This is titled 'making time' instead of 'finding time', because anyone who has a busy life (everyone?) knows that there really isn't such a thing as 'free time'. Here's the reality: making time for Jesus is a spiritual battle, one that we engage in daily...and if we don't make time for it, we won't do it. The world and all of our responsibilities will beckon us, "Come do this or that urgent thing first." and it never happens. As my wise bible study leader said recently, "Satan's first plan is to keep us from becoming a Christian, and his second is to keep us from becoming an effective Christian." How would he do that? By keeping us from time in God's presence, praying, reading and meditating on God's word daily.
Over and over again people have asked me how I am finding time to meet with God amidst the chaos of three kids two and under. Here is the most important answer I can give: BY GOD'S GRACE. I don't have super powers, yet God has been faithful to keep me and help me persevere in the midst of a challenging and busy season. He is good, and I have to rest on that goodness continually when I sense my heart focusing too much on the urgent needs of the present instead of the unseen rewards of eternity.
But there are some other things too, practical things, that have helped in this journey. I want to share them; not because I have it all figured out (I don't and I'm still learning each day), but because I'm encouraged and inspired to spend more time with God as I hear how other moms with young children are working this out in their daily lives. Even if you don't do anything I do, but you read this post and think, "I am so thankful for what Jesus has done for me, and I want to make more time for him." That's great!
Here are some things that have helped me feast on my 'daily bread'...
Understanding why it's important
I am the type of person who needs to know why a rule exists in order to be motivated to follow it. But once I embrace the reason behind it, I can happily live within the boundaries. It took me a long time to establish a regular time each day with the Lord, making it my highest priority, because I wondered if it was just a legalistic expectation that Christians place on themselves. But I've come up short in my ability enough times to realize that in order to obey God, give him glory, and have wisdom for the day, I must first be worshipping and enjoying him. My 'good works' will only be an overflow of my time spent being filled by his love and grace. Suddenly, daily time with God stopped being a burden and started be a necessary part of doing anything else with eternal purpose. Also, as I've observed other Christians, it's clear that those who are shining the light of Jesus most brightly are the ones who make time with God a priority each day. So if that is the type of woman I want to be when I'm 40, 60, 80 and today, then time invested in the Lord is incredibly important!
Meeting in the morning
I love the powerful story of Susanna Wesley, who put an apron over her head to signify to her 10 children that she was spending time with the Lord. She couldn't find time to fit in a quiet moment, so she just made one! I've needed to discover my proverbial 'apron' and figure out how to make time for Jesus, even when I have a busy and demanding lifestyle.
Although I do not believe that there is a biblical mandate to have time with the Lord each morning (because we are justified by faith alone and not our works), it is of great value. There is just no way around it for me; I've tried to do quiet times at all times of the day, but I just desperately need it in the morning. I need it like I need coffee and breakfast. If I don't read scripture, meditate on it, and pray - I'm sure to be feeling frustrated with my children before lunch and groaning over every mess. I'll be looking for ways to avoid all of the hard stuff, and will miss practical areas where I can be faithful and obedient.
Right now, this looks one of two ways...the ideal thing is for me to wake up before everyone else, and I would say that happens 2-3 days a week. I say "ideal", recognizing that a long night of being up with babies, illness, or any other manner of routine disruption make this really challenging. Sometimes I just need to sleep, and that's okay. But as much as possible, I like to have some time to center my heart and mind on the Lord before I'm being needed for urgent tasks. If I'm not able to wake up before the kids (or if they somehow sense I'm awake and get up early with me), I plan to do quiet time right after breakfast. The kids watch a show or play for about 30-45 minutes while I work on bible study and pray. I sit at the kitchen table and expect interruptions, but this still serves as a necessary time to receive nourishment from the word for my day. In the event I'm not able to do either of these, I try to do something in the afternoon during nap time (or I just rest on God's grace for me that day, knowing that my relationship with Him is based on Christ alone)!!
Taking advantage of unexpected opportunities.
Sometimes very gracious family members watch my kids for periods of time during the week. Although I can think of 1,000+ things to do with those precious minutes, I try to take advantage of those times to spend focused and uninterrupted time with the Lord. This is different that my daily quiet time, and often includes reading a book, digging deeper into a topic I've been curious about or writing down what God is teaching me (which occasionally leads to writing blog posts). Also, if the children all wonderfully align their naps for the day, I can spend part of the afternoon listening to podcasts of biblical teaching, watching conferences that I wish I could have attended, or otherwise multitasking learning with chores. Speaking of which - it's been tremendously helpful for me to look for ways to redeem my daily chores and use that time to multi-task, because often those daily things are mindless and you can use that time to think about God!
Okay...let's level here...
All of that sounds really great, and for the most part, this reflects my current habits in this season of life...but my kids also get sick, and I get lazy, and there are days / times / weeks when it just looks less than ideal. I skip days, I choose my to-do list over my quiet time, and I waste time online. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post...spending time with Jesus is a daily battle, and sometimes I lose the battle. But here is the good news: my standing before God doesn't change if I skip a quiet time or fail to be faithful to him. He is faithful to me. He keeps his promises to me. He holds on to me no matter what. And I have to remember and recall those truths when I haven't been in fellowship with him! Because if I don't, I'm likely to start avoiding God altogether because I think he's mad at me or something. Jesus paid the price, and God's mercies are new everyday!
I would love to hear how you make time with Jesus a priority - and fight the battle to make him number one!