My Lifelong Struggle with “Quiet Times”

When I was growing up, I knew that we were supposed to have a “quiet time.” In the conservative Christian church and school circle I matured in, this meant a dedicated time of scripture study, meditation and prayer. Usually the idea was presented at a retreat, from whence I would enthusiastically return to real life and have quiet times for a few days until I got tired of trying to wake up early or find time to do something I found, frankly, boring.

To my profound disappointment, the recommendation to make time for quiet times did not go away when I went off to college. Through my involvement at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I had waves of guilt about my lack of quiet times. I just couldn’t seem to make time. With a few exceptions: when I did sit down to journal with God, as I did on our retreats, amazing things happened. Every year, our chapter went to a retreat at beautiful Montreat in the North Carolina mountains. I remember sitting on a rock in the middle of a mountain stream and feeling God’s presence, his reality. My “forced” quiet times at chapter camp, our annual gathering with other InterVarsity chapters, led to the surrender of sins, of my struggle with depression, of my fears about the future. My quiet times at my CityLights experience in St. Louis transformed my perspective as I realized God’s passion for immigrants, for widows and orphans, and for social justice. In all these cases, I was in situations that dictated a quiet time – and when I listened, it was transformative.

Then “adulting” happened; nobody makes you have a quiet time when you’re in nursing school, when you’re working, when you fall into Default Christian mode of church-Bible study-ministry involvement. Recently, as I discussed in my last blog post, I realized that I needed to focus more on the spiritual side of things, that I was drawing water from a well that I was not caring for.

Yet so strong was my distaste for quiet times that I wondered aloud to myself “Do I need them? Can I just skip them?”

God spoke through my grandmother, who shared about her quiet times. If my grandma is doing quiet times at 80+, I clearly need to be doing them at 30+. God spoke to me through my readings and Bible study passages. Jesus was always going off by himself to talk to God. Finally, God reminded me I need quiet time, that these are not for him but for me. When I skip quiet times, or whatever you want to call them, I am doing myself a disservice. He also reminded me I don’t need to have 30 minutes – I can do 5-10 minted at a time, and I can read the Bible and write notes on my phone, which is a lot easier in Mom-life than finding 30 minutes to sit in a carefully appointed quiet time retreat.

(If you have a nicely decorated quiet time space, and 30 minutes to sit there, no offense meant, I am just a bit jealous).

Finally, the Holy Spirit reminded me that studying this word doesn’t have to be drudgery. I don’t have to plow through one book at a time. I can listen to what he’s calling me to. Right now, my study is a bit eclectic – but it is keeping my interest, I am learning a ton, and the Holy Spirit is certainly speaking to me through the word.

Have you had a rough time with “quiet times?”

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