As promised, here’s a story about a big change I had to make in my priorities:
For me, a big change had to come regarding how I used my time. Several years ago when I was still trying to cultivate the daily habit of spending time alone with God, I would often get to the end of the day and honestly be too worn out to spend time with God. I would tell myself that I’d do it if I had the energy. I would also try to make myself believe that since I didn’t have the energy, I really didn’t have to do it. I told myself (and it was true) that I had lots of obligations to fulfill during the day, and after having fulfilled those, I really didn’t have anything left to give. I tried to make myself believe that I wasn’t choosing other things over God.
And sometimes, during these years (and yes, it literally took me years to cultivate this habit), I did do my quiet time (Bible study, praying, listening). I would do well for a few days – and I would love spending that time with God. Then I’d miss a day, and somehow that would totally derail me. Honestly, it’s still pretty hard for me to explain what exactly was holding me back. Laziness? A lack of understand about who God is? Can any of you who have struggled (or are struggling) with this identify what it was that held you back? (This is not a rhetorical question. I’d really like to know.)
This changed for me when I was challenged to write down my list of priorities, whatever I considered most important in my life. (Go ahead and make this list for yourself now, if you’d like.)
My list looked something like this:
2. My husband
3. Family/church family/others
4. Work/school (we were teaching and in graduate school at the time)
5. Hobbies, etc.
I mean, I knew the right answer was to put God and my husband as 1 and 2, and I even wanted that to be true.
I found out, however, that it wasn’t true when I was asked to complete the next step: Make a pie chart of how I spent my time during an average day. (Go ahead and do this now, if you’d like). The idea was that I would be able to tell at lot about my priorities based on how I allocated my time. (This idea, of course, is not fool proof – but it is very useful for identifying basic trends.)
What I found:
Work/school was the most important
My husband was important
Other people were pretty important
TV (which didn’t make my initial “important things” list) was actually somewhat important
and God was hardly important at all
So, I faced the fact that I had to tell God: God, I choose work/school over you. I choose my husband over you. I choose other people over you. I choose TV over you (this was the hardest one to admit). What this showed me was that I had to make God a priority in my life. I couldn’t just say He was important. He had to be important. He had to receive the FIRST fruits of my time. Not the leftovers, if there were any. Thus began my morning time with God.
I got up a few minutes earlier to start showing God that I was serious about loving Him. That I didn’t just want to love Him in the way I loved The Office (see post on this), but that I wanted to love Him in the way He called me to.
And here’s the really amazing thing about that time I started spending with God: It didn’t take time away from my other tasks. It made those tasks more efficient, more focused. I’m not more tired now. It actually energizes me for the day.
And, you can choose to believe this or not, but God has actually manipulated time for me in some instances. There have been a few mornings when I’ve been short on time (either because I woke up late, had a last minute obligation, or felt like I was supposed to spend an extended time in prayer, listening, and/or Bible study), and I’ve still chosen to give the first fruits (as much as He wants) of my time to God.
On those mornings, I’m often astounded to realize that I get everything finished in an amount of time that is actually impossible. I know how long it takes me to do things. I know how long a minute is. This isn’t a matter of losing track of time. There have been mornings when God has essentially said to me “Child, time is under My control. You spend your time with Me, and I’ll handle the rest.”
I’m not saying I’m never late or rushed or that I never have mornings where not everything gets done. This time with God is not some sort of time-creating magic trick. I’m just saying that God has shown me that He can handle anything that I see as a barrier to my time with Him. I feel incredibly blessed to have been let in on that little secret. I wouldn’t have discovered it, though, had I not stepped out in faith by giving Him my time (without knowing how my other obligations would be affected).
So, that’s my challenge to you: If you don’t already have an established quiet time with God, start one. Show God that you’re serious about loving Him. Show Him that you’re no longer going to put 10 or 15 extra minutes of sleep or a TV show or finding a new recipe or ironing the husband’s/kids’ clothes or cleaning the house or stopping for coffee or knitting or checking facebook or whatever in front of Him.
I think giving God the first fruits of our time can be especially challenging for women. Maybe “especially” isn’t the right word; I’m sure that men have struggles in this area that are specific to their gender, too. But I do think women can specifically struggle with this because we’re often nurturers. We spend a lot of time “doing” for others. The danger here is that those “others” can become more of a priority than God. And putting anything (even awesome things like kids and husbands and volunteering at church) before God causes serious problems in our relationships with God. (Remember: Time at His feet will help you better use the time you spend on yours.)
And, on days when you do put other things in front of God, I encourage you to talk to Him and repent. Tell Him that you’re sorry you chose coffee, facebook, your husband, church, vanity, pride, your own pleasure, etc., over Him. And ask Him to strengthen you to love Him more. I firmly believe that’s a prayer he’ll answer.
And just as He did for me, my guess is that He will reveal more of Himself and some little secrets about His love for you as you give Him this time.
When He does reveal more of Himself to you (or if He’s already done it), I’d love it if you’d share your experience with the rest of us in the comment section below!
And please share any struggles or successes that you’re comfortable talking about. I think many people often share the same struggle, but if no one talks about it, we can feel like it’s just us. So, let me be the first to say: It’s not just you. I struggle with this stuff, too!
Next Monday I’ll write about the next step God asked me to take in my walk with Him. A much more difficult one (at least for me) – and one that I still struggle with every day. Then – onto a few weeks of marriage posts!
Let me know if you have any prayer requests you’d like me to put up on the blog on Wednesday. And don’t forget to check out last Friday’s post for a chance to win a free book!