Quiet Time. Ugh. I don’t want to do it anymore. As a young Christian, I was taught that I needed to spend time with God every morning, have “quiet time” as they called it, but recently, it became a burden rather than a joy.
Do you ever feel that way when the alarm goes off and it’s time to get up and start your quiet time? Are you secretly happy when it’s Saturday, the day you don’t have quiet time and get to sleep in? Do you feel guilty if you skip a couple of days?
For years, I had a morning quiet time and sometimes an evening one as well. I had prayer journals, Bible reading plans, devotionals and my ladies Bible study, but over time it began to weigh me down and feel more like a burden. I often dreaded it.
I tried signing up for ladies retreats and conferences hoping to learn new ways to bring life back into my quiet time. I bought all the suggested tools, the prayer notebook with tabs for different areas of prayer, the symbols bookmark and colored pencils to mark keys words in my Bible, scripture flashcards, the scented candle and the floral coffee mug with “Be still and know that I am God” emblazoned on it. Each time, I came home fired-up to use my new tools, but invariably, I ended up back in the doldrums.
Now don’t get me wrong, spending time with God is vital. I learned an incredible amount about the Bible and God through my Bible reading, and grew in my spiritual walk. All those disciplines and tools taught me how to pray more creatively, study more effectively and memorize scripture more successfully, but I finally came to a point where I couldn’t seem to make myself show up any more. This distressed me greatly and I was sure God was disappointed in me because of my attitude.
As each day and then months went by, the guilt mounted. Finally, in desperation, I cried out, “Lord, what’s the matter with me? I love You and want to spend time with You, but I just can’t seem to make myself do these disciplines anymore.”
His response came as a shock, “That’s because you are trying to perform for Me rather than build a relationship with Me.”
Ouch. Was that true? Was I using my quiet time to perform for God? If so, why? As I contemplated my motives for spending time with God, I realized that deep down inside I believed that if I did everything a “good Christian” was supposed to do, then God would be obligated to provide for me and make everything go well and, conversely, if I didn’t meet His requirements, then He would be angry with me and turn His back on me. I was trying to manipulate God into giving me His favor.
Thus began my journey out of performance into deep intimacy with God. For three years, I stopped all the ways in which I used to perform for God. I stopped reading my Bible, participating in Bible studies, listening to Christian radio, and set aside my structured prayer times and lists.
Instead, I focused on building a relationship with God. I meditated on how little children relate and interact with their parents and then tried to emulate that in my relationship with God. I started my day by saying, “Good morning daddy, what are we going to do today?” During the day, I explored the concept of playing with God and pointing out butterflies and beautiful flowers.
I spent time picturing myself just sitting in His lap, loving Him and receiving His love back. At night, I pictured myself hugging and kissing Jesus, Father and Holy Spirit good night. As our relationship grew, I learned to simply chat with God. We talked about all kinds of things and nothing at all. “Be still and know that I am God” was no longer just a saying on my coffee cup, it became my lifestyle.
The most surprising outcome of this season was realizing I was overwhelmingly loved whether I performed or not. If I never did another Christian discipline again, God’s love for me would never change. I couldn’t increase it or decrease it. The practices were no longer requirements but opportunities to spend time with my best friend. I could choose to do them or not.
Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest (June 11 entry) states, “The questions that truly matter in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by these words –’Come to Me.’ Our Lord’s words are not ‘Do this, or don’t do that,’ but –’Come to Me.’ If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony.”
Quiet time with God is not about what we do, it is simply about coming to Him. Now, when I read my Bible, participate in Bible studies and spend time in prayer, I do them because I delight in them, not to earn God’s favor. If I miss a couple of days, there is no longer a sense of guilt. I’m still talking with God and spending time with Him, whether I read or not. We are enjoying each other’s presence no matter what we are doing.
If you are a performer like me, I encourage you to take a break from all your practices and simply be with God. Sit quietly in His presence, showering Him with your love and receiving His love back. Learn to chat with Him about everything going on in your life whether it is important or not. He loves to connect with you and hang out with you. Try picturing yourself as an infant, resting in His arms, smiling up at Him as He smiles back at you. Crawl up in His lap and lay your head against His heart and listen to His heartbeat.
All He wants is for you to simply come.
Copyright © 2019 by Vicki Eitel
Vicki Eitel is the author of Seeing God’s Design Behind Menopause. She is passionate about God and leading others to an intimate relationship with Him, so they can walk in His freedom and fullness. She is an ordained pastor and enjoys writing, painting, and speaking to groups. She is a Georgia Tech graduate with a degree in electrical engineering. Vicki & David have been married for 24 years and have two adult children.