Thursday, January 28, 2010

Abiding (and not)

Last night in my Small Group, we were challenged to be intentional this week about taking the time to be alone with God, to allow Him to fill us. I have felt spiritually depleted for the better part of the last several years. This doesn't mean that I haven't been in conversation with God or even that I haven't felt close to Him. It just means that I have felt like I'm running on fumes, so to speak. I've been going off of all those years that I used to take time to sit and read the Bible, to dwell on it, to spend concentrated time with God in prayer and meditation. And I have missed it. So much.

I have often treated quiet time alone with God as my reward for getting everything checked off of my list that day. I figured I would be too distracted to do it before then anyway. (I have a love/hate relationship with my task-oriented self.) But I have found time and time again (and again . . . ) that my to-do list will never be completed, and I am merely exhausting myself to attempt it. In addition, by not taking the time to be quiet and still before the Lord, I find myself drawing on my own strength, which is actually weakness. I find that when I do this, my joy and love and patience and even energy are all lacking.

So I sat down this morning at my kitchen table, with a million tasks and ideas swirling around in my head, and I lit a candle and opened my Bible. I started with Psalm 1 and read, " . . . his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers . . . " This reminded me that I am a living being--like a tree--that must be rooted and cared for, nourished.

I decided that I should write some things down, so I went to find my old journal. Found it. Good grief, I started writing in this thing in 1997! Thirteen years and I still haven't filled it. And it's not a very big journal. Again, I was reminded of my inconsistency in my time alone with God. Not that the un-filling of my journal is a direct reflection of my relationship with God over these last years, but it does somewhat serve as a commentary.

I decided to browse the last few pages that actually had writing on them . . .

October 17, 2001 (Yep)--
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me . . . apart from Me you can do nothing . . . If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you." (John 15:4, 5, and 7)

Father, I confess that I have not been abiding (dwelling) in You for some time now. I always have the intention of spending time with You on a daily basis, but I end up doing other things instead. Help me to realize that there will always be "other things" to do and to stop making excuses for my lack of self-discipline. God, give me a hunger and thirst for You and Your Word. The longer I go without it, the more I realize that I cannot live without it. You truly are Living Water! When I haven't had a drink from You in awhile, I begin to try to quench my thirst with other things . . . and I am still thirsty. God, please quench my thirst for You. Help me to abide in You.

Sooooo . . . . obviously this has been an issue for me for a long time! John 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. The image of abiding in Christ is very real to me. When I strive to do things on my own, the fruit is not nearly as sweet.

At the risk of sounding defensive, I will say that it is very difficult for a mother of young children to have quiet time with God on any kind of consistent basis. I struggled for many years with this, feeling that I must not desire it badly enough. But then God ministered to me and told me that this season of life is simply more demanding than other seasons might be. Babies and toddlers require the vast majority of a mother's time as well as the greater part of her physical, mental, and emotional being. In John Ortberg's book The Life You've Always Wanted, he specifically speaks to these mothers and declares that the Church has done them a great disservice by making them feel that they are "failing" spiritually if they are not consistently spending time alone with God. He says, "Caring for children in and of itself--when it is bathed in prayer and offered with as much grace and energy as we can muster--is one of the most powerful tools for transformation available to us." How beautiful! And how true!

During those years while my children were so little, I fully feel that God sustained me through Scripture I had memorized in previous years, through music, and certainly through other people. And I am so grateful for that. But as I am entering a new season of life--with my children now 5, 7, and 9 years old--I am finding that my need to have this time alone with my God is once again growing greater. And I think that I am doing my husband and my children a great disservice if I don't take the time to do it. My excuses have become a habit, and I would like to put an end to this.

Abide. Abide. Abide.


laurie said...

I haven't had a formal "quiet time" in years, but I actually like it that way, b/c the way I now interact with God feels so much more natural and authentic to me. I "pray" every day as I cook, knit, fold laundry, walk Pal, (Quotidian Mysteries), read (everything from the Bible to novels), rock a baby, talk to friends, have sex with my husband, fight with my husband, etc.

In that sense, cooking IS my prayer, and so are the thoughts and feelings that flow naturally through me while I'm doing these things. Of course, I am sometimes more intentional about recognizing God's presence than other times (which is where my "again and again" enters the picture).

I'm a very physical person - probably more so than most, so sitting in 1 spot with my eyes closed, talking to an invisible Being just doesn't work for me! There's something about integrating my bodily world with God that has felt healing and connecting. I imagine this looks slightly different for each person!

Thanks for posting these thoughts. Obviously got me thinking!

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

Yes, slightly different for me. I am filled and energized by being able to be quiet and still and thoughtful and prayerful for long lengths of time. I really need my alone time. Always have.

My post "Communion in the Commotion" describes my dealings with these things and what I've learned over the last several years.

Emily said...

Wow. Carrie, thank you.

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