Spontaneity is overrated.
The most important things in life usually require intention rather than spontaneity.
Bad things happen to people who only pay their rent when they feel like it; when they only turn up to work when when they feel like; when they only invest in their marriage when the mood takes them. The most important things in life require advance decision making. They require some intention on our part.
If our relationship with God and the pursuit of His presence is of primary importance to us, we must give it our fullest and most deliberate attention. I’ve learned that I won’t drift into a deep relationship with God. It requires me to be intentional about adopting life-giving rhythms and habits that connect me in intimacy to God.
Psalm 131 is fast becoming one of my favourite Psalms. It’s incredibly short, but contains a vital truth:
2 But I have calmed and quietened myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
In this Psalm, David is contrasting the experience of a nursing child with that of a weaned child. The nursing child wants to be in the mother’s presence simply for the milk it receives, but the weaned child can find food elsewhere. The weaned child just wants to be in the presence of its mother for no other reason than intimacy and closeness. That’s David’s goal. Not to find himself in God’s presence to get something, but simply to be with Him.
And notice what David has to do to get himself into that position: ‘I have calmed and quietened myself.’ In order to experience intimacy with God he must intentionally cultivate a quiet heart and mind.
Have you ever tried that?
Have you ever attempted to ‘calm and quieten’ yourself?
It’s incredibly difficult. Your mind wanders. You think of the things you’ve got to do and the things you’ve forgotten to do.
And then your iPhone calls your name. You become distracted by messages and media.
The only solution is to create an intentional rhythm to your life. To add a few healthy habits to your schedule because you become what you repeat; because what you do does something to you.
‘You become what you repeat.’
I love this from Ruth Haley Barton…
‘There comes a time when desire for God’s presence is so deep that mere tweaking is not enough. Finally, I just gave into it all, making the choice to radically reorder my life to listen to the longings of my heart and arrange my life for spiritual seeking.’
I know this is embarrassingly ‘old school’ and some of you may reject this advice because it sounds too legalistic and constricting, but I’ve figured out that the best way I can ‘calm and quieten’ myself so that I can practice the presence of God is called a:
DAILY QUIET TIME
…old-school, I know.
DAILY because it’s a daily commitment. But what starts out as a daily duty becomes a delight. It becomes a life-giving rhythm and if you miss a day you feel the loss of it.
QUIET because you have to surgically remove your iPhone from your hand and find a place without distractions. But when you finally find that quiet place in the presence of God, ready to receive and return His loving gaze, it becomes worth the effort.
TIME because it requires a small portion of your day. If you’re starting out, 10 minutes is good. Build from there.
And what do you actually ‘do’ during that quiet time?
There’s no rules.
Experiment. Keep it simple. And if in doubt, follow Henri Nouwen’s advice:
‘You don’t have to say many words. You don’t have to have deep thoughts. You don’t have to worry about how to think. You can just be where you are and say, “I love you. I love you. I know you love me and I love you. I don’t have any big things to say. I don’t have any profound words to express, but I am here and I want you to be with me and I want to be with you.” It is that simple. It is a very simple thing. Prayer is not complicated. It is not difficult. If people ask you how you pray just tell them, “Sit down and say, ‘Lord, here I am.'”
I would love to hear about your intentional rhythms as you also learn to practice the presence of God. Let me know…