My soul has felt dry for a long time.
When I was in highschool, I regularly had “quiet time,” “devotions,” or otherwise dedicated time with God that included a Bible, a journal, and a cup of coffee. I read through the entire Bible multiple times, keeping track of my accomplishments. I journaled prayer requests, and all that I was learning, and I made a point to share it with others. I felt close to God. If I missed that quiet time (which obviously should be early in the morning, when the air is cool and the streets are quiet), I lived with a sense of guilt all day until I could get it checked off. If I missed a day, two days, or a God-forbid a week or more, I felt the need to confess to someone. And again there was the guilt. But for the most part, in those days, I held it together and enjoyed great communion with God. Right?
Skip ahead to college: two years of exclusive Bible and ministry training. The Bible became my text book, a subject of study and discussion, the topic of late night paper-writing and mid-term projects. I was in the Word every day… classes, homework, conversations. But it was hard to wake myself earlier in those to days, to find time away 6-8 roommates, in a one-building campus, in the middle of a Wisconsin winter. Even if I found the time, and the place, to read just a little more than what was already required and to quiet my mind enough to do so was a task. So there I was at Bible School, and yet I wasn’t having my quiet time. And the cloud of guilt rolled in.
School ended. Real life began. Enter working two jobs, involvement in youth ministry, and wedding planning to boot. Then life as a newly wed, coordinating schedules between 3 jobs, 2 people, and 1 car. I kept waiting to get in a groove for quiet time. But I didn’t have that quiet spot under the tree in the front yard of my high school home. I didn’t have the simplicity of life that I had then.
And life hasn’t gotten more simple since then. Or maybe it’s simple, but that doesn’t mean that carving out time is easy. I thought maybe when my daughter was born I would have the time because I would be staying home with her. All those hours feeding a newborn?! They would be prime time for Bible reading and prayer. Are you kidding me?! For the better part of three months, feeding her was an active endeavor of juggling a nipple shield, finding a good latch, and trying not to drown her in the process. And when she did get it, I would flop back, exhausted, closing my eyes or staring absently at the television. Watching TV instead of reading my Bible? I must be a terrible person, or a least a terrible example of a godly mother to my impressionable infant.
So I decided I would wake up early for some quiet time. But I hadn’t slept through the night for almost eighteen months and could hardly drag myself out of bed in the morning to feed my hard-working husband or to answer the cries of a dependent baby, let alone read, study, and pray.
The number of hours of sleep might have increased, but now so has the activity. Now I’m answering questions and playing pretend and reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and potty training. My mind is constantly racing with all that needs to get done, and I can hardly quiet it enough to plan a weekly menu or write out a shopping list, let alone sit down to read and study. And those mornings I plan to wake up early for some quiet? They seem to inevitable follow a night of sickness or nightmares, or a morning of an extra-early riser.
Sometimes I tape up index cards with verses written on them. Reading them is encouraging and refreshing and helpful until they get spattered with dishwater or toothpaste, and I become so used to seeing them that they become a fixture on the wall and I stop reading them. I scrape tape residue off the window, and with it my hopes for communing with God.
As I listed in my August Goals, one of my ambitions this month is to read an entire book. (Based on the saga depicted above, I’m sure you’re gaining an understanding of how reading one book in a month is a true goal to be attained for me.) I decided to pick up a read I has started a year ago. Well, it must have been over a year ago actually. As I flipped through the pages a business card for a gastroenterologist fell out. Ah yes, the last time I picked up Glimpses of Grace was when I was hospitalized over a year ago for issues caused by a malfunctioning gall bladder (thanks alot, pregnancy). I started reading from the very beginning again, and other than recognizing the chapter on “smurfing the gospel” and a few anecdotes, it has been like reading it for the first time. Each evening before bed I eagerly pick it up to read a little more before hitting the pillow. It’s full of truth – verse upon verse of God’s truth. And it’s full of real life – scenarios, frustrations, disappointments that I can relate to. And the beauty of this book is how it brings them together. It’s not a cutesy verse here and there, or a proof-text solution to an issue. No, it’s the meat of the Gospel of Christ over and over with real life implications for a homemaker.
My dry soul is being refreshed once again as the beauty of God’s grace penetrates my busy brain. My heart is opening, softening. The cloud of guilt is lifting.
Your spiritual life is not restricted to early mornings before the noisemakers in your life wake up. If you feel that God meets with you only when the house is empty or quiet, you’ll view every noice and every noisemaker as an annoying distraction to your communion with God. Or worse — there are times when I’m tempted to think of my whining toddler or ringing doorbell as obstacles that Satan has put in my way to take my eyes off Jesus. (Glimpses of Grace, pg.53)
Peace and quiet are needed. In fact, “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:15-16). He took time away from the crowds, from the responsibilities, from all of the good things he was doing to spend time with His Father. Mary took the time to sit at Jesus’ feet as Martha was “preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal” (Luke 10:38-42), and Jesus says “Mary has chosen the better part.” (Oh, I’m such a Martha.) But is our communion with God limited to those times in the wilderness? To when Jesus himself is sitting in your living room? To when you have a quiet morning and a comfy chair and cup of coffee?
Peace and quiet are not ultimate. Activity and responsibility are not ultimate. Because Christ is ultimate, the loss of any of these things — solitude or circus — makes no difference in the sufficiency of Chris or in his ability to give you everything you need for life and godliness. (Glimpses of Grace, pg. 55)
My communion with God is not limited to quiet time with Him. For sure, God is there, in the quiet. (And how I thank God for those moments of quiet! And I say this as I sit on the patio at Panera, sipping a decaf and enjoying a cool breeze, with a morning to myself to process these things!) But He is also in my chaos… whether it’s chaos of activity or of my mind.
No matter what your chaos looks like, dear daughter of the King, rest today in the sufficiency of Christ Himself. He’s there with you… In the classroom, or on the job. Rocking the baby, or caring for an aging parent. Surrounded by noise and runny noses, or sitting all alone with an aching heart. You don’t have to go anywhere to find Him, to meet Him, to commune with Him. Take those moments, make those moments when you can. But let go of the guilt of your communion with God having to look the way our Christian culture has prescribed, and be free to live communing continually with the One who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
And if “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39), then surely whining toddlers and ringing doorbells won’t either.