NOTE: This is Part 3 in a series of posts about some of the discoveries I am making about spiritual practices as I journey along with God. You can click the following links to read the previous posts:
MISCONCEPTION #3: Spiritual practices are an ISOLATED part of my day
I used to believe that spiritual practices were an ISOLATED part of my day. The “quiet time” idea helped me along in this belief (see Part 2). It led me to have this sense that there was this holy time I spent alone with God and then…the rest of life. In my mind and in my practice, there was no mixing and mingling between the secular and spiritual AT ALL. There was this great divide, in which God had to be summoned through these practices in order to be present in my life.
But here’s the thing: God is already and always present in our lives. These practices merely help us to tune into that. No matter where we are or what we are doing, these practices can help us to recognize and acknowledge God is with us. No matter where we are or what we are doing, they can help us receive and appreciate His love. These practices are not to be done in isolation from the rest of life, rather these spiritual practices are meant to be INFUSED into all of life—reminding us again and again and again that the God who loves us is continually near.
EXPERIENCING THE PRACTICES: A Rule of Life
Take a moment to think about what a normal day looks like for you. What would it look like for you to get into a rhythm of remembering God’s presence with you in the midst of the normal and mundane? What would it look like for you to receive God’s love in the flow of your regular, ordinary day? St. Benedict called this having a “rule of life”. I don’t know about you, but when I hear that word “rule”, it sounds like just another strict, rigid, mechanical, draining “must” for me to attend to. However, that’s not the sense in which he was using that word. When he said “rule”, he meant “reign”. He was challenging us to consider how we might order our day to become more aware of God’s rule and reign in every aspect of our lives.
As you think about your day, it might seem overwhelming and impossible to consider adding anything else into your already packed schedule. I totally get that. I’m the mom of a 4 year old. Having time to myself is like a mirage…the stuff of legends and dreams. Free time is in the same category as Big Foot for me. However, here is what I want to encourage you to do: don’t try to carve out a special time for God separate from the “crazy” of your life, but actually invite and include God in the “crazy”…invite and include Him in what you are already doing in the course of your day.
Let me share with you a bit of my current rhythm, as you consider a rhythm of your own. I am a runner. I’ve found that running is extremely important not just for my physical health, but for my mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well. For me running is more than just exercise, it is actually a spiritual practice (what Ruth Haley Barton calls “honoring the body”). God gave us our bodies, and the Psalmist tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Furthermore, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and they are the instruments through which God desires to work to bring His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. In light of this, caring for our bodies is actually a very spiritual thing. When I first started running, I would always run by myself, and I would use this time to talk to God. I would tell him what was on my mind and pound it out with Him on the pavement. However, about two years ago, I started running with a group of friends. Don’t tell them this (shhhhhhhh!) but at first, I kind of mourned the loss of this private time I had between me and God. I’m an introvert, okay! I need alone time, but it’s funny how God knows what we need most. God knew I need this community. These ladies have become a way of helping me stay accountable to honoring the body God gave me. Text messages fly all over the place, saying “We will meet here at this time, and we will run this far, this fast…” They keep me on track. But even more than that, these ladies have become some of my closest friends. While we run, we share our joys and our sorrows; we celebrate and mourn with each other; we cheer one another on and challenge one another to persevere. For someone like me whose personality is to turn inward and to isolate, the practice of being in community is so needed and life-giving for me. Plus: its .48 miles from my house to where we all meet to run, so I still get a little bit of alone time with God (yay!). Running is a time that I recognize God is present in my life.
Just before I start getting ready in the morning (in the quiet while my boys are still asleep), I take a moment to read a passage of Scripture that I can remember and ruminate on throughout the day. It may only be 2-5 minutes of reading, but it is a way of setting my mind on God and His ways as I begin my day.
Then, I shared earlier about how important and needed the practice of the prayer of examen is in my life because of my personality (see Part 2). One of the few times when I am by myself for any extended period of time is on my drive home from work, and so as I drive, I acknowledge God’s presence with me and review my day with celebration and confession.
When I started trying to incorporate these practices into my life, it took some effort. It took some intentionality. It took some trial and error and changing things up, but now these practices have become a part of who I am–not in some dead, repetitive, rote kind of way, but in a way that opens me up to consistently receive God’s love throughout my day.
As you think back over your schedule, what opportunities do you have to invite God into the flow of your everyday? Maybe you are a new mom and you have the opportunity to listen to the Scriptures while you are nursing your child. Maybe you love to garden and you could pray while you are caring for your plants. Maybe you kind of hate folding clothes (like me!) but can try trick yourself into liking it by thanking God for something with each item you have to fold (I’ve been trying that out recently, and I’m sorry to report it hasn’t tricked me yet). I don’t exactly know what it might look like for you, but remember: it doesn’t have to be fancy and elaborate. Keep it simple and manageable. As you discern what practices to incorporate into your rhythm, here are a few questions to help you along:
*For what are you longing from God? What practices could help you fulfill that longing? (See Part 1)
*What are the practices through which God most comes alive for you? (See Part 2)
*What are the practices that open you up to receive God’s grace in the areas where you need it most? (See Part 2)
TIPS TO REMEMBER
- Intentionality to establish.
- Time to figure out.
- Trial and error.
Rhythms are meant to be…
- Start small—choose just one or two new practices to incorporate into the flow of your day.
- Tell someone else your plan and give them permission to ask you how it is going.