And the Lessons they Taught
I was thirteen when I first got up early, curled up on the windowsill of my thick-walled, straw-bale house, and began reading the Bible on my own for the very first time. My goal for the day was to read as long as my mom who spent an hour every morning reading, journaling, and praying. I sped through the reading plan scripture portions in ten minutes, peeked up at my still-reading mom, flipped through the chapters again, and then walked away, frustrated at how little I got out of it.
It’s been over eighteen years since that first attempt at a quiet time. I sit at a sunny dining table, a globe away from my Asian childhood home. An hour of reading and writing out prayers speeds by, frequently interrupted by little boy voices and baby boy shrieks. I’ve had daily time with Jesus as a daughter and now as a mother; in loneliness and while surrounded by children. In both grief and joy, failure and success, I’ve gone to Jesus for years now. For my quiet time to survive all these changes, my understanding and enjoyment of quiet time had to deepen and change:
Comparing is Silly.
At thirteen, I viewed quiet time as the method to become the magnificent woman I planned to be. I was going to be a great woman of God and so I tried hard to imitate the habits of Godly people.
My mom read at 5 am, so I read at 5 am.
Fanny Crosby wrote 6,000 hymns while blind, so the least I resolved to sing a hymn or two each day.
John Wesley prayed for four hours each morning, and my stomach fell. Towards the end of his life, that prayer time lengthened to eight hours a day. I despaired.
I eventually realized that the Lord wasn’t comparing me to other Christians. He doesn’t have a chart ranking each of His children’s importance by the length, depth, consistency, or sincerity of our Bible reading. Why waste energy trying to live up to anyone less than Jesus Himself? So, I started fixing my eyes more on Jesus and less on my image of the ideal Christian.
Refuge, not Duty.
At first, Quiet Time was a favor I did for Jesus. It was my daily, ten-minute sacrifice to pay Him back for dying for me. It was the least I could do.
This perspective made quiet time a miserable duty for me. Bible reading was a chore, I was tired, and I felt that Jesus was always a little disappointed.
Suffering was a great gift to me in this area. When I was forced to leave my straw-bale home, Jesus made Himself my Home. When I moved to America without my family, Jesus met me as my Friend. When my boyfriend left me, Jesus reminded me that He is the Lover Who never tires of me. When I faced the reality that my Cystic-Fibrosis afflicted child may die young; I was held by the Son Who died for my son. When relentless waves of sickness, depression, and doubt rocked my life, Jesus used Bible reading and prayer to strengthen, nourish, clarify, direct, and comfort my soul.
Quiet Time is not a gift I give Jesus; it’s a gift Jesus gives me!
Love is the Point.
For years I was single and rigidly faithful. I worked early mornings so, my quiet time moved from 5 am to 3:30 am. On weekend trips with friends, I’d go off on my own to spend my first moments with the Friend Who mattered most. I was like a postal worker and married people: In rain and shine, sickness and health, I would be spending uninterrupted time with Jesus.
And then I had babies. Babies with hungry stomachs, helpless bodies, and dirty diapers. And Jesus wanted me to love Him by selflessly loving them. And loving them required me to be interrupted in my sleep, my showering, my eating, and in my precious quiet time.
Quiet time is meant to build me up in Jesus’ love so that I can then go and love other people with that same love. I needed that time before work in order to be Jesus’ gentle representative to my coworkers. I needed Him to satisfy my soul and so free me up to be a friend, rather than using people to meet my own heart’s needs. I desperately need time with Him to help me bear the weight of parenting priceless souls.
So, I sleep in a little later to make up for rough nights. I pause to change diapers, kiss bumped heads, deal out peace-making justice between wronged toddlers, and then continue my life-giving time with Jesus. And this new flexibility in my quiet time has made me a better servant to others when unexpected opportunities to show love interrupt my plans for the day.
The most surprising thing I’ve discovered about quiet time is that it’s growing more and more enjoyable for me. The Bible has only become more compelling, helpful, and satisfying as I read. I’m more eager to pray as I experience how eagerly God invites me to tell Him everything and then joyfully answers my prayers! I more quickly run to Jesus as my sense of His disappointment in me is more and more overshadowed by the reality of His love.
If this is day 1 of your quiet time habit or the first day of your 15th attempt at forming a quiet time habit, I’m so excited for you! Not because you’re going to become impressively disciplined, or because you’ll get a lot out of every quiet time, or because quiet time calms us down, but because you’ll be reading the very words of God, encountering Jesus, and daily empowered by the Holy Spirit Himself. There is no end to the beauty, joy, peace, wisdom, hope, and goodness in time spent with Him.
|Emily Miller began having a daily quiet time at the age of 13. This habit has been one of the few constants in her life as she transitioned from being a missionary kid in Mongolia to a barista in Oregon to a stay-at-home mom in central Florida. The Word of God has anchored Emily to Jesus through depression, struggles with doubt, health issues, and her son’s cystic fibrosis.|