Chasing my own tail

Do you continue to do what you don’t want to do and not keep up with things you do want to do?

Hoping that’s not just me and doubt it is. Thankfully, it’s somewhat encouraging to read that the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:18-20,  “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

I want to be many things: tidy and organized, gentle, patient and encouraging with my students and family, passionate about my faith, spending less time wasting my time (i.e. Facebook, etc.), and the thing that bugs me the most that I can’t seem to get the hang of is quiet time to learn, grow, and know God.

I want to be quiet and really hear from God. I can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve really sensed that. Should it be more than that? Am I expecting too much? Looking for a dramatic experience? Am I just not made that way and others are able to sense Him more clearly? Doing something wrong? Is He irritated with me that I don’t do a better job? These are the questions that continue to come to mind when I get frustrated that I don’t “feel” Him more. But do I really devote the time to hear Him? Not really. I want to and have tried to get into a habit, but don’t stick with it. I pray through the day here and there and do go to Him when I struggle or when others come to mind and I pray for them. It just doesn’t seem like it’s enough or that I’m good enough. Are my insecurities starting to shine through? yikes.

It’s gotten to a point where I try and carve out some time to be quiet, but I don’t even know what to do with myself. I tend to be on the mild side of the technology craze that has many glued to a device at every stop light, but can still connect with the discomfort that can come from just trying to be quiet. What do I read? How long? Do I follow a formula, like the ACTS prayer? Geez, I can see how I want it to be just perfect, but that’s obviously not realistic. He gets me. “He’s mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14). I did just feel a bit of relief at that reminder.

I remember a bible study I did with some friends many years ago and there was reference to a well-respected Christian leader that would make himself set aside 20 minutes in a prayer closet. If he went in and was distracted a 1,001 times, so be it. He would give God what he could and continue to do that chunk of time. He realized after several weeks doing this that although he didn’t feel like it was productive, he eventually realized he was indeed praying and moving closer. It takes self-discipline that, especially for us Westerners, is more challenging than one might realize.

A former assistant pastor by the name of Ted Hamm, who left me with a few tidbits of spiritual advice while at my church, once said to “pray until you pray”. I can wrap my mind around that. It may not be what we think it should be or feel the way we hope it will, but we CAN make the choice to start and try to keep at it. Not in a legalistic way (that would add to my perfectionistic tendencies), but rather well aware of His compassion for us in knowing our weaknesses as humans.

I’ll end with a quote from one of my all-time favorite Christian authors, Phillip Yancey, that has helped with this struggle as a gentle reminder for us to keep at it: “When doubts creep in and I wonder whether prayer is a sanctified form of talking to myself, I remind myself that the Son of God, who had spoken worlds into being and sustains all that exists, felt a compelling need to pray. He prayed as if it made a difference, as if the time he devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as the time he devoted to caring for people.”