It's been nearly two weeks of reverse culture shock after coming back from Colombia. Many on our team felt the horribly familiar feeling of pointlessness in our humdrum responsibilities weighing heavily on our shoulders.
I wished I could just stay where my actions felt meaningful and where my words felt powerful. I wanted to stay where prayer seemed to somehow work better. I wanted to stay where my work felt fulfilling, and where the things I was learning felt truly valuable. I'll admit I love finding derivatives and naming hydrocarbons... but it's been hard for me to shake the feeling that my school courses are nothing but a waste of time.
It's been hard, with the next trip in sight, to keep still and work patiently at the tasks at hand. It's been hard, with Europe only a few weeks away, to focus on my jobs and commitments within the next week. It's been hard to take the life lessons from Colombia and embed them in this small-town Alberta life.
But it hasn't been a total flop. Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons that God drilled me on while down in Colombia was the importance of daily Jesus-time. It was as plain as day how necessary frequent prayer was. It was unmistakable how vital reading God's Word was. After witnessing the powerful works that God delivers when His children take the time to focus on Him on a daily basis, it would be a shame to come back home only to focus, once again, on myself.
And that is why I've changed. There is no longer any excuse good enough to make me push my devotions to 'tomorrow.' I'm done with living like that, and I know that God is done with me acting like that. It's only been two weeks, but it's been two weeks of daily prayer and Bible reading, and therefore it's been two weeks of wonderful connection and re-centering. And I've discovered that God rewards diligence without fail.
I'm gonna fail. Eventually. It's who I am; a less-than-ideal-human. But the thing is, I've tasted from His goodness, and I've received from His abundant generosity. I've been given just glimpses of His thoughts, and I've felt the rush of His Spirit within me as I read His written Word. I've experienced the life of a true follower of Christ. And if I were to fall away to indulge my own selfish desires, I would still not be able to deny the Love of Christ. It would be like claiming I've never tasted water or seen rain. I would be living a lie. And after living in Truth, there's no way any other lifestyle could ever compete.
1 Peter 2:1-3 - So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
Forcing myself to spend a minimum of twenty minutes every night in the presence of God has turned out to be a lot like staring into a mirror. The more I read into His Will, the more I see in myself that I need to address. Today's epiphany, however, caught me a little off-guard.
As I sat myself down and tried to work up the willpower to open my Bible instead of my Calculus homework, I felt a wave of stress wash over me. My mind jumped to a Spring Break spent in the UK. I felt the butterflies in my stomach and the nerves of excitement. I just want to be there. Away from school and responsibilities- I just want to back in my element. New places. New experiences. New everything. And yet, the preparation and the stress of organization and travelling with such a large group is still slightly overwhelming. "At least after the trip," I conceded, "I'll be able to have a bit more time to myself."
My eyes darted to my ballet slippers, and I thought about the exams, the performances, the festivals, the ministry commitments, the recital. I felt anxious and worried, so I consoled myself with the fact that it would all be over by the end of April. After that, I could finally have time to step back and relax.
But then I thought about the tests. The exams. The diplomas. The contests. The assignments. The projects. The essays. Graduation. The parties, the Sneak, the banquet, the awards, the ceremony. I thought to myself, "Boy, I'm gonna be so relieved when this school year is done and I can finally relax."
Then my mind drifted to work- the time and the energy commitment. I thought about the long days of teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding shifts that would eat up my summer. I thought about spending every day working at the pool, either starting in the early morning or ending late at night... and I grew weary at the thought. So I told myself, "Once summer's done, I'll finally be moving on. Then I'll be able to just focus on what matters."
But then my mind drifted to the chapter coming up: University. New courses, new people, new commitments. Come September, I would be one of those college kids complaining about midterms and papers and frantically stressing over finals. I'd be one of those young adults having to figure out how to pay a credit card bill, how to eat well (or at all), and how to balance school, sleep, and a social life. "Well, maybe after my years at university, I'll have a break."
But then.... what about marriage? What about dating and engagements and wedding preparations and joint bank accounts and finding a first home? What about pregnancy? What about starting a family? What about raising infants to toddlers, toddlers to kids, kids to teenagers, and teenagers to adults? What about this? What about that?
And that's when God called me out of my wishful thinking and back into reality. There is never going to be a time when nothing's happening. He showed me the schedules, and He brought my mind back to the first time I ever said to myself, "Once ___________ is over, I'll have time for what's important." I thought about the first time I ever told that to myself, and realized that I've been telling myself the same lie ever since then. For at least the last four years, it's been event after event, commitment after commitment. It's been one exam after another performance, and one volunteer commitment after another ministry. The constant list of responsibilities and promises and engagements and projects has never gotten shorter, even though I continue to convince myself that there is an end in sight.
That realization, at first, was enough to make me throw up. Life is already flying by, and the thought of free time to think and recuperate sounds unbelievably wonderful... Which is why it needs to happen NOW.
There will always be another time-taker on the horizon, so why am I not taking the time before it to refresh my soul and prepare myself mentally? There will always be another event around the corner, so why do I spend the time beforehand worrying and telling myself I'll pray and sleep after I've conquered the looming task ahead of me? Once I pass it, let's face it: there'll be another one hurtling towards me at the speed of light.
Life is careening past me so fast, it's scary to admit. And at the rate I've been thinking, I'll have time for what matters in about ten thousand years. No, this has got to be a daily priority. We all need a think space. We all need a moment, or two, or ten. It's not weak. It's wise.
every person needs a half-hour of prayer and meditation every day- unless you're busy.
Then, you need a full hour.
Proverbs 8:17 - "I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me."
1 Chronicles 16:11 - "Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!"
Jeremiah 29:13 - "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."
If we knew the Bible as well as we think we do, we would know that these verses are in there! What excuse trumps these commands? What can adequately substitute our crucial daily Jesus time? Where else can we find true refreshment, rejuvenation, forgiveness, comfort, and peace? He has told us to seek first His Kingdom. Not second, and not third. If His Kingdom and Will are our FIRST priority, then we can expect that all these other things will be added.
He loves to give good gifts to His children, but those gifts are hard for Him to give to us when we keep postponing our times in His presence. If I want His peace now, I can NOT save my devotions for a later date. This is a daily deal. And my prayer is that I will learn to crave His presence as I thirst for water or hunger for food.
Matthew 4:4 - Jesus answered, "It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
Starting now, I'm adding a fourth meal to my day.