- Phantom of the Opera
First off I just want to say that I am no one. I don't have anything that original or dire to say. My opinions do not have added weight to them. I probably really shouldn't have a blog. But, the reason I like blogging is because (for some strange reason) it helps me gather my thoughts. I am not an eloquent writer by far but I think this helps me get some what better. I am thinking about how to come across clearly and precisely. Also, I know that my family likes to know what is going on in my life. So... for that I will ramble on about things I am learning. Or something.
As I grow older I am constantly learning new things and I think God is chipping away at parts of me that are skewed or misguided. I hope it's not due to skepticism, which I can bend towards, but actually my spirit within me testing things against scripture. But this past semester I had a lot of questions. A lot of things that I once accepted were now not so simple. Practices, traditions, terminology, ideas, beliefs. Everything. I don't believe any of my doubts and questions were deal-breakers but grey areas. I had questions about worship, spiritual gifts, evangelism, sin, love, etc. Big, important things but not things that risked my salvation.
In a lot of ways it seemed like I took steps back spiritually. I wasn't as involved with my church and I lacked passion and joy for a lot of the semester. My personal time with God (or whatever you want to call it) was a little more sporadic, I grew increasingly behind on my Bible reading, and I was kind of floating when it came to finding a place to serve. Simply put I feel like I lacked a lot of discipline. These are things that I hope to work out in the future and find my way, but here's why I think I grew instead of backtracked this semester:
(This is just one example of many things) I remember sometime in my college experience someone I respect and admire greatly told a story about how he was getting up every morning and getting alone with God and having awesome devotions and what not and it really jump started his day and helped him get through his job. Well, one morning, by accident he slept in and didn't have time to really sit and be with God, but I think he quickly skimmed a chapter in the Bible. And he said his day was hard and he had church that night and he was having trouble engaging in the worship. And he went to the front during the ministry time to pray and ask God why he felt so disconnected and he remembers just saying "I miss you God" at the front because he missed him during the day. His point was that he was so used to spending time with God in the morning and because of that he really felt the presence of God throughout the day. So when he wouldn't have his quiet time he would have trouble "feeling" God as he went about the day. I remember thinking (almost subconsciously) that if I could get to that point where I would have crummy days when I missed my quiet time than I would have made it. Later, I remember having a day much like his. I didn't have a quiet time for whatever reason and at church that night I was having trouble worshiping and couldn't feel God with me. I don't know if those things are connected, but I remember telling my friend later that that was happening to me. And there was an air of arrogance in my voice as I told her. I was proud that I couldn't feel God's presence because I didn't get into my prayer closet that morning.
That story he told has stuck with me. I think about it often I don't know why. But I thought about it sometime this semester and I thought about that day I had and me telling my friend and I just grew sick to my stomach. And I thought to myself that I don't ever want to get to a point that if I miss reading my Bible and praying for a day that I will have a horrible day and I won't feel God. I don't know. That just sounds awful. I don't want to not be able to find God because of my lack of faithfulness. And it puts everything on my shoulders. It makes it about what I am doing instead of Jesus and the cross. And I realized something that I think is so important for myself to hear: a good quiet time is not the goal. I have put SO much emphasis on getting up in the morning and making sure I clock my hour in and it has to happen EVERY DAY or I fail. And I've seen so many others pressured into getting up at 6 and sleeping through their time with God because they are so tired. I've gone to several seminars on how to construct the perfect quiet time and have gotten at least three packets on it.
Now, before I go on, let me clarify. I believe so much in the power of spending intentional time with God. My family has instilled that in me and it is something I take very seriously. I want to get up and read my Bible, I want so badly to grow in my prayer life (which has pretty much been non-existent lately). And, if Jesus had to go by himself to get alone with God... so should I. And, honestly, the thing that stirred my heart for the first time and actually made me fall in love with Jesus was getting up every morning and getting into my closet and journaling, praying, and reading the Bible as a 17 year old. I still remember sitting with Molly at Macaroni Grill as she shared with me how she spent time with God and I took everything she said and did it myself and it was awesome. Some of the sweetest memories I have with God. So I think that spending time with God is important, necessary, and life-changing. I got so off track though. A good devotional life = a good, mature spiritual Bethany. A good devotional life became my God. I did EVERYTHING I could to perfect it. And, just like everything else, me doing it on my own just wasn't working. I got tired. I burned out. It wasn't fun. It wasn't effective. It was just me writing words on pages trying to pretend like I was connecting with God. But it had to be my way. My time.
Some of the most inspiring, God-filled "quiet times" I've had in my life have been really unconventional. They've been at random times, in random places (bottom floor of Moody Library has seen some good Jesus+Bethany times). They've been for different amounts of time (ranging from like 5 minutes to an hour and a half). They didn't follow a schedule or a plan. It was all about me just connecting with God. And BEING with him. Sometimes I didn't open my Bible. Sometimes all I did was read. Sometimes I just needed to journal. Other times I needed to blog. Some times I needed to just put on some worship music. Most times I did a combination of all that. But it was raw and real. And I remember those times. I can't remember what half of the times when I had my designated place/time/schedule. Those are all good and they work in some seasons... but after a while they stopped working for me.
This semester I threw out all conventions. I just made an effort to spend time with God every day. No rules. No expectations. And to do at least SOMETHING in the morning. Whether it would be to read a psalm or just start with a worship song. And it was rough. I will be honest and say I didn't have a "quiet time" every day. And I sometimes didn't have any desire to. But, most days I would get so much out of them. And God is SO gentle and kind and silenced any voices I tend to listen to besides his. And he knew what I needed more than I did.
I am still on a journey. Still in the process. But, even though if I put my life on a scale of others or what I expected from myself it would like like I fell short, I believe that I took one baby step closer to getting it. It isn't about mastering the perfect quiet time. It is about God. It's about his grace. It's about knowing HIM and being known by him. And that can look a little different than I think. Having a quiet time is supposed to be about worshiping God, praying, soaking in His word, and gaining the tools I need to make it through this life. It is only a mean to get to an end. It is not the end. The goal is Jesus. Wherever. Whenever. However. Simply Jesus.
That is how I see it as a 20 year old girl. I'm sure I am wrong in some areas and know I have places I will grow. And I'm open to being wrong. But the older I get the more I realize that all I need I have because all I need is Jesus.