Quiet Time Quandary
- 2005 5 Sep
As a mother of young children my quiet times felt more like a quick trip through McDonald's than a nourishing meal. The baby was up early to nurse and I fell asleep trying to pray at night. I grabbed what time I could, when I could--a Christian tape in the car, a breathed prayer while I fixed supper, a quick perusal of a few verses. I hid devotional reading in the bathroom, the only place I could be alone, but even there I was inundated with little knuckles rapping and young voices talking through the door.
I felt guilty. As a child, I'd promised God I would seek Him daily. Was I letting Him down?
Then, one day I realized that God met me in those brief moments. He gave me nuggets of truth and encouragement, even when my time with Him wasn't what I wanted it to be. Not long after this realization, I received a card, which read, "He gently leads those that have young." (Isaiah 40:11b NIV)
The guilt began to melt and I realized God wasn't in heaven with a calculator, tabulating the minutes alone we'd had. He was with me every second, giving me Himself. He led and loved me as I mothered the children He'd given. God understood the demands upon me and He was there to help, not add to my list of "to dos."
A young homeschool mom recently asked me how I scheduled time alone with the Lord. Her question sent me back to those days of living in little kid world. As I thought on her question, I realized that the Lord led me differently in different seasons.
Sometimes it's okay to Snack and Grab
The Lord deals kindly with us as we navigate baby world. In times of nursing babies and sleepless nights, it is important to remember the verse that says "He gives His beloved sleep" and to quit berating ourselves when we fall asleep praying or can't pull ourselves out of bed to read the Bible. We can rest in the truth that God wants a relationship with us. As we ask Him to, He will draw us to Himself and will miraculously provide all we need to grow in Him.
When my older children were small I heard the concept of first fruits. The pastor described that as giving to God whatever the best part of my day was. I realized that the one quiet space of my day was early afternoon when my children napped. As I chose to share to use that time to be alone with God instead of to catch up on chores, the Lord met me. My understanding of Him grew in those quiet moments and the truths He showed me continue to under gird my life today. I remember it as an intimate, tender time.
After a while, though, it was over. The children stopped taking long naps and I got pregnant, needing one myself! For a few years I was back to snack and grab. During this time I reminded myself that the Lord understood my circumstances and would gently lead me as I cared for the little ones He'd placed in my life. Eventually, I was able to establish more consistent time for prayer and study, but it wasn't the deep times I'd had in those quiet afternoons with Him when my first two were little. I prayed that He would reveal more of Himself to me.
I've never been a morning person, so when I began waking 1-2 hours before I normally crawled out of bed, I knew it was God's answer to my prayers. For many months He met me, almost every morning, and I learned at His feet. Sometimes we weren't finished when the children awakened. I'd hold them while I prayed or let them watch a short video while I finished. God took me through some very difficult times in that season, asking for a lot of surrender, but He showered me with His grace and I was forever changed.
During that time I read the classic book, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. He said that God was as near to him when he washed dishes as when He was in solitude. I longed to feel God near when I went about my daily chores and I prayed that God would teach ME to practice His presence.
Throughout the Day
Those early morning wake-up calls ceased coming as often and when I forced them, the time wasn't nearly so sweet. While I grieved the passing of that precious season, I sensed the Lord wanted me to depend upon HIM, not just TIME with Him.
I tried all kinds of things to train myself to pray throughout my day. For a while, I decided to pray every time the kids fussed. It served two important purposes. The first was that I was talking to God A LOT. The second was my response to their squabbles was more self-controlled. I was reminded of the story of John Wesley's mother who is said to have thrown her apron over her head anytime she needed to pray. She blocked out her many children's demands with that simple act and they learned to wait until the apron came down!
I have a friend who prays while she vacuums. Many people pray as they take a quiet walk around the neighborhood. I've found that when I'm tempted to dwell on negatives--worries, hurt feelings, unresolved issues--I can let the struggle remind me to turn my thoughts to God.
A pastor suggested: "f you're struggling to spend five minutes alone with God every day, don't try to push it to ten. Instead, schedule some time away from your demands. Take an afternoon or a weekend with Him."
There's wisdom in his admonition. A few years ago my husband and I took a few days away from the children. We had some wonderful time together, but we also took time to be alone with God and we both came home spiritually refreshed. Sometimes I'll cash out for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and just read or pray. Scheduling extended time alone with God allows us to rest in Him and learn to listen.
The Bottom Line
Our Father knows our schedules, our lives, and the needs of the ones He's placed in our care. Our job is to give Him permission to reveal Himself to us and to trust Him with the different spiritual seasons. As we ask Him to show us the best time to spend with Him, He can be trusted to gently lead us to Himself. Instead of feeling guilty when life crashes upon us, we can rest in the truth that He will provide all our needs--including time alone with Him.
A home schooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God's grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website offers home schooling hints, book reviews, and a free weekly devotional, Soul Scents. Subscribe to Soul Scents at www.soulscents.us. You can contact Paula at Paula@soulscents.us.