problems develop. I may not want to or feel like cleaning my house, but if I never clean it, things will become disorganized, out of order and very stressful. You and I may not want to do the laundry, but if we never do it, we will eventually run out of clothes to wear.

So there is a balance in this area that God will help us find. We just need to remove the pressure and expectations from others so that they do not feel obligated to do something for us. In the same way, we need to get out from under the pressure and expectations of others to do something for them.

Are you persistently chess piece your own genuine needs?

God may not show you the complete picture of what He’s calling you to do before you even get started. But He will guide each small step that you take.

I love that they didn’t try to go where God wasn’t leading them. Just imagine how much better our lives would be if we did the same thing!

You know, it’s not the end of the world when we make a mistake or get thrown off track because God will always help us find our way back. Don’t let your mistake mark the end of the road, but rather a road to a new beginning.

Think what a beautiful thing it will be to look back at your life and remember the journey you’ve had with God; to celebrate the ways He has worked in your life.

I want to share a bit of my journey with you because if you can see where I started in comparison to my life you see today, you’ll realize: There’s no way it could happen without God! But with God, all things are possible.

Through all this, God had stand firm in my life because I was in love with him. Sometimes, God doesn’t always answer the way we want Him to. But He stepped in at the point of our weakness and gave us the strength we needed.

Therefore, it is my longing for sainthood as God’s calling on my life to help people grow up spiritually so they can have the abundant life to have. That means I can’t just tell them what they want to hear. When I stand before God to give an account of what I’ve taught, I’ll be responsible for telling folks what they need to hear, not just what makes them feel good. Don’t let other people make your decisions. Follow God’s destiny for your life. Find what’s going to fulfill you—and start embracing all that you’re meant to be. Choose boldness!