And the Lessons They’ve Taught
I was thirteen when I 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 raced through the allotted 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 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 seasons, 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 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 try to live up to anyone less than Jesus, anyway?
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 wore myself out, and I felt that Jesus was always a little disappointed in me.
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 Father. When my boyfriend left, 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 that 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 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 matters most. In rain and shine, sickness and health, in hospitals and hotels, I would spend 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 my 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 a better representative of Jesus to my coworkers. I needed Him to satisfy my soul and free me up to be a friend so that I didn’t use people to meet my soul’s hunger. And now, 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 enraged toddlers, and then continue my life-nourishing 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 own plans for the day.
Better and Better.
The most surprising thing I’ve discovered about quiet time is that it’s growing more and more enjoyable for me. The Bible has become more compelling, helpful, and satisfying as I read! I’ve experienced how eagerly God invites me to tell Him everything and I've seen again and again how wisely He answers my prayers, so I now love praying! I more easily see my sin, more readily repent, and more quickly surrender it to God’s amazing grace. Most sweetly, my sense of His disappointment has been replaced with the reality of Christ’s unfailing love.
If this is day one of your quiet time habit, (or the first day of your fifteenth attempt) I’m so excited for you! You might become impressively disciplined or struggle for years with consistency. You might regularly get a lot out of your Bible readings, and you might not. Quiet time might be restful and encouraging and it might just as often be confusing and frustrating. No matter what, you’ll be reading the very words of God, encountering Jesus, and gently led by the Holy Spirit. There is no limit to the beauty, joy, peace, wisdom, hope, and goodness of Jesus. There is no waste in spending time with Him.
Emily 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.
I love this! I do relate. Quiet time used to be a service I did to “be good” or “for Him”, now, with three children and every day different, quiet time as become much more flexible. Still a time I need and crave but it looks very different than 30 minutes alone talking to God. It could be praying in the shower, or worship music, or silent prayers through out the day. I still treasure the hour alone with Jesus when I get them but am so grateful He’s not limited to that place. He meets me all throughout the day.