Throughout my journey of faith I’ve tried to figure out a way to make my faith more authentic and less stuffy, but that whole concept didn’t always match what old school religion taught me. That meant that I struggled at first with what it looked like to balance my spiritual side with my fun, distracted side.
Part of that struggle was that I was highly intimidated with the term “quiet time” as it relates to the time I spend in communion with God. I was led to believe that any credible Christian woman spent at least an hour each morning communing with God. And I succeeded at it for a time. It about killed me, but I got up early in the mornings and sat in the den before the rest of the house was awake…and I was miserable. Somehow I don’t think God wants my time spent with him to be miserable.
My husband will tell you that I’m not a morning person, so my inability to think at that hour or focus inevitably distracted me, and sent my mind to kids and dogs, wash machines buzzing, phones ringing, days to plan, appointments to make, lists to be made and things to mark off those lists. So I was doomed to the realization that I was a “quiet time” dropout. Oh the shame! So how was I to fit this reality and my square peg of a prayer life in to a round Christian hole?
It doesn’t make it any easier when we compare ourselves to other super Christians around us. I hung out for many years with some pretty amazing spiritual women whom I taught school with at a local Christian school. I spent twelve years working alongside them, and as we journeyed that season together I watched their faith in action, and learned about their prayer habits, and I felt immensely inadequate. I heard stories of them rising in the wee early hours of the morning to sit by candlelight, with their prayer journal and their Bible open…drinking in the sweet word of the gospel and being quiet and still to listen intently to the dove’s voice.
Me…I could barely get my sorry fanny out of bed in time to throw a little makeup on, grab my kids, hand them a Pop-Tart, and race off to school. So you see, I carried a bit of shame with me because my faith didn’t look anything like theirs. Certainly this was unacceptable to God. And being quiet and still isn’t my forte.
Since fun is my middle name, I presumed God was a lot like my earthly father, and was probably unhappy with the fun I brought to work and life. I always joked with my dear friend, and at the time, the principal at my school , Shirley that God sent me to that school to shake things up a bit and loosen those Christian women up. For instance, I would play Patti LaBelle in the car on the way to Fall teachers retreat, which was a far cry from Be Thou My Vision.
I was also often the instigator of pranks, usually directed at Shirley. One of my best pranks was hanging an adaptation of a famous picture of two cherub angels gazing heavenward, with arms crossed on a table in front of them on Shirley’s wall right before a new parent interview. However, this version was highly inappropriate in Christian circles since one of the cherubs held a cigarette between its fingers, and the other clutched a can of beer tightly in it’s grasp. Luckily for Shirley, she found it just in time before these new parents who were considering sending their children to the school walked in for their interview.
On another occasion, (and I gleaned this one from my college days) on the last day of school I strategically placed whip cream on Shirley’s office phone earpiece, waited for the right moment when she came back from lunch…and then called her office. You could hear her yell my name across campus that day when she answered her phone! I think she actually loved the fun I brought there, but man o’ man, this gal was always a bit of a shock to these gentile Christian women.
So you see, I’ve struggled to fit the Christian mold and the guilt I assumed went along with it. Am I just a rebel at heart that is refusing to do things God’s way? Does it mean that I’m doomed to a life of non-communicado with my Heavenly Father? I’m glad to say, no, that’s hardly the case.
What I’m learning is that God doesn’t care if I talk to him for sixty minutes or sixty seconds…he just wants me to talk with him. I recognize now that God welcomes me to pray out of who I am…my feelings, my situation, my desires, my personality, my experiences, and my needs. And if my time reflecting and chatting with him on those topics is in the car, or the shower, or while walking the dog, or jogging on the treadmill, or sitting under a tree being quiet ~ he is just happy that I am making the choice to spend time with him. And if I’d rather write my prayers to him, or sing my prayers to him then he is happy to sit back and read or listen – although he might have to wear earplugs if I sing. Just sayin’.
Who we are and how we were created defines what our prayer time looks like. So my time with the One who created me doesn’t have to be a chore, nor does it have to look like yours. I can take him with me anywhere, and talk to him anytime. That’s what prayer is. Not just asking for things…but talking things over. I just don’t think God is picky about the when and where you meet with him. I mean he’s God! And who cares if people look at me funny when I’m driving in my car and they see tears streaming down my face as I share my heart with my Creator. God doesn’t mind it in the least.
I imagine that at the beginning of time, God could see what life was like in the 21st century, and knows us and is delighted to spend time with us whenever and wherever we can. Now I’m not suggesting that spending time with God shouldn’t be intentional. Nope…it’s definitely important for spiritual growth and a satisfying prayer life. And there is no shame in growing in whatever your adaptation of spending time with God looks like. Discipline is definitely necessary, but it is a positive practice that doesn’t include shame. God is crazy about us, and our prayer performance doesn’t determine his love for us. That would be conditional love, and that’s not how God loves.
I think if you manage your distractions ~ like if you are able to sit for a few moments in quiet, keep a pad of paper next to you so you can jot down things that pop into your head that want to distract you and draw you away…like pick up milk at the grocery store, call the hubby, etc.
And in terms of fun, I think God has an amazing sense of humor and laughs right along with me when I practice fun. And to me, fun is a deeply spiritual thing. It’s a kind of unselfconscious enjoyment of life in the Spirit. It’s abandonment of all things to God that puts me smack dab in the center of learning about grace from the inside and sending it outward.
So now what I’m learning is that I can adapt my quiet time to the best scenario that promotes conversation with the One who created me and still be in the center of my Savior’s arms. And all the while living life serving others with laughter and joy. I think there is fun and grace in everything that is of the Spirit ~ laughter, tears, joy, grief, hard work, mental health days, friendship, rainy days, sick days, golf days, warm summer days, baseball days, learning to change days, football days, or days when you sit in the lap of the Almighty wrapped in his robes of righteousness while peering out to see what he sees. And it can all be enjoyed.
That’s means there is grace and hope for this quiet time dropout.