I was just going through the motions. And adding in a variety of unnecessary motions, as well.
Some days I had actual real quiet time, but not often. Looking back, I realized I never fully grasped the point of quiet time, or even how to go about it. It was just about the motions rather than about the progress, the development of a closer relationship with God, or the clarity.
In twenty-fourteen I hit a breaking point. All the stress of figuring out how I was supposed to be living my life finally broke me. I started to realize that if I was ever going to understand God's plan for my life, I needed to understand him on a deeper level. I needed to strengthen my relationship with him. I knew that meant devoting more time to Him without any distractions. I needed to be still and listen. I needed quiet time with God, but I didn't know where to start.
Maybe you're in a similar situation and you don't know where to start, or maybe you are at the point where you need a fresh start. I wanted to share a few steps that I've established for making quiet time authentic and successful.
Have a plan.
It helps me to know what I'm going to be doing in quiet time. Whether you choose to just read the Word on your own or use a devotional or study, pick it out ahead of time. Decide what book, chapters versus you will read, or decide which devotional you will study and know which day you are on. For me, this helps prevent me from searching for ideas of what to study during the quiet time, which limits the time I have and sometimes ends with random Pinterest scrolling. Also, gather your supplies ahead of time or keep them all together in one place. I have several things I use during quiet time, including my Bible, special pens, and a large pile of journals (they're kind my thing).
Set aside a specific time.
I heard this so many times that I took it for granted. Like, "oh yeah, that's what everyone says, but my schedule is so busy I can't set aside specific time." Let me be clear. We will never find time to read the Bible, pray, call a friend, do that thing we've always wanted to do but never have the time. You don't find time, you have to make it. I realized I was basically telling God that my time with him was not important enough to make time for. But, you better believe I found made the time for my favorite TV show every week. Ouch. I told you I was being vulnerable, today. Obviously this had to change, so I decided to schedule in time for quiet time with God. Do this. Write it in your planner, stick a post-it on the bathroom mirror, or set a reminder on your phone. Make time in the morning, after dinner, or while sitting in the car at your kids' soccer practice. Just make the time rather than trying to find it and you will notice a difference.
Let everyone know.
I have quiet time at home, at the kitchen table. As much as I love my husband and as much as God loves my husband, it's easy for him to unintentionally be a distraction. If he doesn't know that I'm the middle of quiet time, he doesn't know not to holler down the hall and ask what's for dinner. He doesn't know that he's interrupting quiet time when he calls from work and I'm home studying. I have to let him know when quiet time is, and then he is always able to respect that. I'm sure these boundaries get more difficult for those of you that have young kids, but let your spouse know you need some time with no distractions and then go as far as to return the favor. Or set aside time when you already know you'll be alone and away from any unintentional interruptions.
Close all the tabs. Turn your phone upside down.
This is just how I tackle the situation, but you can handle it in whatever way suits you best. I like to use She Reads Truth as a devotional so I read it from my laptop. It's way to easy to click over to Pinterest when the tab is open in my browser. I have to close all the tabs or I will get distracted thinking about them and not be able to resist clicking away before I'm finished reading the devotional. I turn my phone upside down and on silent because this prevents me from seeing social media notifications as well as checking the time. Finding out who started follow my Instagram feed can wait. But my bigger weakness was checking the time. Just tap the button and flit the eyes. It was way to easy, it had to stop. This step also includes turning off music, television, and anything else competing for my attention. This time is about God, nothing else. Francesca Battistelli creates awesome, Godly music, but I can't rock out to Write Your Story while trying to pray about what my story actually is.
Write it down.
Maybe it's all the years of school, or maybe it's just that I love seeing pen to paper, but writing things down helps me focus. (This is also a great method for staying awake on Sunday mornings after too-late-Saturday-nights, but that's another blog post). Journal helps me focus on what I'm reading and writing it in my own words helps me to comprehend what I'm reading. We have to hear something an average of 7 times before we understand or retain it. That hearing includes reading, writing, speaking, etc. So, reading it counts as one time, writing it as another, and re-reading your notes as a third time. It also becomes a great resource to come back to. I flipped through many sermon notes or devotional journals to spark inspiration for blog posts and hand lettering.
Begin with prayer and end with prayer.
I don't think it's enough for quiet time to just be about reading the Bible. A relationship with God is multifaceted and requires multiple types of communication. I'm working on remembering to pray at the beginning of quiet time. I'm often rushed to get to that point and forget to pray before diving in to that day's devotional. Yet, that's exactly why I need prayer at the beginning. It sets the tone for the quiet time, directs our focus at God, and gives us an opportunity to ask him to open our minds and hearts to what he wants to speak to us during this quiet time. I save the lengthy prayer for the end so I can close out quiet time with a conversation with God. I've began to use a new prayer journal this year and it's been and awesome tool that I can't wait to share at greater length.
I'm still learning about quiet time and still growing in it. I'd love to know what you personally do during quiet time, any tips you have, or simply what you want to start working on?
// Read: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27
// Listen: Divine Romance by Phil Wickam
// Pray: Father, I pray for undistracted quiet time with you. I want to seek a closer relationship with you, to understand your Word, your Will, and to listen to your voice so that I may recognize it and follow you. Thank you for giving us the gift of your Word as an opportunity to know you. Thank you for prayer so that we may talk with you. I pray that you would help me remember to also be quiet, still, and listen. I pray that I make time for growing my relationship with you and that it would be a priority in my life.
This post is part of the Fresh Start series: INTRO // rest // quiet time // contentment + gratitude // goal-setting // home // wardrobe // hair, skin, nails // work habits // friendship + fellowship // marriage // wellness