I was not intending to come back and write a second part on the previous post I wrote entitled Investing Time. However, this is the biggest thing God really did talk to me about on the trip to Indiana that I took last week. Honestly, I'm not sure how I got this from the time I spent up there. That I remember no speaker preached on the topic, and Stephen (our "youth pastor") only touched on it briefly.
This is going to focus on a completely different aspect of investing time than the post several weeks ago. The focus of that post was investing time in other people. Today's post will center on the idea of spending time with God. Anyone reading this who happened to be in my Sunday School class last Sunday heard what I told the class. This will be a more in-depth statement here than I had the time or words to say then.
On the trip to Indiana, we drove for about 34 hours there and back. Imagine eight guys, one mom (poor lady), and an untitled, unpaid youth pastor stuck in a van together for 34 hours. Out of necessity, we all got to the end of the trip knowing each other a lot better than when we all climbed into the van. Why? Because we spent time together, whether we liked it or not! And the fact that I had that time with those guys drew us closer together.
For some reason though, I've always seemed to think my relationship with God is different, that I will somehow get to know Him well by praying before meals and doing a compulsory Bible reading in the morning. But it doesn't work that way, with friendships or with God.
You can learn all the facts you want about God, Bible trivia, Bible stories, theology, etc. Those things may help you understand God, but they don't build that relationship where you can hear God's voice. You can have all the facts in the world and still have no relationship with God. And with no relationship, facts are worthless.
So in this post, I'm going to try to make some suggestions that may or may not help you spend time with God. I think how we draw closer to God is often affected by our personalities, meaning that while I may find a day in the woods to be a therapeutic, spiritual experience, it wouldn't be for my mother. She hates the woods. I may be able to spend time praying and so on outside, she would just be thinking about getting away from the mosquitoes and ticks. On the other side of the coin, she can do her quiet time in her bed after she gets up or at her bathroom sink. When I try to do devotions where there's stuff around me, I can't concentrate. When I'm in bed, I go to sleep. So, to each his own! My purpose here is simply to give some suggestions.
First off, find a quiet spot and set it aside as the spot you will do devotions. You don't have to do it there every time, but it does help get your mind in focus. I remember an amazing time with God I had once down by the lake in the back of our subdivision during a storm. It was probably the closest to God I have ever felt, and I remember it crystal clearly. Anyhow, every time I walk by that spot, I remember that time. And whenever I have something really troubling me, I head down to that spot just to pray and think.
I'm not saying have your quiet time there every day unless you want to. I don't. I have mine there maybe once every few months. Still, I would set aside a spot where you can go, free of distraction, preferably away from other people, and just pray, read, and listen.
Secondly, this may seem like a clear-cut help already, but still, take the time to do it. I realize we're busy and we don't have time all the time to just sit for an hour. I'm not saying do it every day (although that would be great); I'm just saying take the time to calm down, and listen. Picture talking to a friend. Do you ever pour out your heart to a friend that is tapping his foot, ready to go as soon as your done? No, because you can tell he's not interested and he doesn't really care. When we're already thinking about where we're going next, we miss what God would show or say to us now. So set aside some time to spend with God where you can just ignore the clock.
My brother and I were talking on the phone today, and I'm going to bring this up to emphasize what I said earlier. We were talking about how to he and I, a day in the woods actually makes us feel closer to God than a day in church. Why? Because it's time that we're alone, not talking, not listening to music or preaching, but completely alone that God speaks to us the most.
Why did I tell you this? Because, as I said earlier, each of us have different needs. My brother and I both feel the need to get back in the woods and "recharge" if it's been a while. Others wouldn't find a day in the woods spiritual in the least. So don't go out into the woods expecting great messages from God if you hate the woods. There's nothing sacred about the forest. That's just how God speaks to me. He may speak to you differently; I'm just trying to get you to take the time and find out.
Thirdly, I want to mention that quiet time can be just that, quiet. You don't have to read your Bible, pray, or sing to be with God. When I'm in Georgia fishing some little stream in the middle of nowhere, I feel like I'm with God, even though I don't have a Bible on me and singing is the furthest thing from my mind. I may even be praying in my head; I don't know. Just take quiet time to spend with God, time to listen to Him.
Lastly, I want to bring up one last maybe helpful idea. I really appreciate how honest our leader was with us. All of us know how when you're at a camp like that, you get that super spiritual, walking on air, flying through clouds feeling, right? When we'd finished one particularly good session and we all felt super spiritual, he got us all together for a meeting afterward and told us that we were all feeling great now, but by Monday, our enthusiasm would die down and we would be back to our normal lives, and if we didn't change something, we would go right back to the way we were before.
And he was right. Monday came and went without me really spending any time in the Bible. Tuesday I spent hardly any, and I wound up reading the Bible at 12:00 at night. Needless to say, I got very little out of it. Today, I didn't spend much time in it. You know why. 'Cause the high is gone. I don't feel super spiritual right now. I don't feel like God is sitting next to me. I feel all the pressure, music lessons, school, taekwondo deadlines, CLEP tests, being sick, all the things that I was so far away from at the conference, coming back, and I'm fighting myself not just to drop into bed tonight without reading the Bible. And this is why my youth pastor's advice was so good.
His advice? When you don't feel like, just suck it up and do it. It's not going to be fun all the time. You're not always gonna feel that close to God. There are days you may not want to pray, or sing, or read Scripture. And you know what you have to do? Just suck it up and do it.
His advice was pretty sound. I've just begun trying to learn some guitar chords, something I've always wanted to do. And after just two days, the fingers of my left hand that have been attempting to hold down the strings hurt every time they touch anything. And you know what you do then? Yeah, that's right, suck it up and just do it. I remember my taekwondo coach sending several of us guys an email with a picture of a man doing pushups, just sweating and the veins of his neck bulging. The little caption underneath read, "Shut up and train."
All these little anecdotes are for the same reason. If you want to be closer to God, you've gotta spend the time, investing it. If you want relationships, you have to invest the time, not always fun time. The strongest friendships I have haven't come overnight. It takes time, and not all the time was fun.
This isn't the most light-hearted post I've ever written, but I hope in some strange way it encouraged you. I hope it encouraged you to go spend time with God. So find your quiet place. It can be a certain tree in your yard, a certain corner of your room, or a certain cove on a lake; it doesn't really matter. The important thing is that you take the time to listen to your creator.