For both of my loyal readers who noticed I missed a few posts recently, I have a valid excuse. My company sent me off to Germany for six weeks of training at our headquarters in Pforzheim. My co-workers stateside all wished me condolences. I, however, being of an adventurous spirit, rather looked forward to it. There was adventure and sightseeing on the weekends, but my weekdays were spent in an office and my nights were spent in a hotel room about the size of our master bathroom, complete with ancient TV (German broadcasting only) and a two burner stove.
Most would assume that my weekends exploring the nearby Black Forest and jaunts to other tourist spots were the highlights of my stay. They were not the highlight. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun, but the absence of my best friend of 21 years put a damper on my wanderings. Italian ice cream just isn’t as good without my wife to comment with me on how good it is.
In actuality, my evenings alone, in my tiny room, became the high points of my stay. No TV, no internet (I had one free hour, but I could only get my iPad to access it; I soon got bored with that), no computer games. Just me, my Kindle and iPad, about two dozen downloaded Christian classics and the quiet evenings. For most in this world, it would have been six weeks of torment. For me it became a spiritual journey.
You see, I was once an “on fire” Christian, as most of us were when we first encountered our Lord. Then life started shouldering its way into my mountaintop experience. I continued to read my Bible when I had time, attend church and pray, but the depth of emotion I felt at the beginning just never really re-ignited. I knew, for I was often told thus, that regular reading of the Word as well as other study would keep that passion alive. But it’s tough to dive into a spiritual commentary, book or any other source of instruction if I can’t get excited about it to begin with.
God has a plan, my friends. It’s funny how six weeks with nothing else to do but read can focus your attention back to what matters. And answer many of the questions and doubts plaguing your mind. For me it was the question of continuing sin in my life. Mind you, what a Spirit-filled Christian calls sin would probably be laughable to the rest of the world, but we all know what sin is. God doesn’t have a “sin scale” to rank the level of your backsliding. So I began to doubt my own salvation based on these annoying “little” sins that kept popping back into my life like the proverbial weeds along the road.
The time alone allowed me to be drawn into one reading after another, along with the appropriate Bible chapters. No one turned on a TV while my spirit searched out these truths. No one invited me to play Words with Friends. No one called, knocked or dropped in. It was, quite literally, me and God.
You don’t need a burning bush, my friends. You just need quiet. And that’s what I had.
My immediate needs and doubts were answered in those short six weeks. Imagine what we could do if every day were like that. No, it’s not realistic. Even Paul had interruptions (Roman guards had no regard for quiet time or personal space). But there are things we can do–I’d say we must do–if we are to break out of our Christianity 101 rut and move on to a higher degree of understanding.
Here’s my short list (and yes, I’m working on these myself):
- Set a “TV off” time for the household during your at home hours. An hour is a good start. Two is better.
- Tell your family that you need to be alone during the hours of ___ to ___. (Emergencies happen, but usually this is not a big problem for most families).
- Phones can, and must, be ignored. Caller ID is a wonderful gift from God and will save you innumerable interruptions.
- Have a selection of several spiritual books to choose from and, of course, your Bible. I love Kindle and my iPad for this. It’s amazing what you can get for free or a couple of bucks.
- To continue #3, find the classics. I like A.W. Tozier (The Pursuit of God is a MUST read for all Christians), Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, and Andrew Murray, just to name a few. They will direct you to other writers. New writers are fine, but you can download dozens of these great inspirational classics for next to nothing.
- Don’t hesitate to stop reading and simply think or meditate on a passage. An hour of meditation on one sentence is more valuable than a dozen books read through quickly.
- Keep a journal. Jot down these passages that stand out along with your thoughts. Don’t worry, no one else needs to read it. Think of it as your “notes to God.”
- Early to bed, early to rise, is not just good advice from Poor Richard; it’s a great way to deepen your spiritual journey. The early morning hours are often the best to spend quality time with God.
- Pray. This is an obvious one. As you read, you’ll be led to pray. Don’t ignore the leading.
- Finally, don’t get discouraged. Those of you with small children laughed all the way through this. Keep at it. Eventually the time will come when your children will be off doing their own activities (and hopefully some quiet time), and you’ll get your hour or two alone.
I will admit, the first few weeks of my alone time were awkward. I wasn’t sure what to read, what to pray or even if I was better off watching German-dubbed episodes of The Simpsons. But your faith will prevail. Eventually you’ll crave this time. I know, I’ve read that one a thousand times and rolled my eyes. But when actually forced to try it, I found it to be true.
Now, off to your quiet place with a cup of coffee and your Kindle. I won’t call.