Because I grew up in a Christian home, I have always understood that spending time in God’s Word was important. The first time I remember actually trying to be disciplined about it was in 5th grade. We had just moved to a new city to start a new church in the middle of the school year. Everything I had known up until then changed suddenly. We went from a quiet life in the country to life in the suburbs. Part of how I coped with the change was to become very organized. I tried to control my world. I wrote out my after-school routine, which included having a “quiet time,” a time to read the Bible and pray.
Into high school and college, I tried to be disciplined and have a quiet time planned in my day. I still have some of the journals from the things I studied and prayed for back then. This was how it worked until the summer of 1997. I graduated, got married and accepted my first teaching job two weeks before I was in front of students. It was a whirlwind summer and a whirlwind year as I tried to figure out teaching full-time, marriage and how everything was supposed to work together. I remember having lunch with my dad. He asked me how I was doing with my quiet time. My guess is that he already knew the answer to that question based on what I had been telling him about my crazy life. The answer was that I wasn’t. I hadn’t figured out exactly where it fit into my new schedule of adult life. Looking back, I don’t think I truly believed that it had the answers I needed for my marriage and my job. I just saw it as one more thing on my to-do list, and my to-do list was already at max capacity.
When I had my first child and stopped working, I finally felt like I had the time needed to spend in the Word. I started attending my first Precepts Bible study where I learned how to study God’s Word inductively. When my son went down for his morning nap, I got out my notebook and my colored pens and did as much of the study as I could. I fell in love with God’s Word and all the beautiful things He showed us about himself in His Word. As we added more children and moved away from our first house, I wasn’t able to attend the study. Nor was I able to wake up early in the morning and spend time in the Word. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I was face to face with a child who needed something from me. It felt like I had little control over my morning schedule and sacrificing more sleep to get up early was difficult because I was often sacrificing sleep in the middle of the night. So instead of the first fruit of my daylight, I gave God the first fruits of my “me” time. When the kids went down for their naps and before I went down for mine, I spent time in His Word, even if it was only five minutes.
Then I went through a season where God was stripping away all my rigidity and control and discipline. He was chasing after my heart. He was moving me from a place of doing the right thing to a place of being right with Him. I went to Women at Rest at church and learned what it was to listen to the voice of God in my life. Women at Rest was a time at our church for women to gather once a month. There was a large group teaching time followed by at least an hour of silence. During this time, I learned how to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and to trust where He would lead me. Some women came to that time with a list of exactly what they were going to talk about with God. I tried that, but God never seemed to stay on topic. He always had other things for us to talk about, and I learned to trust that He would show up, even if I didn’t have a plan. I remember one time I tried to “squeeze in a quiet time” by having lunch with Jesus in a restaurant. I sat with my pen poised ready to hear exactly what He had for me. But He was stubbornly silent. He knew He didn’t have my heart and that I was just doing my duty. He wanted more from me.
As a result of wanting to hear his voice and his invitation to me, I decided that if God woke me up, I would get up and spend time with Him. I started waking up without an alarm before anyone in my house. The deal was that if He called me, I would go. I enjoyed learning to listen to his voice and excitedly waiting for his invitation. It stripped away all of my self-effort and self-discipline and required me to trust Him to provide what I needed for that day. Some days it was an hour, some days He let me sleep in. I learned to experience His pleasure in me even if I didn’t do my duty and have my quiet time. However, I eventually came to see that this was a poor battle plan. There were too many weak areas for Satan to attack and the flesh to take over. I love to sleep, so rolling over became much easier than getting out of bed. I realized I needed to have a more disciplined approach that was not as susceptible to enemy attack. However I was scared that I would forget the sweetness of hearing Him call my name. I was afraid that I would fall back into rigidity and self-effort and self-discipline and leave my heart at the door.
So now I’m in a season of a new and simple routine. I walk. I have my new morning schedule, and I plan to take a walk every morning. This is kind of like killing two birds with one stone because I get exercise and quiet time with God all in one. God has given to me certain Psalms to memorize. On my walk with my iPhone, I memorize the Psalms He gives me. This allows me to meditate on His Word and hear his voice clearly without all my colored pencils and concordances getting in the way. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my concordances and colored pencils, but that time is separate from my personal date with God each morning…well almost every morning. On the mornings I can’t walk, I still feel His grace and His pleasure and look for Him in other places in my day.
So what about you? How has your quiet time evolved? I’m learning that it’s different for different people. For some people, praying comes very easily. For others, studying the Bible with their colored pencils and concordances get them excited. We have different preferences and different seasons. I’m learning to hear God’s voice and to feel His pleasure in each season. I hope that you will enjoy time with Him and hear his loving voice inviting you to know Him and to be known by Him.
(Here’s where I need your help: I wrote this as part of a chapter for my book From Ice Queen to Princess. I need to know how it makes you feel and what it makes you think about. Is it encouraging or does it just make you feel bad about your quiet time? Please comment and let me know. I would really appreciate your honest feedback!)