For years I hated the phrase “quiet time.” I hated how super-spiritual people seemed when they’d talk about getting up early to read the Bible and reflect on what they were learning. I was convinced that they were full to the brim with self-righteous nonsense.
Then the last couple of weeks happened.
Oh, let’s rewind for a minute. I have long been a journaler. As a visual learner, it helps me to see the words of a situation or twisted knot of feelings flow out onto the page. Many times I have been able to avoid saying something incredibly stupid because I’ve already spit it onto the page. I can see how that sentence would affect an already-tense time. I can see how I’m trying to be intentionally hurtful. My friend’s mother calls this “getting the poison out,” and it’s a very necessary part of living.
About two years ago, I began addressing these journal entries, “Dear Lord.” Since I’m very much afflicted with spiritual ADHD and can’t pray silently in my head for the life of me, it made sense to me to turn these words into a conversation with God. Yes, He already knows what’s going on, but He’s gracious enough to want to hear my side of the story. I love that. Eventually I added some Bible reading in there and would jot down a bit of what I thought God wanted me to know. Still, this journaling or “quiet-timing” was very uneven. I’d have a few good months, then I’d quit. I’d feel guilty and start again. Back and forth it went.
Now, back to these last couple of weeks.
Nothing has happened in these recent days that is out of the ordinary. Work, church, some family and social time. A little writing. Yet I have been feeling quite lonely, and, if I’m honest, it’s been coming for some time. Little by little. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a crowd of friends. The feeling persists.
One day this feeling was so overwhelming to me that, when I sat down to write in my journal, all I could think to do was draw a picture of a crying sheep. (You must imagine the work of a not-particularly artistically gifted first-grader as you go here with me). I put that sheep in a sitting position, tears streaming from it’s eyes. Underneath I wrote, “Come get me, Your little lost sheep.”
It’s like that was what God had been waiting for all along.
Ancient shepherding practices involved the breaking of a wayward sheep’s legs. This was done not to simply harm the animal, but so that the shepherd could pay it extra-special attention. The sheep would be slung around the shepherd’s neck as it healed, giving the shepherd ample time to change the habits of the sheep. He would speak to the sheep, make sure it was protected and care for it tenderly. When the sheep was ready to walk on its own again, it would often remain very close to the shepherd, convinced of his safety and love.
That’s the kind of shepherd Jesus is. I have come to believe that He has specifically ordained this feeling of loneliness to drive me to Him. My heart has always been “two sizes too small,” but it is now daily being filled with intense and Divine love as I quietly lay my head against the Shepherd’s shoulders. I asked Him awhile ago to smash through my pride. I never imagined He would do that by breaking my heart – and reshaping it.
The truth is, I have looked to other people to be what only Jesus can be, and He won’t have any kind of idolatry, no matter how unknowing, in the life of one of His little sheep. This loneliness, I am beginning to believe, has been borne out of the frustration that people are disappointing. I mean no offense in that. I haven’t stopped loving anyone. It’s just that I walk around each day with this huge, gaping hole, and I’ve been asking mere human beings to fill what only God can fill. That is 100% of the time always going to lead to disappointment and heartache.
This is revelatory for me. I need relationships with other people, yes, but I NEED to be satisfied in Christ first. To allow Him to lavish upon me the kind of adoring affection He longs to give to His little sheep. To give Him my first and best love.
Does that make you uncomfortable? It did me for years. I don’t like the “mushy stuff.” Ah, but that’s a big part of what God is about! As I learned this week in the Breaking Free study, God wants the heart just as much as He wants the head. He wants the emotion just as much as He wants the devotional commitment. Our relationship with Him is to be based in so much more than just thankfulness and respect.
I love Jesus. I mean, I LOVE Jesus. He is just the coolest. He can’t ever fail. I think He’d be the funniest guy at a party. I’d love to see Him swing some kids around. I long to sit at His feet and learn. He’s begun a good work in me, and He’s not going to quit until it’s finished, for His glory and my good. I am learning that there is nobody more delightful to be around. “Quite time” is no longer a duty, but a joy. I get to spend time with the Love of my life!
That’s what He gives to me as I lay on His shoulders. Divine discipline is never borne out of meanness. God knows that I need to know about His unfailing, unconditional and unflinching love. He is not surprised by my weakness. He doesn’t mind when I ask Him for all the things I ask Him for – love, wisdom, patience, etc. Again as I learned in Breaking Free, He delights to give us the things that are in His will.
This more-comfortable-in-the-intellectual-world woman might not ever be what the world or even some in my life considers to be very demonstrative in affection, but I know that my heart is growing. I think that there might even be a day when I don’t care if someone sees me shed a tear or two. God is changing my “want to,” and that is all that matters.
He sings over me – and you. He brushes the hair out of my eyes – and yours. He lights the way. He gives the commands. He is Love.