I have a wonderful friend.
Well, scratch that. I have wonderful friends. Please don't think that my first statement means I eek out a social existence via Facebook, Twitter, and this blog without the joy of any real, face-to-face relationships. I promise you: it's not like that.
But I was, specifically, thinking about one friend in particular. The fact that I even know her name is a testimony to God's faithfulness, and when I think about the friendship we've cultivated over the past few years, my mind gets blown. Every time. Kaboom. Little bits of baffled brain all over the place.
We talk about everything: work, church, relationships (both the guy and the girl kind), family dynamics, dreams, successes, et cetera, et cetera. And while we jive on almost any topic our conversation lands on, I think we most appreciate sharing what God is doing in our lives, how He is challenging our faith, and what He's been teaching us through His Word. I would say without a doubt that these more "spiritual" discussions are the crux of our friendship. We're soul-sisters, without a doubt, and I can assure you that there's nothing more incredible than peering in at a person's heart and finding that it, like yours, has been captured by the deep love of Christ.
So, recently, we had a soul-sister talk. It's what we gals do. Call each other up, say "hi," exchange pleasantries, and then get into the stuff that really matters. Life lessons. Friendships. Our respective relationships with God. Forget the who-likes-who and oh-my-word-did-you-see-this-movie superficiality; we're sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17) before the timer on my cell phone reads "00:02:00." (Now, granted, the latest film version of Jane Austen's Emma has come up occasionally...ish. Okay, frequently. But come on...it's Jane Austen!)
She (my friend, not Jane Austen) asked me about my life recently, and I gave her the lowdown on college life. (Unlike myself, she chose to forgo college, feeling that God had a different agenda for her life.) In one of our previous conversations I had mentioned the challenge of maintaining a consistent schedule for my time with the Lord every morning; she now asked how I'd been doing in that area. Thankfully, I was able to share how I, by God's grace, had read God's Word almost every morning and was committed to continuing the practice.
Granted, keeping such a commitment has been challenging at times. On most mornings, my alarm blares in my ear, I hit the "snooze" button, and flop back onto my pillow with a groan. When I finally roll out of bed, I'm still tired - but the day will go on in spite of me, and my professors will have little sympathy for a bleary-eyed student who simply didn't get to bed on time the night before.
But, before I hit the shower, it's devotional time.
I used to ultra-prioritize my mornings, showering and getting completely ready for my busy day before I spent any time in God's Word. After all, I had to be ready and prompt; there's no such thing as "fashionably late," right? As you might expect, my theory didn't work very well. By the time I was satisfied with my hair and had gulped down a protein shake, the clock would read 8:00 a.m., and I was out the door. No devotions, not so much as a prayer.
Therefore, I decided that my very first post-rolling-out-of-bed move would be to open my Bible and a devotional book (currently Springs in the Valley, by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman) with the intent to spend time (however brief) in the Lord's presence before I dreamed of doing anything else. It usually amounted to five minutes or less, but God was (and is) so faithful to show me exactly what I need for the day ahead.
Now, I know what you're thinking. (Didn't tell you I could read minds, did I?) "Sorry, but that doesn't work for me. I do my devotions, but I don't ever hear from God. I don't even know why I bother anymore." Or maybe...
"Yes! That's awesome! I totally get what you're saying! I mean, I just read John 3:16 this morning and the part where it says, 'God so loved the world' was just fantastic because it reminded me how much God loves me, and today has been the best day EVER and oh my goodness I LOVE JESUS!"
Umm... *pats on head* *runs very far away*
But now, in all seriousness, let me ask you: what exactly are you expecting from your devotions?
A spiritual pick-me-up?
A "Jesus high"?
A day in which nothing goes wrong, because you read Philippians 4:13 while you were putting on your makeup?
Or, perhaps: were you expecting anything?
Before I go further, I feel a need to clarify: John 3:16 is a spectacular verse. It takes the Gospel and wraps it into a concise sentence that is easy to remember and powerful to quote. In the same way, Philippians 4:13 is an extremely important reminder that, as 17th century Christian author and preacher Jonathan Burr wrote, "in myself I am nothing; in Christ, all things." Unfortunately, though, these verses have been overemphasized to the point where they have become church-y cliches that we no longer meditate upon reverently, instead relegating them to common catchphrases that mean about as much to us as the conventional greeting of "How are you?"
But, to continue: what are you expecting from your time with the Lord? Do you quickly scan the page and the dash off to the next task on the list? Or do you enter into your devotions with a spirit of anticipation, peering eagerly at every word of every verse, eyes open to the message that you know God has for you that day?
Throughout the Psalms we read of the importance of anticipating God. In Psalm 25:4-5, David prays,
"Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by Your truth and teach me..."
His prayer reflects a heart desirous of and expecting God to respond. He was anticipating God to answer; further, he was willing to follow the path that God led him on.
Psalm 119 is even richer in examples of a spirit of anticipation. In the description of joyful people found in verses 1-2, one of the characteristics listed is anticipation: "Joyful are those who...search for Him [God] with all their hearts" (v. 2). Joy is found in actively seeking ("with all their hearts") God. Again, here comes the word we've all grown to know and love: anticipation. In general, you don't look for something if you don't expect to find it. Expectation precedes seeking.
Finally, perhaps the most vivid but to-the-point prayer that reflects a heart of anticipation is found in Psalm 118:19: "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law." This is my prayer every morning, the words my heart cries out as I seek to know the Lord more and more. Open my eyes! Remove the blinders! Show me what I have never seen before!
Whether it be for you, a friend, a coworker, a family member - a total stranger, even- God has a message that He wants you to hear today. He wants to encourage you, challenge you, equip you to share His love in a fresh way to someone who desperately needs to hear His truth. Don't let a busy schedule or a blind heart prevent His words from reaching their intended destination. Preface your quiet time with this prayer:
Open my eyes, Lord!