I wrote this over a year ago (for possible publication). I feel like it goes hand-in-hand with my previous post, "Abiding (and not)" . . .
"For many years I was bothered by the thought that I was a failure at prayer. Then one day I realized I would always be a failure at prayer; and I've gotten along much better ever since."--Brother Lawrence
There I was. My four-year-old wanted me to read to her; my two-year-old wanted me to work a puzzle with him; my infant wanted me to feed her; my husband wanted to talk to me about our church; my mentally handicapped neighbor came to tell me (as he did every day) that the mail was here; my sister called me to see how motherhood was going; my dinner was in the process of being made on the stove; my infant had now spit up all over me, so I needed a shower . . . Anyone else been there? I was in desperate need of time alone with God to help me regroup and be rejuvenated, but how in the world was I supposed to "be still and know that He is God" in the midst of ALL THIS??? It didn't look like it was going to happen anytime soon.
Now nearly eight years into motherhood--with time alone in the bathroom even hard to come by!--I only have faint memories of lingering one-on-one time with God. But it's been good. Really good. I have grown in my love and relationship with God more in these last eight years than I ever did before. While a lot of that is attributed to the way that parenthood changes your understanding of God and the way He loves His children (another wonderful story for another day), much of it is attributed to the fact that my relationship with God became much more of an integral part of my daily life. Nothing was compartmentalized anymore; it all just ran together, overlapping and intermingling. My task-orientedness, mind you, was driven crazy by this! It was just what I needed, though, to shake up my preference for routines and rituals and to be reminded that my desire to be in control of my life is sinful--not to mention unsuccessful.
Prior to becoming a mommy, I could pretty much decide when and where and for how long I wanted to sit and read my Bible and commune with God, and it was wonderful! My soul is filled in times like these, and they are still so vital to me. But even though those retreats and long talks with God are now a lot less frequent, I have found that we are conversing even more these days. It's more constant. I don't mean it's without interruption; I mean it just naturally flows throughout my day, like any other conversation, except it's usually not out loud. I ask Him for help with things like my anger, selfishness, and impatience; I ask Him to give me wisdom in guiding and discipling my children; and I thank Him for continually lavishing His love and blessings upon me, even though I so often take them for granted. We talk about how I get tired of doing dishes and laundry but how that is one of the ways I serve my family and, therefore, am serving Him. We talk about my struggles with priorities and pride. I ask Him why I can't seem to get it all together (Whatever that means?!) but then turn right around and ask Him why in the world my life is so easy.
When I read John Ortberg's book The Life You've Always Wanted a few years ago, I was greatly encouraged at his sentiment for a mother with young children. "To her," he says, "reading the Bible and praying were the only two activities that counted spiritually. As a mother she felt that 'time alone' was an oxymoron. In this the church had failed her. She had never been taught to see that caring for two young children, offered daily with expressions of gratitude and prayers for help and patient acceptance of trials, might become a kind of school for transformation into powerful servanthood beyond anything she had ever known . . . Our season of life--whatever it is--is no barrier to having Christ formed in us . . . Whatever our season of life, it offers its own opportunities and challenges for spiritual growth. Instead of wishing we were in another season, we ought to find out what this one offers."
Wow. What a burden lifted from those of us who have felt so guilty because we weren't having our daily hour-long quiet times before sunrise each day! (Of course, that didn't happen even before I had kids. I'm just not wired for mornings.) I believe that God has love and grace enough to release us from using this as our dominant measure of personal spiritual growth. I also believe that He would rather have an ongoing conversation with us, rather than us keeping a once-a-day appointment (if that's where it ends). Isn't this just as true in each of our human relationships? I mean, who wants to have a once-a-day sit-down meeting with your husband or best friend and just leave it at that? No more conversing until the same time the next day. It's just not the way a relationship naturally flows. We like to talk to those with whom we are the closest about every little thing happening during the day. How much more so should it be with our Creator, our Savior, our Father?
In the same context, however, there are certainly instances when we really need to have a sit-down conversation with our husband or best friend. Those times are equally as important as the discussions throughout the day, just as our getting alone with God for undistracted conversation is incredibly vital. As I said before, I greatly grow and learn from those solitary times spent with my heavenly Father. But that doesn't mean that growth cannot occur in our relationship if I haven't visited my prayer closet in several days. God promises never to leave me, and I am both aware of and comforted by His presence. I am even blessed to be able to glean from the in-depth Bible studies I enjoyed in my previous life (i.e. pre-mommyhood), the Holy Spirit often bringing to mind at a particularly pertinent time these passages of Scripture that I once read or memorized. I've even found myself with a song stuck in my head, and when I stop to really think about the lyrics, I discover that it is just the message I needed to receive from God at that moment. Again, the Holy Spirit at work!
God speaks to us in many, many ways. Sometimes it's through nature, sometimes through other people (especially children), sometimes through the Bible, sometimes through trials, sometimes through silence, and sometimes through commotion. The communication is not limited to one method during one particular hour of the day. God longs to commune with us throughout the entire day--no matter how crazy busy it is! It is a relationship, after all, and just as in other relationships, the more time we spend with this Person, the more in-depth we will know Him.