By: Emily Miller
I was 13 when I began my daily quiet time. I was a brand new teenager who had decided to become a proper adult by having my own relationship with Jesus. I would get up at 6:00 each morning and read for 5 minutes, enviously peeking at both my mom’s coffee and her ability to spend a good hour in the same scriptures that so easily bored me. I kept at it and 15 years later I sip my own coffee, read for a good hour, and do indeed have my own relationship with Jesus.
I think it’s safe to say that I was an unusually strong-willed child. Once I decided to do something I would simply do it. This is my great strength and fatal flaw. I am highly inflexible. My besetting sins… beset me. When I succeed, my pride is impenetrable. When I fail, my shame is inconsolable.
I thrive on routine. One of my good habits is to do everything I have to do before I do everything I want to do in a day. So I would get up at 4:00 and have my quiet time, school (yes, I was home-schooled), and chores done by 11:00 so that I could be with people, read books, and play games the rest of the day. When my day worked out like I planned, all was right with the world. When life didn’t conform to my routines, I would unravel.
When I was 13 I’d get up before the rest of my family, drink tea, and watch the sun gold up over the surrounding Mongolian hills as I read in peaceful stillness.
At 28 I get up to the sound of one or both of my children crying for my attention. I make coffee as I fight with my cat (who takes every opportunity to drink from my cup), and my reading is interrupted by diaper changes, toddler pleas for help, and various small disasters as the Florida sun blazes through my window.
Times have changed and, thankfully, so have I.
I have read the Bible almost every day for over half my life. How have I managed to have such an inflexible habit?
By learning to be flexible.
I used to think of discipline and flexibility as opposites. I was either disciplined or I was flexible. But if your discipline is not flexible it just won’t last. You move across the world, you start college, you get a job at Starbucks, you have babies and if you need to sit in a certain spot, at a certain time of day, for a certain amount of time, and drink a particular drink from a certain kind of mug listening to only certain sorts of sounds… you just won’t make it.
This was my dilemma. And it was a real struggle for me.
I would feel guilty if my quiet time was five minutes instead of an hour. My whole day was a waste if my thoughts wandered when I should have been getting something out of Leviticus. I would get wildly angry if anyone dared interrupt me when I was spending time with God.
Thankfully my fiercely guarded habit was to read the Bible and the Bible tends to change the reader. The Gospel began transforming me in three steps:
1) I began to understand grace.
Six hours of zealous prayer in the morning could not make God love me more and if I never read the Bible again He would not love me less. Christ lived the life I simply cannot live, He died the death I deserve to die, and now “I myself no longer live but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am not one of those who treats the grace of God as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.” Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)
2) I began to understand my quiet time as a tool instead of the end goal.
Why do you exercise? To get healthy, to lose weight, to add some needed endorphins to your mood etc. Exercise is a means to an end.
Why do I spend time with Jesus? Because I need Him. He transforms me by renewing my mind with His word, scripture has begun to shape my worldview instead of my worldview shaping scripture, and I find daily comfort in those ancient words. My quiet time is simply a tool to help me spend time with and become more like Jesus.
3) I began accepting interruptions.
When quiet time was dethroned from an act I do to make Jesus love me to a means of drawing near my Savior, I became flexible. Guilt lost its power and I was thankful when I had an hour with Jesus and indifferent when it was a rush job. I stopped demanding certain insights or feelings and just asked that Jesus would help me understand and obey His Word. And when my children interrupt me 27 times I see it as an opportunity from Jesus to love Him through kindly focusing on their needs. If the goal of time with Jesus is to become more like Jesus then a dirty diaper is no obstacle to that goal.
At the end of the day I’m still me. I’ll lean on the side of overly disciplined. At best, I’m very flexible for a rigid person. What’s easy for me might be very difficult for you but we’re the same in our need for grace.
Be creative in figuring out what it would take to have a daily time with Jesus based on who you are, the demands on your time, and your particular season. You can usually find time for the things you really want to do in a day; so, if your desire is to be with Jesus, He’ll help you find the how, when, and where.
Let’s remember that everything we do as Christians is simply a joyful, awe-filled response to what Christ has done. A quiet time does immense good for us, but it cannot make us good.
Emily is a mother of two young children and has little time for much else. She began a daily quiet time at age thirteen, and her relationship with Jesus has remained a constant for Emily as she went from being a missionary kid in Mongolia, to working as a barista in Oregon, to marrying and starting a family in Florida. Emily enjoys writing poetry, dancing while doing housework, watching storms, and laughing at her husband, children, and herself.