“Quiet time” might be one of the most confusing words in the Christanese English Dictionary. It’s revered, insisted upon, and I’ve always felt vaguely guilty for not doing enough of it, but it’s hard to know what it actually is. Quiet time involves Bible reading, of course, and definitely some praying. I hear whispers about worship songs and something about a special chair in a corner with a quilt. Not to mention #CoffeeAndJesus. Or should that be #JesusAndCoffee?
I’m an ex-seminary wife, but I’m no theologian so I won’t attempt a dissertation on the means of grace. However, I think it’s fairly clear from the Bible reading I’ve done that we are called to read God’s Word regularly and come to Him with our prayers, thanksgivings, and worship.
When I think about those activities, they have a common theme of requiring a great deal of attention. It may or may not be audibly quiet but to be still before God requires, well, being still. And reading the Bible well requires time, an attention span, and the mental space to reflect.
I still feel like my 5 year-old self who was constantly getting scolded in Sunday School for playing with the Velcro on my shiny patent leather shoes during prayer time. I continually find it a struggle to sit still for long enough to read Scripture well or to place my attention on God instead of myself for more than 10 seconds at a time.
But why should I expect myself to be able to be quiet before God if I’m not quiet any other time of the day? If I can’t carve out times to think or reflect about anything without obsessively scrolling through my Instagram feed, why would my time with God be any different?
Our attention is so often misplaced, refracted by the prism of technology into infinite beams of distraction–red inboxes, blue newsfeeds, yellow snaps, and rainbows of images–all stealing my ability to focus on just. one. thing.
The habits we allow to rule the majority of our lives will naturally spill over into the times we set aside to intentionally grow in our faith and relationship with God. If I lose my literacy by skimming online articles and headlines, my ability to read the Bible suffers as well.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Luke and I often remind each other of this quote from Blaise Pascal. The bad news is that it’s harder than ever nowadays to be quiet and alone. The good news is that replacing the rituals of distraction with intentional attention will not only make being quiet before God more natural, it will smooth out some other wrinkles in the rhythm of life.
And sure enough, when we begin to prioritize thinking over texting and listening over “liking”, we find our problems smaller, our hearts calmer, and our minds clearer.
Living in Russia without a traditional 9-5 grind has provided me with the opportunity for more mental space. This fall, I’m going to focus on growing my attention span and creating rituals of reticence throughout my day.
I’ll be sharing my thoughts on misplaced stuff (not the lost luggage variety) next week! Same place, same time. You can sign-up for an e-mail notification in the box below.