My wife never has hit me.
Uh, well, maybe there was one time, early in our marriage.

The strike came mid-sentence during an everyday conversation I was having with a friend. I happened to repeat a phrase I’d heard my father often use — I referred to my bride as “the” wife. Then . . .

Bam! — out of nowhere! Solid fist-to-shoulder contact.

“I am not ‘the’ wife,” she protested. “You can talk about ‘the’ car, ‘the’ house or even ‘the’ dog, but I never promised that I’d be ‘the’ wife.”

Funny how that simple article “the” can cause such a big bruise.

Truthfully, I’m not the sharpest stick in the pile, but I’ve never needed another charley horse to remind me the wrong use of “the” could cause death to part us a little sooner than I’d planned.

The not-so-subtle nudge has forever reminded me relationships are not a thing to be categorized, summarized or formulized.

Relationships are between two people. They exist without the article “the.” The only proper word preceding words like son, wife, child and friend is “my” — and only when that word can be reciprocal.

It seems our relationship with God should work the same way.

I recently returned to a religious conference center where I’d worked 30 years before and where I’d also met my wife. I returned to attend a religious writing workshop and had a chance to hear a few writers who were eager to reveal to the reading public the latest secret, plan, purpose or principle of knowing God.

Unsure what to think about these plans, I left the conference one evening for a prayer walk through the crisp mountain air. I walked past a place where I remembered engaging some friends years ago in some anxious discussion over the woman of my dreams.

“What do I do? What do I say? What’s the plan?” I asked.

The only agreement we had was the idea that I should ask her out again — which obviously I did. And, obviously, a relationship formed — our relationship.

If my wife and I could forge a lasting relationship, despite having no obvious method, wouldn’t you think the creator who formed us could establish a relationship with us as well?

I know, there are all kinds of books, pamphlets and articles out there that will encourage you to pray a certain prayer, obey certain spiritual laws or principles.

Perhaps these methods provide important starter blocks to begin the race, but if you think about it, people have been having relationships with God long before these “spiritual laws” were written. Conclusion — entering into a relationship with God is really more about falling in love with God than it will ever be about lip-syncing someone else’s programmed prayer.

All I’m trying to say is knowing God is all about relationship. It isn’t about secrets, plans, purposes, formulas or principles or anything that begins with “the.”

Finally, for those of you who are wondering — yes the wife reads my column before it’s printed. Ouch! I meant, my wife, my wife. I guess I’ll always be a slow learner.