When You Can’t Find the Time for God

Time for God

I can’t find the time.

I whisper it into a sink of dishes, scrubbing away the remains of a messy day. Night descends outside the window, laundry still bobbing, now damp on the line. Bills pile up, toddlers melt down, responsibilities press in, and the hours slip away. Finding time for God seems harder than ever.

I used to have a regular “quiet time,” often first thing in the morning, the breakfast staple of a good devotional life. That was “time for God.” But now with needy little ones, that early morning is not so peaceful. How can I keep this God connection strong when I don’t have much quiet or time?

Some days it feels like a cut and paste game. What else can I rip out? Where can I fit God in? At the end of it all I am the toddler with the safety scissors and a pile of scraps. I am not good at making time.

But what if I didn’t have to make time for God? For too long I have been trying to patch Him into my chronos time, these fast and fleeting minutes strung one after the other, like clothespins on the line. But patches are not enough. I need something more binding.

God has already made time for us by giving us His eternal and abiding presence through Christ. “Lo, I am with you always.” It is always the right time to be with God. When I can’t “fit Him in,” I need to turn the clock to karios time, the “fitting time,” which is less about counting minutes for God and more about living each moment with God.

As my chronos time drains down the sink with a few stray spaghetti strands, I am reminded of Brother Lawrence, who was no stranger to the kitchen. A seventeenth century monk, he spent most of his time on kitchen patrol as chief cook and bottle washer at the Paris monastery where he lived. For him, monastic life wasn’t all silence and solitude. Much of his day was spent sweating over a hot stove, and the time he did spend in prayer and meditation was not more holy than the rest. He made it a habit to keep in continual conversation with God, being mindful of Him at all times, and to do everything, whether small or great, out of love for God. He called this practicing the presence of God. “‘The time of business,’ said he, ‘does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.’”(1)

We are all too familiar with noise and clatter, whether from the kitchen or elsewhere. But God’s presence can be the eternal binding, the underlay to our lives that gives us constant access to His peace, joy and purpose. Like Brother Lawrence, we can train ourselves to slip into His reality no matter our surroundings. “[W]e need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment…” (2) For God is not far away. He invites us to weave the threads of our lives into His presence, so that instead of carving out time for God we sew continually into time with God.

Every piece of fabric has its knots, the anchors that hold it all together when things are pulled tight and turned inside out. So, too, the fabric of our lives needs to be anchored in God through regular immersion in Scripture and prayer. There we begin a holy conversation which carries us through the day. I still need time with His Word. I still need times where I silence the commotion and seek God in prayer. These are what anchor me, but I do not leave Him when I get up off my knees.

By these I am knotted firmly in who He is, and by training myself to pay attention to His presence lying beneath the surface of my busy days, I see those openings in the fabric of the ordinary which pull me into an encounter with Him. When I emerge I bring Him with me, right in the middle of the pots and pans. Like a needle threading in and out, the more I enter into these kairos moments, the stronger I am bound to Him.

And so I am learning to put down my scissors and pick up the needle instead. When I can’t find the time, I can still find Him.

 

(1) Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, 2004), 30.
(2) Ibid., 25.

This post was originally published as an article, “Time for God or Time with God?” in Good Tidings magazine. 

 

~ lg

S.D.G.

Psalm 5: The Multitude of Mercy

Praying the Psalms

“But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy:
And in thy fear I will worship toward thy holy temple.”
Psalm 5:7

When weariness and weakness overtake me, and I don’t know how I can enter your holy house the wretch that I am, you send a multitude of mercy to meet me.

I have strength only to crawl and sigh, but you have have heard my prayer, and I hear the call to look up. From your gates come streaming a gracious throng, banners waving in welcome. They come with song, and they come with cheers. They come with hands both soft and strong, pulling me up, lifting me on their shoulders. They come with refreshment, both bread and wine, a foretaste of the feast inside. They come with hot towels and healing balm.

They are whispering peace even as they shout for joy. I am caught up in the colourful crowd, floating on a current of the great living river that somehow flows both in and out of the temple. And it is in this multitude that I am carried where my feet feared to go, where my strength could not take me.

Fear of the Lord drives me to my knees, but then, oh then, mercy comes running.

 

~lg

S.D.G.

Psalm 27: The One and Only “One Thing”

Praying the Psalms

“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to inquire in His temple.”
(Psalm 27:4)

It’s curious – or is it? – that this “one thing” Davids asks is actually a trinity of things.

To dwell.
To behold.
To inquire.

First, he is both asking and seeking. He is asking God for this, because he knows it must come from Him as a gift. This “thing” belongs properly to God, and so it is His to give. And yet David also seeks it, for the kingdom of God seems to be ordered in this way – that the best things are had by those who will seek for them. The search itself, the way to them, is also part of their intrinsic goodness. They would not be so worthy had we not set our hearts to search them out.

This is the dynamic of prayer. We ask, and He answers – “Seek.” Perhaps the seeking makes clear not only the thing, but the heart behind the thing. We ask for a thing, and God invites us into His Person, there to find ourselves in Him, and every other thing added unto us.

But back to this trinity.

To dwell in the house of the LORD.

Oh, this is His place, His presence. This is His residence. To dwell where He dwells, to live and move and His being. To find our refuge, our shelter, our resting place, our refreshment. To find our home. To find our family and our good Father.

To behold the beauty of the LORD.

As if the first was not enough – this! To come face to face with beauty, not in the abstract, not with a work of art, but with the Artist. To have eyes opened, veil lifted, and not burn up at the glory of Him all. To gaze – and gaze – and see our very Lord Jesus.

To inquire in His temple.

And now, dwelling in a vision of this our God, to have the audacity to inquire. To make the most intimate of conversations. This inquiry is also a meditation. We find the dialogue of prayer is not cut and dry, but a continuous exchange of thought, as deep calls to deep, as the Spirit within us cries out. A question becomes a conversation. Our minds are renewed in the mind of Christ till we begin to see with His eye.

 

This “one” thing is indeed great. In this threefold action – dwell, behold, inquire – we have a most perfect communion.

He says, “Seek My face,” and in the secret place He bestows a beatific vision. From every angle we are seen, known, and loved.

No wonder the tabernacle is filled with shouts of joy! This one thing, this singular search, ends in a plurality of praise.

“I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD!”

 

~lg

S.D.G.

Lent and the Virtue of Silence

I hadn’t intended to keep silence on the blog since my last post about having a “Gentle Lent.” But perhaps the absence of words is fitting, in a way.

That’s one of the lessons I’ve been learning.  It’s much easier to cut back on harsh words when I cut back on words altogether. There is a temptation to try to keep control simply by volume of things said. Which can lead to nagging, complaining, and the constant droning of mom’s voice, which the the kids are very good at tuning out! With children (and in many other areas of life, I am sure), less is more.

Here’s an epiphany: I don’t have to vocalize every thought in my head! It’s part of humility, and it’s part of patience, and it’s part of self-control.

Part of being slow to anger is being slow to speak. 

I am reminded of the following proverbs:

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.
But he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Prov. 10:19)

“He who restrains his words has knowledge,
And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Prov. 19:27)

James, the wisdom writer of the New Testament, puts it this way:

“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) 

Sometimes the best way to reign in harsh words is simply to pause . . . and then not say anything. I’ve been trying it out. During a frustrating episode, I feel the tirade rising from within. My instinct is to let it loose on the little monsters, to let them feel the heat of my frustration and the intensity of my speech. In better moments, I’ve changed the direction of my verbal assault to be less harsh. But in my best moments, I’ve let silence reign, even for a short time.

Silence opens space to breathe. Silence opens space for my emotion to diffuse. Silence opens my ears to ear to hear the wisdom of the Spirit in that moment.

Silence lowers the rising room temperature for all of us. When the volume is turned up, it’s counterproductive to add my voice to the fray. My purposeful silence can readjust the dynamics of the situation better than my words can. More talking often equals more fuel to the fire. But silence diffuses. Silence cools.

Silence gives opportunity for all of us to reorient.

Sometimes, I don’t need to say anything further at all. I’m just so used to inserting myself into situations that often don’t even need my input! There are times just to let it go, and let the kids work things out on their own. Sometimes my silence is enough to reintroduce rational thought into the kids’ brains, and they figure out what they need to do themselves.

Other times, my silence is enough of a pause that what I would have said in the heat of the moment has dissipated, and my rational brain returns, able to handle the demands or distresses of the situation.

I’m finding the virtue of silence helpful, not only in situations that can trigger anger, but also in the general flow of our day. Less is more. More purpose in my words, and more peace in our home.

I’m learning that purposeful silence is a significant key to gentleness.

 

~lg

S.D.G.

 

Praying the Psalms: Gentle Lent

Praying the Psalms

Some of the psalms are so rich I spend days mining their treasures. There are many mornings I simply stay and pray with the psalm of the previous day, because I feel I’m not finished with it yet. Or rather, that it isn’t finished with me! The living word keeps calling me back to whisper one more thing.

“Thou has also given me the shield of thy salvation:
and thy right hand hath holden me up,
and thy gentleness hath made me great.”
(Psalm 18:35)

In this instance, I haven’t been able to shake the last line of that verse. It has been echoing through my mind for days. (That’s the way conviction often works.)

Thy gentleness hath made me great.

It’s one of those upside-down sort of kingdom truths. And, oh, I live so right-side-up most days!!

I have the right to be annoyed by the inconveniences motherhood brings.
I have the right to be angry when my plans for the day are thwarted.
I have the right to let my displeasure be known far and wide in my little kingdom.

Mama’s not happy and you’re going to know about it!

It’s as if I think parenting greatness can be got by huffing and puffing.

But this little word is whispered again – gentleness. She who has ears to hear, let her hear! Careful, or you just might miss it . . . I will show you a more excellent way. 

Lent begins today.

I’ve been praying about how God wants to focus my heart through fasting. Lent is about abstaining from particular “goods” in order to receive what is greater.

And I keep thinking,

What if I fasted from harsh and angry words?
What if I fasted from the frustrated reactions I display when my own will is thwarted?
What if I fasted from lording my authority and demanding respect?

Would this weeding out make room for gentleness to grow its holy fruit?

Oh, it won’t be easy, this I know. Habits must be broken. Thoughts must be renewed. Attitudes must be reformed. If I thought I had the strength in myself, I would have done it by now.

But already I feel this force pushing up from somewhere within, like rising sap. It is Spirit-life. And its strength is through surrender.

A Gentle Lent. This is what I need. And so I pray.

 

Prayer

Lord and Gardener,

I have heard Your gentle whisper. You are calling me to greater life. You are calling me to a more excellent way. You are calling me to cast my handful of seeds into the earth and die to self.

Gentleness is Your fruit. I may not have it in me, but I have it through You. Keep me close to the Vine. Prune my wayward ways. Spirit rise and renew me in Your life. Teach and train my heart to grow aright.

Show me the power of Your gentleness. I want no greatness apart from You.

Amen.

 

~lg

S.D.G.