Turn off the radio. I don’t care if it is a sermon. Turn off the television. I don’t care if it is the latest episode of 24. Put the book away. Put the computer away (and yes, I don’t care if you’re reading this…although you may want to wait to see why you should).
If you’re like me, you have a to-do list of about ten things…constantly. If you’re also like me, you have a to-do list that is full of have-to’s rather than if-i-get-around-to’s. If you’re even more like me (don’t get too scared), then you suffer from discontentment until you have knocked out your to-do list. Not just that you have knocked it out, but that you have smote it and cut off its head.
Yesterday I was forced to turn it all off…and might I say it has been the most rewarding 30 minutes I have had in quite a while. My daughter and I played outside while my wife fixed our supper. As I sat there looking at my beautiful daughter, I had five or six things running through my mind that I should be doing. But I repented and breathed in the air-after-the rain smell and was taken back to my childhood days. How often have I longed for the days when I was 12 and 13 just running around my yard with my dog without a to-do list. For this short moment I delighted in the fact that the measure of a man does not consist in the length of his to-do list. Rather it resides in the content of that list.
So much of what I think needs to be done is merely an accessory. I would do well to sit down each morning and remind myself what are my priorities in life. Much like Jonathan Edwards (and several fathers in the Early Church) who measured his life by his resolutions each day, I should sit down and look at my priority list – God, family, work, school, etc.
Some of you may retort that I should just have a scheduled time in my day for down time. Sure, it could be that easy. But I want to challenge myself, in the middle of knocking out my to-do list, to intentionally stop hammering that nail and sit down. I want to challenge us to stop whatever it is we are in the middle of and remind ourselves that he gives rest to his beloved; we need to remember that he gives strength to my arms; he has even given me arms in the first place.
So the challenge (beyond merely planning downtime in your life) is to go through your day today and intentionally stop whatever it is you are doing and be quiet. To be still and know who is your God.
I have been a member in what are notoriously called “accountability groups.” They are a valiant effort by Christians to pursue holiness in the context of community. I remember some of the sweetest times in college were conversations over coffee where a brother would ask for forgivness, or share a struggle with x, or pray earnestly for the salvation of a loved one.
Over the past couple weeks, however, I have been struck by the depth of my sin and my ability to mask that which lies beneath my humble rhetoric. I have gone through Wesley’s Questions of Accountability, which are very helpful. I have seen Bethlehem’s list of questions for the elder’s accountability. But these questions, I believe, could be helped by the simple question given as the title to this post: “How have you sinned this week?
“What does this question do? It is two-fold: 1) It pinpoints the fact that this person has sinned in some way – whether it be lust, discontentment, anger, fear, bitterness… and 2) It helps produce an atmosphere that we do not have it together.
So much of my “accountability time” was wasted in vain pursuits of perfection in the eyes of men. How many of us can speak about how we are learning about our incessant pride? How many would say “amen” to the confession of discontentment? I fear that so much of our confession to one another is cloaked in pharisaic casuistry. On the front end of any accountability relationship, we would be helped in affirming before each other that we are not perfected, yet.
We would be helped if in the first meeting together, the other brother told us three or four sins they see present in our lives. This way we would not be self-deluded that we have deluded others. That way we would be humbled by God’s gracios rod on our backs. How humbling…yet how freeing would it be if we were truly vulnerable with someone so that we do not turn red (from embarassment or anger!) when we confess a sin or when they point out sin in our lives?
I think much time could be saved and more holiness could be harvested if we asked this question at our first meeting.
SoloFeminity has posted interesting ways for singles to celebrate…
For Judy Arko, 43, the logic behind Christian yoga is simple. “It gives me time alone with God,” she says. “As a mom of two small kids, I don’t get that–even in church“ (Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, “Stretching for Jesus”, Time, September 5, 2005).
This is the last sentence in the article I mentioned yesterday. Like I said yesterday, Christian yoga is the symptom of a greater problem in the church – agnosticism of Christianity. People are unable to have convictions about that which they do not understand. They do not know that light and darkness mix about as good as blood and water.
You can see a clearer picture of the problem from Judy Arko’s quote above. I understand to some degree what she is talking about, but I’m afraid she has drawn the wrong conclusion. She practices yoga because she wants time alone. The last clause caught my eye “even in church”. I am afraid she does not understand the purpose behind public worship.
It is evidenced in some churches today that have people go to a corner to draw, or to meditate, or to do a number of other things. They do this so people can “worship God in their own way”. By doing this they are failing to speak into other people’s lives so that they will be spurred on to love and good works. Public worship is just that – with the public. What we need is not time alone with God as much as we need the Body of Christ to bear our burdens and carry us through the chaos of raising two children or losing a job or making a hard decision.
Yes, we do need to meditate and pray in closets and a number of other disciplines on our own. But we desperately need community to help us press on toward the goal. Christianity is not a solitary religion…no one can practice the Ten Commandments without people in their lives. Go through the list…you will find that without community you cannot worship God as you ought. We are a motley people who need others to expunge the deceitful sin in our lives. We need them to pull us out of bed and push us on our knees. Otherwise…
The highest virtue in the Christian life is not being alone with God. Jesus went in solitude to pray in order to be wizened to choose his disciples, to be strengthened to go to the Cross…both public acts of worship and devotion. Countless studies have been shown that solitude will destroy a person – why is solitary confinement the worst kind of torture?
Yes, we do need time one-on-one to read God’s Word and to pray away from the crowds. However, we put our lives as living sacrifices on the altar, on display before the world. Let us not pursue solitude as an end in itself…but as a means to more complete worship.