Last week I had a decision-making dilemma. I sat down in the shower to pray, as one does, and started asking God which way to go. Immediately it dawned on me that lately I only pray when I need some guidance. As in, “should I do A or B, God? What say you?” There’s nothing wrong with asking God for guidance, but it revealed a deeper issue for me. I’m not doing well at finding time for God. And honestly, with the hubbub of running a house filled with small children, it’s no wonder.
After I realized I’d been treating God like a genie in a bottle, I stayed thoughtful for a while to assess where I’m at. I used to spend an hour or more reading my Bible or a meditative book. I enjoyed that time, wrote in my journal, and felt at peace and centered throughout my days. But that was when I was single or newly married, and nobody depended on me. It was easy. It came natural. There were no obstacles.
Here’s what I learned when I realized I was treating God like a genie in a bottle.
1. I don’t have to memorize 5 verses a day to be spiritually minded.
Back when spiritual disciplines were easy, I had so many opportunities to memorize scripture and talk about new things I’d learned. Looking back, I think I equated how “good” I was doing by how much time I devoted to godly pursuits. Never mind that reading the Bible doesn’t make you Godly. God makes you godly. It goes without saying that reading a new Christian book every week won’t make me a “better Christian” but it can feel that way. Or at least, when spiritual life stops looking that way, it can feel that we don’t measure up to our old selves. I used to do this and that and now I am so frazzled I fall asleep praying instead of stay awake praying. I think we need to quit comparing this season of life with our last, and look for new ways to commune with God throughout the day.
2. It shouldn’t be all about me.
When I only prayed about my decisions it became all about me. Whether I was happy, on track, or doing the right thing. Instead of leaving room for God to put compassion in my heart for others, I just wanted to improve my own situation. I could have read the Bible and thought of friends or family whom I might better love and serve, instead I went to the verses that spoke about my own situation. It was selfish and ultimately made me dissatisfied. Thinking about me didn’t make me feel better. I didn’t have more peace. In fact it was the opposite.
3. It’s not about doing everything perfectly right.
If you’re a Type-A active woman then you can probably relate to this. It feels horrible to make a mistake. In my mind there’s just no point in being wrong when you can be right. Why take a risk when you can get an assured outcome? That isn’t how life works with God. God told Abraham to follow him to the country where He’d lead him. He didn’t say which country, he just asked for trust and obedience. It’s hard for me to trust unless I am assured things will end well, so by trying to ask God about every little detail I was essentially saying, “Tell me exactly what to do so everything will be perfect all the time.” Not gonna happen. If it was, we wouldn’t need to have faith in the first place.
4. I don’t need a fortune teller.
I remember being torn about something in college and going to a friend for advice. Should I do this or that, I asked him. He looked at me with gentle sensitive eyes (when he could have smacked me and conveyed the same message) and said, “If the Bible is pretty clear about something, there’s no need to agonize about if you should or shouldn’t do it. For example, if it says ‘don’t lie’ then don’t. You don’t need to go asking God whether it’s okay to lie or not.'” I mean…. duh. There is so much in the Bible sharing wise and caring advice we can heed for our own good.
It’s actually a rare occurrence in the lives of those in the Bible for God to speak to them directly with a command. I’m not saying it’s a rare occurrence in the entire Bible, but it is in the life of each individual. When he does speak directly they go blind, go into a coma like trance, and get so scared the angels have to say “don’t be afraid” multiple times just to get them to calm down. So why do I expect that every tiny decision needs a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from God? If I’m honest – and you know I am – I think people go down this path out of fear they’ll do something wrong or out of sheer laziness. Sure, we want to have peace about our big life decisions! Of course we’ll pray about major changes or areas dear to our hearts!
But we don’t need to get so bogged down in prayer over the basic everyday details of life. It’s why we can ask for wisdom. If your 13-year-old asked you if he could go to the bathroom you’d just stare at him in confused silence. If he asked you to go away for the weekend with friends, that’d warrant a conversation. If we become too “should I or shouldn’t I?” over trivial matters, we’ll be passive and call it patient. We’ll be procrastinating and call it waiting on God.
So, since my stage of life isn’t going to morph back to years ago when I had endless hours and time to spend with God, I have to find a new way forward. Some mothers get up at 5am to spend time with God before the rest of the house wakes up and, during some seasons, I’ve done this. Except not at 5am. That would just never happen. Still, I need to find times of spiritual rest even in a loud household with lots of kids. Here are my thoughts.
1. Re-think your time expectations.
If you used to spend an hour a day, perhaps 15 minutes is okay in this season of life. If it’s not okay for you then you will have to sacrifice other things to fit it in. That is perfectly fine. But so is shortening your time for prayer, meditation on the Bible, or reading. The Bible doesn’t lay out a time frame each of us should adhere to each day and – if you are living in that world – you are operating on false guilt.
2. You don’t have to be alone to meditate.
Yes, the act of silent personal meditation on scripture may require alone time with no distractions. However, if you have a scripture or song on your heart you can meditate on it – or “chew” on it as my pastor says – throughout the day. In fact, this is how I’ve learned some important life truths. When you think about a particular verse or thought throughout the day, you’ll see how often biblical truths apply to your daily mundane life.
3. Read with the kids.
We recently purchased the Jesus Storybook Bible* and love it. It has great illustrations that are appealing to the younger and the older, and the stories are excellent. Each time I read a new one I’m touched by a new thought. It isn’t the Bible verbatim so it’s like a child friendly translation and it is profound. I’m not reading it as Scripture, but the principles are spot on and it’s a great way to bring in the spiritual life without having to carve out time that just doesn’t exist. There are many other books, movies, DVDs, and CDs that tell the Good News. We have a CD, Big Stories for Little Ones*, that we listen to almost exclusively in the car and the kids love it. This CD makes me cry every time I listen to it and if you like folky acoustic music it’s a win win for everyone.
4. Do a daily devotion.
If you’d like a way to make sure you read or study something each day, why not subscribe to an email devotion? I get Streams in the Desert (so so good) in my inbox daily and I love it. It’s short, packs a punch, and always delivers food for thought. It isn’t necessarily a feel good devotion, as in butterflies and rainbows, but each day is a compilation of thoughts, poems or stanzas from saints, scholars, and missionaries of old. And it’s amazing how timely these emails can be when I submit to reading them daily.
Maybe you are great at carving out time for God, and if so please share how you manage this in the comments. Perhaps you’re great at meditating on scripture throughout your normal day. I bought these scripture cards recently, though I haven’t printed them out yet, and think they are a great way to bring some faithful reminders into your day in a natural way.
So lay it on me… am I the only one who thinks finding time for God is challenging?
*Affiliate links are used. If you make a purchase I get a small percentage at no extra charge to you.