I’ve had what I call a ‘quiet time’ almost every morning for the last two and a half years. Come rain or shine or 5am wake up call, I’m up, with my Bible and my journal (now my computer), spending time with Jesus.
You can tell if I haven’t done this because I tend to fall apart somewhere around lunchtime. Somewhere along the way, my mustered up patience runs out and my unwavering confidence is washed away in a flood of doubt and fear as I realize I have very little control over the circumstances in my life.
I NEED this time- time with Jesus each morning to pray through things that are on my mind.
Sometimes it feels like going to a gas station and filling up with the things that I need for the day.
More often it carries the same kind of satisfaction as cleaning out your closet. The relief of taking the clothes that have been cluttering up your life and giving them away- to someone who can actually do something with them.
My quiet times each morning are a time of cleansing. A time of lifting weights off of my shoulders and dumping them in front of God- admitting with a bit of a blush and TONS of relief, that I just can’t handle things on my own.
Over the past two years, God has become my best friend. He’s been the first one to hear about my triumphs and my total failures. He’s been the one to listen as I’ve talked endlessly about jobs and boys and friends and decisions.
In this past year I’ve been learning a ton about prayer and about the power of prayer… but to me, my quiet times each morning don’t feel like prayer. They feel like a much-needed coffee date with my Best Friend and Father- the ones who can actually HELP me with whatever mess I’m mucking through.
But every once in awhile, the quiet times that I love so much, get twisted.
Every once in awhile, the heart behind my steadfast insistence on this time gets skewed and it ruins everything.
Quiet times become an obligation.
They become religious.
When I came home from my first mission trip to Costa Rica, I made some really concrete rules for myself. Rules about boys and drinking- officially and forever sweeping away habits and behaviors that had been hurting me for a long time.
And seeing that as a successful re-entry strategy- as I came home from the race, I tried to do the same thing.
An hour quiet time each day- NO looking at my cell phone at ALL before I talk to Jesus.
No internet past 10pm.
No television. It’s a waste of time.
I will spend an hour a day worshipping.
These are the kinds of rules I began to set for myself as I prepared to come home. These are the kinds of things that I thought would keep me on the path I had put myself on.
But the thing that I didn’t anticipate was that this just wasn’t going to work.
First of all- the change that happened in me this year had absolutely nothing to do with discipline, laws or religion.
The change that occurred in me this year came 100% out of the loving and intimate relationship that Jesus and I got to spend this year cultivating.
It was through my EXPERIENCE of Him, my intimacy with Him, those times in the middle of the night when I was crying and He was right there with me- THAT is what changed my heart so dramatically.
And the other thing that I didn’t anticipate was that I just suck at following my own rules.
My alarm clock is on my phone- so naturally- first thing in the morning, I pick up my phone. And sometimes, I put Jesus on hold for 10-15 minutes as I groggily respond to text messages and rub the sleep from my eyes.
I absolutely have used the internet past 10pm. No excuses… just fact. It happens.
I didn’t anticipate the fact that the Olympics would be going for the first two weeks of me being home, and if I’m not mistaken- that counts as TV- totally destroying my TV regulation.
And if I were God, I most certainly would not want to be ‘worshipped’ for an hour a day out of obligation. Obligation and regulation and law and religion is like oil to worship’s pure and sweet water. It just doesn’t work like that.
It’s funny because although I didn’t anticipate this ‘self-motivation/control strategy’ to fail… God did.
Romans 3:20 says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
And if that’s not the truth, I don’t know what is.
I have been more conscious than ever in these past few weeks of my own shortcomings. I’m not as committed as I wish I was, I’m not as steadfast in my discipline as I want to be, and for crying out loud, sometimes I watch TV!
But what I realized is that these are laws that I put on myself- they’re not from God at all.
And so in falling short of them (which He knew I’d do), I’m not disappointing Him, but rather myself.
And to further destroy my method of operation, it’s not rules and law and religion that changes us anyway!
It’s love and grace and relationship and freedom.
“The righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
And so instead of limiting myself, restricting myself, placing laws over my life and punishing myself when I fall short of them… all I need to do is believe and know the One in whom I’ve placed my faith.
And THAT’S what my quiet times are about- getting to know His heart. Not proving that I’m disciplined.
Spending time with Him because I love him and because I trust him and want to love and trust Him more- not trying to earn good standing in His eyes (or even worse- my own.)
“It’s for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
I’ve been set free for freedom. I’ve been set free from hurt and pain and wounds and mess for the sake of freedom- to live freely as a daughter who has been redeemed and chosen and who is loved above all else.
It’s not for religion, it’s not so that I can prove something and it’s definitely not so that I can fulfill my understanding of the law (or my self-imposed law) perfectly.
It’s for freedom.
And so to celebrate this… I had a quiet time this morning, but it looked a little bit different.
Instead of restricting myself to what I’ve done for the past two and a half years, instead of requiring something of myself (something that was my idea, not God’s,) I threw out the rulebook.
I took my beach cruiser out for a spin and spent an hour riding around my neighborhood.
And as I was flying down the hills, the cool morning air whipping my hair back, laughing with Jesus and just BEING with him, I felt exactly what I was supposed to feeling in the quiet of the morning.