Our daughters are at a teen retreat with their church youth group this week. On Sunday afternoon, they were busy doing laundry and packing for the trip.
I’ve noticed that one of them shares my list-making gene; whenever she travels, she makes a list of all that she needs to pack ahead of time. (I actually don’t ever make a packing list, but I do make lists for almost everything else! The one I’m currently working on is what this particular daughter needs for a first-aid/medical kit for college. Exciting stuff…)
It’s so satisfying for me to check the box or cross off items on a list. And unfortunately, sometimes that’s how I feel about spiritual disciplines…things like Bible reading, prayer time, Scripture memory, etc.
It’s like, “Okay, I have to get this done, then I can move on with my day.” Perhaps subconsciously I even think, “God will like me better and bless my day more if I’ve done these certain things.”
Do you ever feel that way? Maybe it’s because my personality tends to be performance-based. I feel that I’m loved when I’m “good,” when I perform in the way that’s expected of me.
Regardless, the following paragraph really resonated with me. I read it in the book The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman.
“Practicing a spiritual discipline is not about trying to earn something, prove something, or win. Practicing a spiritual discipline is more about receiving power to live in the kingdom. It’s about being aware of the presence of God and putting myself there on purpose so that my character might be transformed. It’s about training my mind and my will to practice what my heart deeply believes…It’s about becoming the person I already am in Christ.”
Our purpose in spending time with Jesus each day is not to check a box or make us feel better about ourselves. It’s to know God better and to grow to be more like Jesus. I don’t want to look at it as a “have-to in order to get God’s favor” but a “get-to because fellowship with my Savior is sweet.”
I like that she uses the phrase “training my mind and my will.” We won’t always jump out of bed and be ready to dive right into God’s Word. But as we establish a habit of spending time with Him, it can become an integral part of our day.
But just because I have that daily habit doesn’t mean I’m a spiritual giant for the rest of the day. Sometimes I can get up from reading my Bible and praying and five minutes later I’m frustrated with my husband and annoyed with my kids and I think, “Well, what good did that do me? I’m still the same person that I was before.”
That’s when we have to remember that spiritual growth is a process. It’s just like when we bury a seed in the ground and wait and wait and wait for just a small sliver of green to poke through. Sometimes we grow very, very slowly. But if we’re allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate our hearts, we can rest in knowing that “…He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.“
Since I read Emily’s quote last week, I’ve been trying to approach my time with the Lord a little differently. Instead of making it about me and getting it done, I want to make it about Him. It’s not a task to be accomplished, but a quieting of my heart and a seeking of what He would have me to learn about Him today.