Everyone’s life has its ebbs and flows. Some days you’re desperate for something to do, and some days you feel like you’re trying to drink out of a fire hose.
It’s been the fire hose for me for a while. We’ve been short-handed at work for months, and when the new guy finally arrived, a project came up that has had to consume pretty much all of my time.
When you truly have no free time, how do you handle devotions?
I’m not sure if there are solid right and wrong answers, but if there are, I’ve probably gotten a few things wrong. Still, this is how I have approached the question.
First, if there is anyone who really knows how terribly busy you are, who knows that you’re burning the candle at both ends, that you’re desperate just to catch your breath, it’s God. And if there is anything we should know we will receive from our Father in heaven, it is compassion and understanding.
Second, it’s not all about you and your devotions. You need God, but there may be people – your spouse, your kids – who need you. If you really only have two minutes, they’ll probably be best spent giving your spouse a kiss and looking that latest thing your kids have colored, listening to their stories, or however they need you to give them some attention. Part of our spiritual life is how we take care of our families. If you’re neglecting (important word choice!) your kids to pray, you’re not pleasing God.
Third, when you’re spent, you’re spent. When you’ve finally got that one minute of time, if your eyes won’t focus on a page, if a Bible will be no more meaningful than the phonebook, you’ll simply be wasting time you could have better used elsewhere by ignoring that and trying to read the scriptures. It’s better to apply that time and energy where it can be meaningfully used – even when that’s watching Dora the Explorer with a three-year-old.
Fourth, you can keep the evangelical imperative on scripture reading in perspective by remembering this one fact: For hundreds of years, few Christians had their own Bible. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take advantage of the easy availability of Bibles today. We have a precious gift past generations could only dream of, but not reading your Bible every day is not a sin – it was once an impossibility.
(Am I completely off base here?)
However, we can probably recover countless little spans of time during the day that can be claimed for devotional use.
Pray on autopilot. Time you’re engaged in something that doesn’t require your full attention is a great time to pray. I’m not saying that it is good to make that your only prayer time in your life, but short term (even long term) that can be a good use of those empty times when you don’t need to think about other things. Time in the shower, brushing teeth, or in light traffic can be put to good use even by those who aren’t ridiculously busy.
Listen in the silence. If you’re not listening to something pressing, and, again, if you don’t need to concentrate, you can also use quiet moments to listen to the Bible on audio. On your commute, on the treadmill, and at work (if your duties allow), you can listen the Bible (and sermons and audio books) to better use those moments.
Sneak a peak. No matter how busy you are, you still have to wait in line at the grocery store. A little Bible in your pocket/purse or on your smartphone/PDA can turn a two minute wait into a chance to read a passage or work on memorizing a verse (which you can meditate on in other quiet moments).
Devotional tunes. Do you normally read a daily devotional? Good worship music (i.e., theologically solid, meaningful hymns or worship songs) is really just a devotional set to music. Listen (or sing along) to a song, hit pause, and ponder. Isaac Watts is just as good as Oswald Chambers. Chris Tomlin can be too.
(Did I forget anything?)
Not for the Long Haul
No, you can’t live off this long-term. But it can help you keep going for a while.
One of the things I’ve learned during my wife’s obsession with survival shows is that even a few bites of food can give you some much needed energy. It can steady your hand and help you focus on the immediate task.
And when the crisis is over, you can feast.