Many’s the time that I found myself, while in college, thinking, “Lord, you know I don’t spend as much time thinking about you now as I once did, because I’m so busy. I know you understand.” And it was true–I have never been that constantly busy for such long periods of time in my life. But though the Lord does have infinite patience, my excuses are not really, well, excusable. Understandable, yes, but inexcusable.
I always promised Him I’d devote so much more time with Him after I graduated, when I had time to sit and be still. That it would be sweet and wonderful and would grow me closer to Him. But the truth is, that the more you get out of practice, the harder it is to get back in. God, at least, can pick up with someone right where they left off, as it were. But it is not really human nature to go without speaking to someone other than in passing and then start again at the same level of intimacy.
Now, being a list-person, measuring my worth by how much I can accomplish in one day (and trust me, being without a job right now is crushing that perfectionist part of me), I immediately start thinking about ways to exercise my spiritual muscles and get back on track.
Alas! How foolish we are. How many times has the Lord taught me that my methods are too me-focused and task-focused? And how lamentably my mind falsely attributes human nature to God. As I explained to a friend recently, I struggle with what I’m sure nearly every Christian struggles with, and which Andrew Murray in his book “Abiding in Christ” constantly discourages Christians against. That is, this is how my quiet time goes:
“Ok, Lord, here I sit with my Bible and my journal and my cup of tea. It is You time. And I’m really really sorry I’ve been ignoring you lately. I just have been so busy…. but oh gosh. I really suck, don’t I? i’m so sorry. You deserve so much more devotion from me. But i get distracted so easily. Why did you make me so easily-distracted? I get distracted by things like daily chores and books and the internet and movies and friends and job-hunting and worrying about four hundred and eighty four other things and I just never get around to focusing on you and….oh, phooey. I forgot to turn on the dishwasher….” and then I proceed to do so, then I get distracted by a cookbook, then someone texts me, and then that’s the end of that.
Andrew Murray says in his book that Christians really need to skip the apology and explanation part. He says, “Each time your attention is free to occupy itself with the thought of Jesus–whether it be with time think and pray, or only for a few passing seconds–let your first thought be to say: Now, at this moment, I do abide in Jesus. Use such time not in vain regrets that you have not been abiding fully, or still more hurtful fears that you will not be able to abide, but just at once take the position that the Father has given you: ‘I am in Christ; this is the place God has given me. I accept it; here I rest; I do now abide in Jesus.’ This is the way to learn to abide continually. You may yet be so feeble as to fear to say of each day, ‘I am abiding in Jesus’; but the feeblest can, each single moment, say, as he consents to occupy his place as a branch in the vine, ‘Yes, I do abide in Christ.’ It is not a matter of feeling–it is not a question of growth or strength in the Christian life–it is the simple question whether the will at the present moment desires and consents to recognize the place you have in your Lord, and to accept it.”
It’s entirely true. I must confess I am at a place in my Spiritual journey where I feel emotionally farther from Him than I have in at least six years. And it comes entirely of my assumption that my neglect of time with Him has made him angry and I can never make it better with my feeble attempts now.
God has made it clear that His children are not able to DO anything to gain His acceptance after their first initial decision. He inspired Paul to tell the Roman church that “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2) He further told the Galatian Christians, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)
What can be understood from this about the nature of God? That though He is, of course, holy and worthy of our respect and obedience and reverence, He has set us free and we ought not to condemn ourselves to Him when we meet with Him. We are to rejoice in our freedom and rest in the knowledge that we stand not before an angry God who is frustrated with our lack of attention. Rather, He is the same God now that I ran to without self-loathing and excuses, and instead with joy and delight in His company, many years ago.
I hope to keep myself accountable for this by this blog post. And I called it Part 1 because I pray it continues. I hope to discuss in my next post about how the freedom I mentioned is not an excuse either, but is instead cause for us to be even more ready in our reverence and obedience. But for now i will let the truth of freedom percolate, and trust that those reading understand what I mean: that freedom in Christ does not mean you can do whatever you want.
Peace and Lattes.