A little over two years ago I was slowly emerging out of survival mode. I had my first child the previous year and life beyond diapers and nursing was starting to appear again. While at the playground one morning, one of my dear friends bravely asked me the challenging question that had been plaguing me in my own consciousness for months postpartum:
What do you do for your quiet time?
Quiet time, that phrase I grew up with in my conservative, evangelical Christian home that stood for the time you set aside to spend with God through bible reading and prayer, to practice being in God’s presence. I was honest with her and told her that “right now nothing much I’m just trying to survive motherhood, little sleep and working part time.” I asked her what she did. She told me about an app on her phone and we moved on in our conversation. But I still felt the condemnation and weight of shame over not having a better status report.
If she had asked me pre-kid I would have had a glowing response but now all I had was “nothing much” and a healthy dose of guilt regarding my lack of quiet time. I knew it was important and something that I should do as a “good” Christian, and that in fact by not doing it I was robbing myself of opportunities for God to minister to my weary heart. Especially in the midst of such an important transition in my life- motherhood- and the new responsibilities that it entails.
I don’t think this shame over a lack of quiet time is limited to the experience of being a mother. I’ve experienced this feeling before especially at other points of transition: when I started college, started into the working world, got married, climbed up the success ladder at work. We are- as Erica put it beautifully several weeks ago- “in the midst” of many situations, seasons and demands on our time and energy. How can we maintain a relationship with God when we are “in the midst” of so much with seemingly no time and a burden of shame from not living up to a Christian ideal?
After the conversation with my friend, I started attending a bible study and was challenged by a statement from the leader. She very honestly and candidly told our group of moms:
You are more in control of your time than you think you are.
I was incredulous. Doesn’t she realize how hard it is to do what I do and that I have no time? I’m lucky if I can get away by myself just to get a shower most days! But then my heart softened and I realized her point. Yes my life is very full and sporadic at the moment. But I do still have a modicum of control. I do still have time, even if it is very little, to give to something.
I am encouraged afresh by the parable of the woman with the mite (Mark 12:41-44), or as it is in the ESV, the two small copper coins. Usually when I’ve heard this passage discussed it has to do with tithing but I think it can also be understood beyond monetary devotion to describe the offering of ourselves. The woman gave two mites which we are told were worth essentially nothing in that culture. We are also told that she is a poor widow, again, something that was worth essentially nothing in that culture. And yet Jesus praises this picture of sacrifice and worship because this seemingly insignificant amount that she gave was all that she had to live on, all that she had to give for her seemingly insignificant life to exist. And it was not worth nothing to her; it was costly and significant to her (2 Samuel 24:18:25).
The Lord knows how much time I have in my day. How I chose to squander it in escapism on my phone or by submerging myself in my part time job. How I relish it with a nice shower or quality time with my husband and kids. How I choose to sleep rather than do the dishes not out of slothfulness but out of necessity. And He knows that when I choose to give him my seemingly insignificant block of fifteen minutes of undivided attention that maybe all I have to give that day. And it is costly to me. And he loves it and rejoices in it. The Lord sees the heart; my intentional gift matters, not because of the quantity or size of it, but because I am freely giving this costly gift and He wants to be with me.
The point I am trying to express is not the need to make time in and of itself, creating another legalistic check list for shame. The point of carving out this time is to be with Jesus; talking to him, listening to him, just being with him. Quiet time and devotions are terms that carry a lot of guilt and shame baggage because it has become a place of legalism in the Christian community. Kristen Terry beautifully liberated many of us during the women’s retreat by encouraging us to consider changing the way we talk about spending time with God. She told us, simply and plainly, in the moments we spend with the Lord to:
Just allow God to love you.
That’s all quiet time is supposed to be about anyway, not our achievement or failure of completing another check off our list.
May we not forget the intent of quiet time in the first place and confuse the execution of this discipline as the means of grace. Quiet times are a tool to connect us with our loving God who wants to hear from you and speak to you. I believe the Lord would look us in the face, look me in the face and simply say:
I just want to be with you, whatever that looks like right now, and love on you.
God knows our crazy lives. He knows how much time we actually do or do not have. He loves you and wants to be with you. Come to Him free from shame with whatever offering of time you may have to give and allow Him to love you in it.
~ Lauren L.
Need some time and space to spend some time with the Lord? Join us on Wednesday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. for a time of silent, contemplative prayer. Bring a Bible, journal, blanket/jacket and an expectant heart.