A few years ago, I had a conversation with someone who asked me about personal devotions and time spent in Bible study. I remember getting a little defensive and also thinking the word “personal” was in there for a reason – this was personal and really, none of her business. But I replied truthfully (sort of). “Oh, you know, I really do try. But it’s hard with two kids, trying to run after them and their schedules, plus I DO work full-time. So it’s not like I can go to Tuesday morning Bible study.”
I heard this answer or similar words over and over. “We read the Bible together as a family every night. Even if it’s Sunday. We try not to miss that.” Again – the word “personal” was missing from the answer. “We attend a couples Bible study every second Wednesday, plus I go to Tuesday morning Bible study. That keeps me pretty busy”. Again – notice a word missing? Personal.
The more I searched for answers regarding my life and feelings and things that just felt missing, I started to reach out. First to other women I knew who basically would pat my back and said “Oh, it’s okay. You’re trying hard and you’ve got a busy life. God understands that.” I felt conflicted. Something was definitely missing, but I didn’t know where to start.
I flailed as I randomly read Christian articles and subscribed to Christian authors on the web and Facebook. I asked for recommendations for a personal devotion and received a few replies. I had no direction and seemingly no purpose in my study. I tried a personal devotion book on my own which included an exercise of creating a personal organizer with a tab labelled “TAG”. Before I read this book, the acronym “TAG” was completely foreign to me. Time Alone with God. Huh? This wasn’t about a morning or evening prayer. This was searching out answers and questions and really spending time with my God. I had no idea where to start or how to make it part of my daily life.
One night I was feeling frustrated and defeated, but searching. Searching for how to make God a priority. Knowing He wasn’t, and trying to fit that in to my life. Into my busy schedule.
And therein lay the answer. I was trying to make God fit me. Fit my schedule. Give God a little corner and say, “There God! You fit right there. You can be part of my life, but only if You stay in that little space.”
I examined my daily schedule. While I said and thought I didn’t have time for more study and “TAG”, where was I spending my time? Sure, there were necessities like eating and sleeping. But what about my time on Candy Crush? Or watching TV? Was I making mindless entertainment more of a priority than God?
I won’t get into how it happened (possibly save that for another day), but I started to have my “TAG” every morning (or lunch break while at work). And things began to change. I started a daily personal reading schedule where I dissected, researched, reflected on and learned how to apply God’s Word to my life.
And that corner I had “allowed” God to be put in and be part of my life? It grew. Turns out God didn’t like being put in a corner and told He could occupy a part of me. Turns out our God is a jealous God. He wanted ALL of me. Not just a corner.
So I’ve surrendered. And made Him the priority. One of the ways that helps me keep that focus is morning devotions.
I now start my day in His Word, in His presence, and ask Him to fill my day with Him. Not just a corner. But every little part.
I sometimes just sit in awe that it took me over 30 years to know God. Yes, He was always there, patiently waiting for me to figure it out. He never got frustrated with me or turned His back on me. He waited patiently. And now I know Him.
But to enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice.
(John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist)
And don’t confuse this with something it’s not. Personal devotions are not repeated, memorized prayers, sometimes put to cute little tunes. Or reciting the Lord’s Prayer either out loud or in your head, which eventually becomes second nature with no thought or heart in it.
And there is nothing wrong with participating in couples’ Bible study, Tuesday morning ladies’ study, reading at the family dinner table – these are all GOOD THINGS. VERY good things. But they are meant to fuel your relationship with God. Not be the foundation and only source.
Recently, I asked someone about her personal devotion time. Her answer was eerily similar to what I had replied a few years ago. “It’s hard. I have 3 kids, a house to run, and I work full-time. Plus all the kids’ activities. I try, but it’s hard.”
I get it. I do. But I promise you. If you make Time Alone with God part of your daily life, you will feel the difference. You will see the difference. It will filter into every little aspect of your life. Let Him fill you.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father … that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Eph 3: 14-19)