Some of you who read this blog know I was raised in the Church, and have always struggled with how much… whatever I was “supposed” to do. Fill-in-the-blank for whatever: Bible-reading, “quiet time,” prayer, service.
I have not, like some Christians, ever felt compelled by my church to do more. I only see new perspectives that make me reevaluate what I might be doing, or not doing.
(If you’ve been hanging out a while you’re probably also aware that “reevaluation” is for me sort of a cross between a running-gag and a need in my mind).
Right now I’m thinking about “spending time with God,” something that (rightly) is portrayed as necessary for spiritual growth, and frequently seems to involve chunks of time alone.
I am not the only mother of pre-schoolers to confess this is not a regular practice.
At a new bible study group I visited yesterday, the study-book brought up the image of God waiting for us to join Him in a special meeting place, and of Him missing us when we don’t show up.
The point was to see God as someone who values us and wants to spend “quality time” together. The idea that the interaction is not just for our benefit. It is a thought-provoking image. And a guilt-inducing one.
I had a new image come to me today (for any, like me, who have seen a certain part of the Lord of the Rings audio commentary).
What if, instead of a meeting in the drawing room, tête-à-tête by the fire, our relationship with the Lord was represented by something more like Frodo and Sam– a quester and his “back-man.”
This image really struck me as I continued to think on it, especially as it put(s) God in the back-man position. This might seem blasphemous to some, but I hope not. The scriptures describe God the Father and the Holy Spirit as our comforter and helper in this journey we are on.
Using Frodo and Sam as the example (the movie does this well, so you’ll still get it if you haven’t read the book) you can see the relationship beginning with a sense of responsibility and valuing one another, growing into camaraderie and an outright love from shared trials and adventures. They are bound together.
While there are times of quiet reflection and conversation, most of the “relationship-building” happens as the pair soldier on together toward their goal.
And suddenly, if I imagine my relationship with God this way, I feel no guilt about “abandoning” Him or our time together if I don’t (can’t!) find a chunk of time to be alone.
I see that my “stopgap” measures of maintaining relationship with Him in this busy parenting season are more than a “temporary expedient.”
By praying throughout my day, memorizing scripture to dwell on, and choosing to maintain a healthy attitude in “trials,” I am involving my life in His, and His in mine. When I delight in his amazing and daily PROVISION (boy, that would make a forever post) I am worshiping Him in complete awe.
God has both set me on my “quest” and come along with me in order to help me. Because he loves me.
I hear his attitude reflected in several of Sam’s lines:
“[You] all alone and without me to help you? I couldn’t have borne it, it’d have been the death of me. Of course [you’re going.] And I’m coming with you. I’m coming too, or neither of us isn’t going.”
And I can feel the significance of grateful tears in that boat. And hear my own voice speaking Frodo’s response:
“It s no good trying to escape you. But I am glad…I cannot tell you how glad. Come along! It is plain we were meant to go together.”
I just discovered your blog today and I must say, I totally GET this guilt-trip thing with “spending quiet time alone with God.”
Fact was, when I had three kids ages 3, 1 & 0–there just wasn’t a whole lotta ‘alone time’ going on with….anyone. I could hardly get to the bathroom alone!
Finally I just let it go. I figured I had spent a good deal of alone time with God while I was single & without kiddos. I had it all stored up in me heart! Whenever I needed it, the Lord would bring things to my remembrance—without me having to tuck away in some silent closet somewhere.
This image of God silently weeping in dejection as we neglect our alone time with Him? You got it, girl. Just another guilt-trip.
Just thought I’d share my experience. Hope it helps. If not, feel free to disregard! :0)
Have a great evening!
p.s. your post gave me a great idea for a blog-post, I may just borrow it.
Guilt in itself isn’t bad. Guilt has a purpose and can be a good motivator– if it comes with a plan of action. I am hesitant to throw something out simply because it makes me feel guilty.
I don’t see God “silently weeping in dejection” over our neglect of him.
What I’m trying to communicate is that it’s not just about us (and our own perceived need). God Himself (imagine!) desires a continuing relationship with us.
And if we plan properly– engage our minds and imaginations– we never have to rely totally on the past. Our communion with him is continuing, only in a different form.
I love a good Lord of the Rings simile…they always resonate with me. I like this idea a lot.
I struggled a long time over quiet times. Regular before kids, nearly non-existant afterwards. I was stuck in the mode of “should” while I was overwhelmed with motherhood and the feeling of “can’t.”
Then I read a great book which God used to set me free from the feeling of “should,” while simultaneously increasing my desire to spend the time with Him. I realized there is nothing I can do to increase or decrease His love for me. Ever. He doesn’t love me any more if I have a two-hour quiet time, fast for three days, and give all my money away. And He doesn’t love me any less if I’ve been up all night with a sick child and cannot drag myself out of bed to read my Bible and pray. IT ISN”T ABOUT ME!!!!! It IS all about His perfect love.
Now I do get up (most days) before my kids and spend time reading my Bible, praying and journaling. I have come to cherish and even crave this time with Him. But it is the desire He has put into my heart. It is my response to His love. It is because I love Him. No more guilt or “shoulds.”
You are so right. I’ve often said that we portray pursuing God as spending a chunk of time alone everyday, yet in what other time period in history (not to mention country, not to mention mommies) have people had the luxury of choose how to spend their time? There must be more than that – namely, remembering that we are with God throughout the day…whatever we are doing, doing it unto Him. Doing things with justice, mercy, and love.
Thanks for these thoughts.
I hopped over here from your comment at my blog. You really made me think about the topic and I wrote two replies (in the comments) to your thoughtful note.
I’m only just becoming familiar with you, but your thoughts are excellent. I’m looking forward to reading more.
Oo, thought-provoking. I love your thoughts. Here’s my response:
I grew up around Catholics. Whenever they asked me what I thought about church attendance (“Can I skip today and still be fine?” – because they knew I thought church attendance was unecessary/insufficient for salvation), I always said, “Going to church is more for you than for God. He’s going to be fine. The question is, ‘Do YOU need to go to church?’ It’s probably a good idea to go when you can, but your standing is still the same.”
I still think that way about church or devotionals. Maybe it’s just my perception, but I really don’t see God crying over it. I can see Him seeing me make choices that affect my life and being much wiser than me about the consequences. I can even see him intervening sometimes. But I just don’t see Him heartbroken for His own sake.
I get touchy about the word guilt. For me, guilt is always bad and the other thing (the good thing) is conviction.
I think devotionals can be really beneficial and I would much prefer to have the discipline to be regular in them to not having them, but I think the most important part of our relationship is the continuing communication: lifting up “popcorn” prayers, thinking, “WWJD?” so to speak, etc. Reading can definitely guide your thoughts towards that, but in my opinion it should really be emphasized that the important thing is to practice the continuing relationship, train yourself to sometimes stop what you are doing to pray or meditate deeply.
Also, for the moms, I’d like to say that loving on your family is an act of worship. In my opinion, acts like these are much more meaningful than sitting in a closet. Alone times are important for refreshment and learning but, for me, true WORSHIP is serving, practicing good character, etc.
Good point! I’ve thought about how unique a time we live in to have such easy access to the Word, but never thought how unique we are to have free time to choose to spend on it.
You know I’ll be the first to concede we need definitions for any discussion/debate ;o)
I’m cool with the guilt/conviction distinction. I usually make my distinction along the lines of what comes with the uncomfortable feeling: if it’s hopelessness, I consider it an attack of the Enemy; if it’s a plan (or the seed of plan) of something I can actually do, I praise God for it, because He is revealing wisdom for me.
And I agree what we do can (and should) be an act of worship (How to Become a saint While Changing Diapers is a great excerpt about that).
But I don’t agree that “popcorn” prayers and WWJD are enough without greater intimacy to go along with them. No more than I think a peck on the way to work and IMing throughout the day is enough to grow a healthy marriage.
Yes, this is what is needful. It doesn’t take huge chunks of time, but it does take being present and mindful wherever you are.
Lol, yes, I know!
Well, could be the “etc.” was the most important part. What would you put in there? Changing your attitude? Going to someone in need?
I find it difficult to equate intimate times with my husband akin to intimate times with the Lord. If I keep it to having meaningful conversations and learning about him and growing in my “marriage” and as a person, I can handle it, but anything beyond that the allegory gets muddy. One of the things I’m learning is to stop and listen to my husband and give him attention when I’m in the middle of something, thanking him for little things, being considerate of him throughout the day (would he like this here? or would it make his daily routine more difficult?) — stuff akin to the prayers and the WWJD thing — and it really does help our relationship. Or maybe I am just too immature as a Christian to understand what the deeper intimacy is.
I think we may be talking about the same thing. The marriage analogy does break down when you get the the sexual level, with God not being a physical being, but otherwise you’ve said just what I mean:
Having meaningful conversations (this implies 2-way communication), being aware of and responsive to His preferences.
Both (I believe) require a level of understanding and connection to fulfill.
“Popcorn” prayers I equate w/ IMing– and that only one-way. We have to be careful of the content to avoid growing self-centered.
I’m not saying that hurts the relationship at all, just that a steady diet of only that will not provide enough nutrition to grow.
We need times when we’ve trained our minds to wait on God (and wait in expectation) for Him to fill his half of the conversation.
The Word comes in here too. All Truth is God’s truth, and He uses “various and diverse” ways to communicate with us, but if we are anxious about something or are hungry to know him more we really should be reading what he wrote for us.
Something I wanted to tack onto the epiphany Catherine offered is the truth: Where much has been given, much will be required.
Even though we may be the “first” with this amazing blessing (Free-time and the whole Bible), we can’t dismiss the new responsibilities the privilege brings.
We must still make wise choices related to it.
Amy, that is helpful. I’m also a bit hesitant to consider God as an emotionally needy Person who tries to motivate us by guilt. (And that’s a big thing to me too, yes guilt can motivate us to do more and better, but it’s not a good long term motivator.)
I also like the fact that “taking care of my family is an act of worshipping my God.” He put me here for a reason, He has entrusted me with them!