So many times, I wonder what it was like to be one of the disciples of Jesus, listening to his teachings, and just feeling his love. I can imagine the horror of saying something wrong in front of him, as they often did, and the delight of laughing with him.
Too often, though, instead of feeling like the Apostle John, the “disciple Jesus loved” he called himself, I feel like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, being reprimanded for not getting back to my chores. There are practical, real things that need doing. These are good things, loving things, and things that serve Jesus.
But I picked this life…
Whenever I lament that I can’t spend time with God like I wish I could, because my kids are too loud, or don’t sleep enough, or we’re always running places, there is always someone kind who reminds me that we live by faith, not our works. God knows I’m busy. He understands. He doesn’t not hold it against me.
But that misses my lament. Though many might think, having 6 kids, and deciding to homeschool them should mean I’ve made my life choices. Now I live with the consequences. I have chosen this work, therefore things like sabbath don’t apply to me. I have chosen to have so many little ones, therefore I have given up my quiet times.
Is it only women who feel this way? There’s this feeling I struggle to shake that spending time in God’s word is selfish when there are people who need me. There’s this feeling like praying, (and I don’t mean shooting up prayers in between supper and bedtime when I’m bathing the kids, or sweeping the floor…which are very valid prayers.) I mean, when I’m sitting, and just talking to God, meditating on something I just read, asking questions. All of that feels so decadent, so entitled. It’s like this luxurious act that I didn’t earn. I haven’t vacuumed yet. I haven’t finished all that God has given me to do yet. At the proper time, in the proper place, as long as everything in my house is balanced, and the stars align, I can spend time with God.
“But if it doesn’t work, don’t worry. We live by faith, not our works. God isn’t mad.”
But I was.
This is for me. Yes, even me.
I had a paradigm shift awhile back. It started a few years back, when I realized that the sabbath was for me too. Through reading the Bible, I realized that even though I have 6 kids, I should get to rest once a week. I should get to put my feet up. This was something God had made for me.
I’m going to be honest, my family fought back a little. I didn’t want to go on strike or anything. I didn’t think that God was going to be mad at me if I worked on Sunday. It was that God had given me this gift, and I was tossing this gift aside, thinking that I would serve my family instead.
I tried to make it as painless of a transition as possible. I didn’t want to make someone else work more. Sundays became known as paper plate days. It became frozen pizza or cereal days. It became watch t.v. While I read a book. Now, you might say, why not read a book TO your kids instead? Well, because that’s my school day with them, and I just need some time alone. My work may be your play. Your play may be my work.
It took awhile, but my family started to expect that I just chill on Sundays. Rest was a gift for me too. I just had to keep it, and not give it away.
I heard on Emily P. Freeman’s “Next Right Thing” podcast that going back to the Hebrew verb, Sabbath isn’t something you do, or something you take. Rest is something you keep. It’s something that’s placed directly in your hands. Your job is to not give it away.
I was playing around with that idea for a few months. What other gifts has God given me, in order to do the things he has planned for me to do, have I given away, and then feel exhausted and frustrated?
The Revolving Door of Interruptions.
Prayer and Bible reading, or “devotions” as modern Christians call them, is one of the hardest things to keep. It’s just my kids mess up my day so often. They interrupt to say “just real quick…” like a revolving door. I try getting up early, but it only lasts so long. So I just do it when there’s a lull in the day, or during nap time. That seems to work.
I feel funny sharing this story, mostly because I’m not convinced I acted politely and appropriately. There was one day a few weeks back where it seemed the world was against me spending even 5 minutes in my Bible. The kids woke up early. Knut needed help with breakfast. There was an argument with a teen. The middles were whiny and needed snuggles. Then lunch came and everyone was going their different ways. The kindergartener ruined nap time for the toddler. The activities began. I couldn’t catch my breath.
The first time that there was any “lull” in the day was after I put supper in the oven, and there was a few minutes before I had to do anything in the kitchen. Everyone was busy doing something. My husband was home, but was cleaning up in the bathroom. I was so overwhelmed from the events of the day I was literally shaking. My nerves were fried. So I snuck upstairs to my bedroom, opened up my Bible, and started to read. Just a tiny bit. I just need some time with God because seriously, I’m going to lose it on everyone during supper and it’s going to be bad.
My husband walked into the room, changed out of his work clothes and saw me sitting in my chair, reading my Bible. “We’re having supper in a minute. Are you sure this is the best time for this? Can’t you do that later?”
I looked right at him and said, “You don’t have the authority to tell me I don’t have time for God. I need him right now, and if he doesn’t settle me down, it’s going to be bad.”
As my husband slowly backed out of the room, I just dove into the Psalms. I brought out my journal and started taking notes. I wrote down questions, and I underlined certain parts. I wrote down my observations. I drove me to prayer.
After 15-20 minutes, I went downstairs again. I felt guilty for the way I had handled that whole situation. I kept thinking about how God has given me so many ways to depend on him. But I don’t, because others are depending on me.
It so often feels like these gifts like prayer, Bible reading, fasting, giving, etc, are work. There’s things I do so that God will be happy with me. I question if it’s enough. I ask a lot of “enough” questions.
They feel like frosting on the cake, something that I can bring into my life once I get it more in order. Once my house is clean…my work is done…my kids are in bed…
But because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, none of my works are necessary. But he knew that I would get discouraged anyway. He knew that I would need help. He knew that I would need him to hold me up in this life that can crush me.
As far as needing to get my life in order before I could do something as “decadent” as sit and read the Bible, and make time for it? You don’t earn that. It’s your birthright. When you were born again in Christ, he gave you access. Access to God is your birthright as a child of God.
Let’s be honest what this is really about. I don’t have time for a savior. I’m too busy saving myself.
I don’t have time to keep the things God has placed in my hands, by his grace. I’m too busy giving them away to my other gods. I try to honor my husband, and I love that he’s the head of our household. He’s an easy guy to respect. And they always say “as long as he doesn’t ask you to do something that’s against God’s word…”
What about when God’s word says to work AND rest. “You don’t have the authority…” My husband is the head of my house. Yet, he is not the priest of the house. Everyone who lives here still gets direct access to God.
It wasn’t so much something I said to him. He is actually pretty protective of my rest, especially as our family has walked through some dark times of my chronic pain the last 5 years. “You don’t have the authority” is something I had to say out loud so I could hear it for my own heart. My husband doesn’t have the authority to tell me I don’t have time for God. The kids don’t have the authority to tell me I don’t have time for God.
No government, no group, no activity, no person in my life has that authority. It’s my birthright, an inheritance I was “born” into. And no one can take it from me. That does not mean I shouldn’t love or care for others with respect and sacrifice. It just means that when I love them, that love doesn’t require us to do anything absent from the support God offers.
Just like Daniel in the Old Testament, praying 3 times a day, even when it got him in trouble. I don’t think he wanted to “show them” or was trying to be difficult. He just knew his priorities. He knew his limits. He knew if he didn’t have God, then none of it mattered. It was a matter of authority.
I read an article the other day, where a young mom was bemoaning to her pastor how she doesn’t have time for any “spiritual disciplines” because of her young children. He said that caring for her children was her spiritual discipline for this season. I get what he’s saying. I really do. God has been with me and taught me so much through this service. And I could see how it would work that way.
But let me make this very clear: God does not ask you to do any work that does not involve you depending on him. God does not ask you to skip your rest. God does not ask you skip reading his Word. There is no work so great that it requires you to sacrifice Him.
You do not need to sacrifice God in your life for any greater good. That moves you to the savior position, and you don’t belong there. Of course, there will be differing spiritual disciplines for each season. There is the proper time for each of them. But, you don’t need to lay him on the alter and say, “in honor of you, I’m going to give up you.”
God desires us to grow in dependence of him…not grow independent of him.
You don’t need to ask the “how much is enough” questions. You don’t have to do this work of devotions and prayer and all that godly stuff. Spiritual disciplines are for your good. Yes, I know that feels selfish, but here’s the humble secret: you actually need it. It’s a good, an access, that Christ purchased for you as your birthright, and no one has the authority to take it from you.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)