I see your cute “quiet time” pics. You know, the ones with a steaming cup of coffee in a cute mug, next to a Bible on a clean table by an open window that shows a perfectly-manicured backyard.
I,too, have always felt closer to God when I have a hot cup of coffee and a clean kitchen.
But that’s just not reality here in my world.
Quite frankly, since I quit working to be a stay-at-home mom – I had really struggled with my “alone” time with God. I thought once I was a stay-at-home mom, it would actually be easier to spend time reading the Bible and praying – because I would be home.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh. That’s a good one.
I tried many different things, but nothing was consistent. I kept feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit to lay aside the first part of my day for him.
So I tried the whole “hot cup of coffee, open Bible, and various highlighters” devotional morning time. But as a chronically sleep-deprived mom of two toddlers and busy pastor’s wife, I would either 1.) Start to drift off to sleep or 2.) Think about the scads of things I needed to accomplish that day.
So I tried to do my devotions outside – away from the cluttered family room. This just led to cold coffee and noticing how desperately the roses needed to be trimmed.
I knew I needed time to refocus every morning. I was starting to see bad changes happening: I was more short-tempered. I had a critical spirit. I was negative.
I knew I needed to switch directions– and fast.
So a couple of my girlfriends invited me to the gym to workout at – Ugh – 5 am! Now, I had been going to the gym with startling inconsistency, but I figured them being there would help keep me accountable. So I went. I hated it (still do) but I did it.
Now, I don’t “work out” with people. I either feel guilty that I didn’t talk enough to them while we were torturing ourselves, or guilty that I spent too much time chatting and not enough running.
However, I do like having people I know in the same room with me while I am slowly beating my body to a sweaty pulp. That way, they can cart my lifeless body away if anything bad happens, and they can be my accountability check when I’m not there.
So I started doing my studying while I am running or doing weight training. Sometimes, I have the Bible read to me, listen to a sermon podcast, or work my way through a teaching on Right Now Media.
One of the earlier teachings I did was Francis Chan’s “Forgotten God.” He shared about a time he needed to hear from the Holy Spirit and he got a coffee and went to a secluded beach and prayed. He had an “Aha” moment when the Holy Spirit said to him, “Many people who need to hear from me do not get the luxury of sitting on a beach to wait on me.” And it’s true. I don’t have that luxury and I need to hear from him daily!
I need to hear from the Holy Spirit when the laundry is up to my eyeballs and my kids are on each other’s nerves. I need the Holy Spirit when my kitchen is covered in crushed graham crackers and my hands smell like poop.
So I started doing my devotions at the gym. I work out and just take in teaching for an hour, then I take my stinky self home, brew a cup of coffee and continue to work out my faith until my family wakes up.
And I hate it.
Don’t get me wrong. I love hearing from God. I love spending time with him and being close with him. But doing it at the gym is brutal. I seriously hate working out. I wish I didn’t have to do it.
But using this time to listen to God has worked for me in so many ways.
#1.) No one at my gym looks at me funny when I pray or start to cry – Most people see me crying and are pretty sure it’s because I’m out of shape and hate working out. Those are legit.
#2.) The Gym puts me in the posture of humility – I will be the second one to tell you that I am a complete amateur when it comes to fitness and knowledge of working out. The first one to tell you it would be the owner of my gym. You see, years ago, she observed me doing things the wrong way. Instead of laughing at me – she donated her time and walked me through a grueling workout. I may know more now, but I’m still a fitness Kindergartner.
When I’m at the gym, I am confronted with my absolute weakness and mortality. You see, you can’t fake it at the gym. You can’t suck in and fool everyone. You can only lift the weight you have strength to lift. You can only run as far as your endurance will let you.
You also can’t fake it with the Holy Spirit. He knows just how weak I am. All my flaws. All the places I took the easy road instead of the road of faith.
So I spend that hour being reminded by my body and the Holy Spirit of all the things I’m not, and my heart is soft – ready to listen to His instruction. I’m reminded that it isn’t through my performance or my effort that pleases God, but only faith can touch the heart of my father.
#3.) God speaks loudest in my pain – My favorite quote from C.S. Lewis is, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.” The times of deepest grief in my life are the ones when God has spoken the clearest to me. They are the sweetest times I’ve known. And while I wouldn’t wish those circumstances on my worst enemy, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Suffice it to say, when I’m at the gym – I’m in a place of pain.
#4.) My relationship with God isn’t going to be comfortable – sometimes, we think we’re going to get to a place with God where we’re an old married couple. We sit in the same room in silence for hours, not needing to speak, because we already know everything the other one is thinking.
Wrong. We are constantly being challenged and shaped by the Holy Spirit. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. It’s the worst part of my day, (also because of the sweating and pushing weights around bit) but it’s also the best part of my life. It’s the part of my life that will outlive me.
#5.) It reminds me that my faith isn’t about a series of “Big Events” but it’s about the process – This is the hardest one for me to grasp. I’m an intense person. When I have a major project to tackle, I’m 1000% committed. But it’s the daily mundane that I struggle with. The constant repetition of busy nothings that end up putting food on the table, paying the bills, cleaning bathrooms, and puts clean clothes in drawers. But those are thankless, invisible, and tedious activities.
Psalm 37:23 “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT)
God directs the steps. He doesn’t just take us from mountain top to mountain top. He is intensely interested in the steps – the process. Where your next foot goes. I wish faith was one victory to another victory, but it isn’t. Think about it this way – the majority of the lives of our heroes of faith – isn’t documented. We don’t know what Abraham was doing for the first 75 years of his life!
The first 75 years of Abraham’s life were most likely a lot of mundane. Going to work. Taking care of his family. But the heart he had while he was doing those things, got God’s attention.
When I am working out, I know I’m not going to see immediate results. It’s going to take time. It’s about going today and tomorrow and the next day, and not having an expectation that one day I am going to “arrive” and never need to work out again.
The same is true with our faith.
We are never going to get to a place where we need God less.
Commit to the process. Today, I will seek him. I will be back and seek him again tomorrow. And again and again and again.