This time of year usually signifies the end of one era and the beginning of another. The school year is ending, families are off on holiday, uni students are frantically filling in job applications. For me, a change in season or a break from the usual routine has historically brought with it a slackness in my normal spiritual disciplines – prayer, bible reading, journaling.
I’ve just left the “married – no kids” period where I had lot of quiet, free time and the luxury of extended reading, study and prayer, and am now heading into the “young parent” period where I’ll most likely be time poor – with a newborn, silent and solitary moments are few and far between! I’ve had to be more creative about my spiritual disciplines incorporating them whilst feeding or walking the dog or doing the laundry… And the exciting thing that I wasn’t expecting is that I’m learning to connect with God in different ways.
It’s simply not true that prayer and study and the practices that require long periods of time and quiet are the only activities that count spiritually. If it were, it wipes out the opportunity for spiritual growth for all those with little spare time. I’ve had conversations with new mums who feel like they’re failing in their spiritual life, they feel guilty because they just aren’t able to do these things.
The truth is there are spiritual disciplines for every stage of life – it’s a lie that you can’t nurture your relationship with Jesus over the newborn months or exam season or year end at work. I may not be able to have long study sessions, but I can:
– connect with God in serving Jasper’s needs
– read through the bible whilst feeding
– pray on dogs walks
– fast from something throughout the day to make more space for Jesus (food, social media, TV etc)
– take moments of worship when I’m driving around
– read a verse in the morning and memorise and meditate on it throughout the day
– offer one line prayers of gratitude and pleas for help
– listen to preaches as I do housework
– protect our family sabbath to create space to hear God and enjoy Him
– do bedtime prayers and bible stories with Jasper
…and take moments to generally relish God’s goodness together (I like the idea of saying grace not just before meals, but also as we go on day trips out, or shopping, or before watching films or whatever else we get to enjoy).
John Ortberg says “our season of life – whatever it is – is no barrier to having Christ formed in us. Not in the least. Whatever our season is, it offers it’s own opportunities and challenges for spiritual growth. Instead of wishing we were in another season, we ought to find out what this one offers. Life counts – all of it. Every moment is potentially an opportunity to be guided by God into his way of living”.
As a new mum, there are new opportunities for growth that haven’t previously been available to me (I don’t have to work for one!). Instead of seeing these months as a barrier to my relationship with God, it’s really an opportunity and invitation to connect with Jesus in new ways. It’s not about the discipline or practice that I do, it’s about taking those moments, however long or short, to allow God to speak to me. And when we create these pockets of time and arrange our days in such a way that we put God back at the centre and respond to his Spirit, God is faithful to meet with us, and bless us, and transform us into his likeness.
My prayer is that for all of us, in every season, we’ll be able to embrace the disciplines and practices that fit our current life stage – whether that’s being a student, on holiday somewhere exotic, with lively toddlers, embarking on retirement, wedding planning or house moving – that we’d maximise the opportunities available and creatively overcome the challenges.