October 17, 2003, 9:00 am
Filed under: uncategorized

Over the past three months I’ve watched my personal spiritual rhythms take a beating. The easiest thing for me to point to for my difficulties in consistency is my job at the coffee shop. On days when I open the shop, my alarm starts beeping at 3:40a.m.

About seven years ago, just before getting married, I took a new job at a local university. Prior to that I had worked a swing shift job, but the new job required me to be at work at 6:30a.m. I found that the best way for me to have a consistent “quiet time” (that’s what I called it back then) with God was to get up at about 4:00a.m. I continued this practice for the most part up until the time I left my staff position with the church this April. These were good times. Despite not being a “morning person” I thrived in the dark and quiet hours before my day began. The routine gave me the place to encounter scripture, meditation, prayer, and spiritual readings that challenged me in my following of Christ.

When I took the job at the coffee shop, that routine ended. My schedule is different from one day to the next, one week to the next. Some days I’m at work at 4:30a.m., some days at 9:00a.m. My “real” job as a church starter plays out in part as I meet people at the coffee shop, which I enjoy a lot. But again, my own spiritual life has suffered.

It’s been very easy for me to become discouraged and blame my work schedule for my difficulty. But having called in sick this morning because of an ugly and uncomfortable eye infection, I sat down for some time with God. I read scripture, prayed, and confessed my frustration to Jesus. Then I picked up a book and read these words by Thomas Merton in Contemplative Prayer:

“Those who imagine that they can discover special gimmicks and put them to work for themselves usually ignore God’s will and his grace. They are self-confident and even self-complacent. They make up their minds that they are going to attain to this or that, and try to write thier own ticket in the life of contemplation. They may even appear to succeed to some extent . . . “

With all the best intentions, and certainly some healthy and God-honoring results, I have come to rely on a “program” in my life. It did work for a time. That time has come to an end, at least for the time being. In its absence I realize that I’ve become far too reliant on it, and not reliant enough upon the wooing of the Spirit of God to spend time alone in the quiet spaces with him. My routines have been interrupted and my lack of desire for the presence of Jesus in my life has been exposed. I have dreamed that I could manufacture spirituality in my life by getting up at a certain hour of the day and reading, praying, meditating in a certain order, with certain results.

My opportunity now is to walk daily, hourly in the presence of Jesus, allowing him to direct me into the moments where I can do the good things of meditation and focused prayer. They may be shorter in length, random in order, but these moments exist all around me if I will ask Jesus to lead me there.

I do long for the day when I can once again develop a fairly predictable spiritual routine and rhythm. But when it comes, I want to use it as a gift and a joy, and not as a program.


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