A couple of months back I wrote a post about taking stock: re-evaluating life, re-assessing our priorities and pretty much just getting a grip. I aimed to re-approach every area of life with renewed focus: stripping back duty, desperation and befrazzlement (yup, just made that one up, but I like it), with a simpler, more intentional, love for God. Namely living out Paul’s advice that:
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17
And at first, you know, this was going very well.
My approach was fairly simple: I didn’t ban myself from doing anything. No task was off limits. I mean, let’s be fair, I’m still a stay-at-home Mum to three under-fives, an actively participant Vicar’s wife and a closet-creative... Some stuff just gotta get done!
However, what I did decide was that it wouldn’t get done first.
No. Instead of frantically hammering a to-do list the moment the kids were down to sleep, I boiled the kettle. I grabbed my Bible, a notebook, a pen… and I sat down.
Taking advice from a Sermon at church a few months back, (stranger things have happened!), I started looking through the Psalms as the best window into the character of God. Substituting every reference to God with the Name of Jesus, I meditated on one a day. Mulled it over, imagined it, thought it through… Then wrote a letter to Jesus in response.
Nuts, I know, but that’s why you love me! I hope…
Anyway, the idea was that only once I had spent this quality time with Jesus, only then would I move on to do the other tasks on my list. Which sounds ambitious, but was actually a much more efficient way of doing things really. With less time to spare and a more peaceful, focused mind, I spent less time on pointless tasks, and was forced to prioritise those that actually mattered most. The amount of which, interestingly enough, depleted rapidly over time.
You see, the most beautiful thing about intentionally spending time with God is that the more you get, the more you want. The more time you spend in His presence, the less bothered you are by every other little thing competing for your attention. And suddenly, all of those busy, pressing, menial tasks that seemed so vital only a week ago, pale into insignificance. When Jesus becomes the lens through which you view life, and when the Holy Spirit becomes the power through which you live it, you lose your grip, gain your freedom, and find the results are liberating.
So… What went wrong?
I’ll tell you what went wrong.
It was working.
Each night I was excited to open my Bible. I was spending longer and longer in the presence of God. His Word was permeating my day-to-day life; it aided my prayers, calmed my anxieties, gave me inspiration and patience with my children. I didn’t even want to write anymore. I wanted to read. To soak up more and more of God’s Word. I was falling in love with Jesus again and I couldn’t get enough!
So, obviously, I did the most normal, human thing to do.
I stifled it.
I gave myself rules.
I took what was a joyful, relational, organic expression of worship to a living, loving God … And I made it religious.
Each night I had to spend an hour and write in all three journals before I did anything else. I had to read an entire book of the Bible- in order- before I was allowed to write a blog. I had to cover a lengthy prayer list before I could just sit and listen with God.
Had to, had to, had to.
It didn’t take long before the excitement passed. Didn’t take long before I was sitting, frustrated, with an empty mug and an empty journal, my mind continually wandering back to the tasks I wanted to achieve. And it took precisely three books of the Bible before I found myself stuck in Numbers… Which does exactly what it says on the tin. Years, genealogies, instructions, measurements… All failing to invigorate my Spirit at three o’clock in the morning! I mean, I appreciate that these books are incredibly important to historians and theologians, and can help us understand alsorts about alsorts, on some profound or practical level… But to a frazzled night-feeding Mum struggling to keep up with three shoe sizes and a fussy eater?! There was no way my brain was going to let my Spirit pass, whatever level it thought it might eventually get to!
So… Obviously I just skipped it, right?
Of course not!
I was being religious, remember? Absolutely all Scripture is annointed for our guidance and growth… So I dropped my head and drooled in it instead. For at least twenty nights running.
Then I gave up.
Eventually, I had that guilty nudge, some time later, when it dawned on me that I hadn’t opened my Bible or touched my journal for over a month. And finding my rhythm again became something I really should do, without a want in sight.
Sad isn’t it?
Sad… But familiar.
How often do we take the beautiful, invigorating, life-giving freedom to worship that Christ set us free for… And strangle it until it dies? How often do we do it to ourselves? And perhaps more worryingly, how often do we do it to others?
So… What now?
How about we strip it back.
How about we seek God, for the pure joy of it?!
How about we remember that Jesus came to give us life in all its fullness?
How about we follow Him, because He promised that- unlike the religious leaders of the day-, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”?
How about we pray, because Jesus opened the lines of communication to mean that we can actually spend time with the creator, sustainer, lover and Saviour of the world, in Him, through Him, by Him and in the power of His incomparable Holy Spirit? How about we pray then, without an agenda, just to see what happens?!
How about we read the Bible simply because it reveals the character and nature of God? How about we devour it, hungrily, skipping past the ever-so-important bits that were, nevertheless, never intended to be read by tired and empty people like us alone in the dead of night- to get to the really obvious, juicy bits about Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?
How about we get to know God, for the simple love of God, in whatever way we can get it?
As for me, I might write again soon. I might not.
Either way, I’ll probably be in the corner.
You know, losing my religion.
Trying to keep my eyes on Him.
(And thus, also, revealing my age, somewhat…)