"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" - Mark 1:35
I think devotions are extremely important, and yet I think many of us are scared of them. I know I used to be. I thought every devotion needed to have this earth shattering moment where God spoke directly to me and my world would be changed. That my heart would be full and I would walk away renewed and in touch with my soul. But then there is the question of "what to do for devotions?" Pray? Journal? Read? But read what? The Bible? A book? What book? Of Poetry .short stories with meaning...a chapter in the Bible, but then where do I start with that? Good grief, it's just easier to ignore it all together.
I think Satan speaks these things into our Spirit to keep us from even trying. We come to a devotion/quiet/ meditation time with expectations. We hear people speak of how God is changing them, speaking to them, revealing things to them. We show up once, it doesn't happen, and it becomes harder the next time to be as open, be as vulnerable. We show up again and we read text but it doesn't really get down into our soul. (and then there is the issue of being terrified of what God might reveal to us, or what we might see in our own souls that we don't want to see and will have to confront.)
I can't believe I am actually going to say this, but because I hear Tony Horton's voice every day in this house, (God bless my husband for his dedication to his health and workouts), I am going to repeat what he tells his clients,
SHOW UP. JUST SHOW UP.
You don't always feel like it. You may suck at it some days. You may feel nothing some days, but you have to show up.
I had a friend who decided to just show up to silence every morning for 30 minutes. She wasn't sure what she was doing. She wasn't sure if she was going to think on a passage, or say something, or wait. She didn't know, but what she knew is she needed to show up. If she kept showing up then something was going to happen.
There is no right way to do devotions. Over our last Sabbath, I read all of C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" I never opened my Bible or prayed. But I read a book on spiritual matters. My soul was stirred and my heart was full of new thoughts regarding God and his love for me. That was my devotion time. It was refreshing because there are so many days where I read the proverbs or the Psalms or Hebrews and...there's just nothing. I don't know what I am supposed to be hearing or learning. Nothing jumps off the page at me and grabs me. I read. I close the book, and then I'm done. It was nice to feel something after doing a devotion.
We have to acknowledge that there is a lie here that says that devotions have to be hard, complicated, intimidating, long, life changing. Most devotions/quiet times/meditations are just showing up. Because something beautiful happens in the showing up. When we consistently show up, we change our habits to include a greater force than ourselves. We train our brains to remember that we are not alone and are under a higher authority. It forces us to remember that God is there. We are not alone. God is there. When we show up it creates space for God to be God. When we show up we will slowly chip away at our independence and fear and control issues and slowly and gently God will take them from us and replace them with his compassion, forgiveness and love.
JUST SHOW UP.
Doesn't matter what you start with. Doesn't matter how terrible your prayer is. (I love to pray. I like to pray more than I like to read the Bible. I like to pray more than I like to listen to God's answer. Some would say they like listening to me pray. But in devotion time, my prayers are horrible. They are scattered, they are confusing, they are distracted. They are jumpy, meaning they go from something very real and deep to something like, "please God help me not to forget that my son needs a special treat today." A lot of times, my prayers are begging God to help me stay focused. I struggle with saying the things I think I am supposed to say and what I really want to say. They usually end up being both, just in case.)
Devotions can be short to get started. Devotions can be listening to a song with a strong spiritual meaning. It could be reading a book that teaches you or encourages you in spiritual matters. It could be a Bible Study. It could be a Portals of Prayer, which I've actually never read before. huh. It could be prayer. It could be journaling. Doesn't matter, just show up. God still shows up, so you won't be alone.
Start where you need to start to have success. If that means 15 min. three days a week, then start there. Start in a realistic place where you will have success and be encouraged to get to the place you want to be. Remember, there is no right or wrong in this.
But let's be honest here. If we aren't spending time re plugging into our spiritual source, how can we expect our faith to flourish? How can we be strong and courageous if we aren't doing anything to strengthen it? Our Christian faith is like any other living thing. It needs to be fed and strengthened, otherwise, it withers and dies.
I wish I was better at devotions on a daily basis. A lot of times I am so exhausted from staying up late trying to do too many things. This last Sabbath was a big reminder to me how important taking time out, making it a priority is. Taking time to learn from the one who made me. Feeling my soul shine a little brighter, feel a little more alive, a little more real and full. And to learn a little bit more about the one who loves me. To challenge my preconceived ideas and stretch my understanding.
I need to remember...Just show up.
It's not about how to do devotions.
It's about why we do devotions.