I am not a person who likes structure and routine. In fact, the more set a routine becomes, the more I find myself wanting to break it. So, you can imagine that the idea of a “devotion” or “quiet time” has been difficult for me. For years, I found myself reading the Bible at random times, as the whim struck, or quickly squeezing in a short devotional before bed. Participating in Bible studies has been a major help over the years, for both the community and the accountability of getting in the Word.
A year or two ago, I found a podcast called The Daily Audio Bible, which read through the Bible in a year. Listening to this podcast made it easier to get in the Word more frequently, because I could listen to it being read to me while I drove, cleaned, or cooked dinner. Still, I didn’t listen every day and often found myself missing sections of the reading as I was momentarily distracted.
So, I challenged myself last year to begin a two-year reading plan of the Bible. I figured giving myself two whole years was doable, even as a busy wife and Mom. I’ve never read the whole Bible chronologically before, and I wanted to become more disciplined in my reading time. Over the last year, I have made it a practice, almost every day, to get up before my children and read.
I am now more than a year into the practice, and have made it all the way into Jeremiah. Daily Bible reading has become one of my rhythms of soul-care. What then, after thirteen months, can I report about the changes in my own soul? Well, to be honest, it’s been really hard. I have found the last year of reading through the Old Testament to be, at times, difficult. Most of the time I don’t come away inspired for the day. God doesn’t always give me a personal word for my daily life or an encouraging tidbit to start my day. Sure, sometimes I come away with that kind of experience, but often it feels more like obedience than joy.
I began this practice, unbeknownst to me, at the beginning of a year that would bring in a pandemic, social distancing, and one of the hardest years of parenting I’ve ever experienced. I haven’t always felt “close to the Lord” this year, even while reading His Word. I want to be completely honest about this fact, before I go on to say that it has been completely worth it. Sometimes emotions don’t coincide with obedience, but there is a contentment and fulfillment that comes with being filled with God’s Word. I have gained a greater knowledge of the Scriptures. I am practicing perseverance and endurance, which is a huge step in my walk with Christ. Yes, I can say with full conviction, my decision to wake up early and read the Bible has been worth it.
As a family, we’re also beginning to make new soul-care rhythms. For years I’ve admired others who carved out time for family devotions and prayer. Over the years, my husband and I have not been consistent at doing this with our children. However, this year we have had A LOT of family together time, and much of it has not been positive. So, we decided to have a time each evening after dinner where we do a devotion reading, sing praise songs, and take time to pray together as a family.
Again, in my mind’s eye and with great expectations, I hoped this would be a time of family bonding, love, and answering sincere questions about God. On the contrary, our children fight about what song we’re going to sing, who’s sitting next to whom on the couch, and how long they have to pray. Usually they talk and sing over one another and fight with each other throughout our devotion time. My husband and I often finish our family devotions feeling more like we’ve run a marathon than like we have been sitting at the feet of Jesus. (Again, just being honest.)
I do want to be honest, because I think we’re led to believe that devotions should leave us feeling warm or fuzzy if we’ve done it correctly. Truthfully, creating rhythms and routines in our faith lives is less about the emotions and contentment it evokes and more about the cultivation of our souls. I don’t know about you, but my soul is wayward. I think I can say that my children’s souls are too. Creating a rhythm of prayer, worship, and Bible reading will not happen on accident: Not for us, and not for our children. I am cultivating this time with my children in faith, believing that even if I can’t yet see the results, their little souls are being planted with Scripture, truth, and goodness. I’m believing their lives will bear the fruit of it: that their minds are being transformed by it.
So, friends, I want to encourage you today. I hope you don’t come away from this feeling guilty for not reading the Bible more faithfully. If anything, I want you to come away from this hearing me say that cultivating rhythms of soul-care is hard work. It will feel difficult. You may not always have positive emotions at the end, but I want you to hear me say that it’s completely worth it. Push through and try. Find something that is doable for you in this season of your life: something you can commit to. If you miss a day, it’s okay. Just get back in the next day. Running the race of faith is hard work, but if we pace ourselves, finding our rhythm, we will finish strong.
Pause: Take a deep belly breath and slowly exhale. James 1:4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” What does perseverance in faith mean to you?
Renew: When you think about rhythms of soul-care, what comes to your mind? Have you had rhythms and routines in your life that have helped cultivate your relationship with the Lord? How have you noticed these rhythms change in different seasons of your life?
Next: What kind of soul-care rhythm can you implement in your daily life? Think about ways that you could incorporate Bible reading, worship, or prayer into your life in a practical way. Then, over the next few weeks, begin to implement this new practice into your daily routine.
May we walk in rhythm with the Spirit, intentionally cultivating our faith walk.
Pause, Renew, Next!