My Mind Made Public -

I held off as long as I could ...

Monday, January 5, 2009

God in Quiet Time? –Part 1

I’ve never been a big fan of the Christian label “quiet time.” I’m sure that may be offensive to some, but really, it’s not meant to be taken that way. Instead, I’m a big fan of labeling my “quiet time” as “spending time with God.” Let me explain. In a previous post I talked about the drastic change in my prayer life that has occurred recently: Away from asking and onto waiting. In Christian circles, prayer life has become synonymous with the term quiet time—and I understand why—it’s not easy to physically, emotionally and spiritually connect closely with God with a ton of outside distractions constantly interrupting what is meant to be a sacred moment in time. Therefore alone time, still time with God is not only a good practice, it’s also needed.

But I have also profoundly noticed that I feel quiet time gets overwhelmingly burdensome—too much emotional and spiritual pressure that it drains and paralyzes me for the rest of the day. And how can I effectively live my life tangibly lit up for Christ when I constantly feel like I’m 20-leagues below sea level carrying a grand piano on my back?

I started to wonder, why do I have to cram in all of my personally connected time with God into an allotted amount of quiet time within a schedule that I set? That’s an awful lot of pressure—pressure on me to get my whole being ready to be with God; and me pressuring (I would even call it limiting) God to fall in line with my designated quiet time. And when I look at this from a removed, objectified perspective, neither of those self-afflicted pressures makes sense within the broader picture of being able to, and wanting to deepen my intimate relationship with God.

For many years I actually thought I was the only one who felt like this. Many years, that was, until I started to go to seminary. You see, I went to secular schools my entire life. My world has been a very secularly involved life. I’ll never forget the first class I took at Moody and the professor wanted to start the class in prayer. I was literally in shock, looking around the room to see if anyone else heard his request. But then I remembered, wait, I’m at a Christian school with other Christians around me who wouldn’t mind starting class in prayer. What a thought?! But it was so foreign to me that the first time it happened it was also the first time I realized how far removed I had been from a Christian encompassed educational experience. That’s off topic though…

Anyway, the reoccurring words I started to hear from my fellow students was that they also felt bogged down by a perceived pressure (internal and external) to have some huge moment of revelation or peace or comfort each and every morning in a designated quiet time. And for the first time I wasn’t alone in my conflicted feelings about a felt-forced quiet time with God. What was to be an intimately special time had become a dogmatic routine of what “good Christians” routinely do to still be “good Christians.” And it didn’t feel right at all.

The problem with the label quiet time is that it makes an assumption that during the quiet time period, it’s the only true time to truly and wholly connect with our Holy Father—i.e. it’s the most efficient and effective way to communicate with God and he to communicate with you. And from my perspective, that belief sets a whole lot of people up for failure. What if I don’t feel connected to God at that moment—was my quite time ineffective? What am I doing wrong with God if I don’t feel as One? Is he not hearing me or recognizing my sacrificed time of being quiet trying to connect with him? Am I doing this in vain? Is this process even the right one? But if so many Christian leaders, professors, etc say it’s right, then I must not be right in feeling this way? What’s wrong with me and my relationship with God?

Let me just say this:

God is not just a God of quiet time. He’s a God of real-time.

And he wants us to be in a real-time relationship with him as well. Wholly and fully and emotionally and spiritually connectedness with God doesn’t just come during a pre-planned quiet time. To remove the pressure from the quiet time by shifting our mind frame onto a 24-hour daily experience through a continual conversational relationship with our Creator, will also release the false set of expectations related to a certain daily designated time of silence where all meaningful conversation has to happen.

Much love.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

I'm "in-charge" of the spiritual development of my 31 co-works. I'm American and they're all Filipino. QT is talked about but rarely practiced. Generally it's not part of the culture to read and "study" a lot. And doing anything on your own is out of the norm.
At 2 different points I've highlighted the importance of having a QT/personal time with God (not just corporate time). I realize you weren't really speaking about this context/culture, but your thoughts are making me think through things...may be I'm just adding more "work" to be done. It's already a very heavy works-based mentality...may be I need to try a different approach...or share a vision of a different type of relationship with our Father. I'll keep chewing it over.
Personally, I haven't had a consistent QT since I've become a dad, but I feel like I've still grown in all aspects of life during that same period.