I grew up being taught that a daily quiet time was the gold standard for following Christ. I remember hearing one pastor say, “You have to tune the orchestra before you play the concert.” Meaning, you should be setting aside an hour at the beginning of every day for prayer, Bible study, and communion with God.
I took the DQT (daily quiet time) seriously as a high school and college student. I committed an hour in the morning to study scripture and get my heart aligned with God. In the evening, I also prayed, reflected on my day, and journaled about what I was seeing God do in my life. While I was in school, it was pretty easy to set aside two hours every day. I had more free time than most while I was in college, in large part because I wanted to keep up the habit of a DQT. But inevitably, more and more busyness set in. The natural process of growing up meant more responsibilities. I just had less time to be with God in the way I was used to.
I didn’t only lack the quantity of time; I also lacked a particular quality of time. The more activities and responsibilities that I had, the more cluttered and strained my mind became. It was “the worries of this life.”
This change really bothered me. I couldn’t cultivate the type of space that I needed in order to be with God. Even if I had the time to pray, I was always beset by some anxiety about searching for a job or making the right decision about my future after graduation. It was all of the usual young adult stuff, but I couldn’t figure out how to revive the old quality of time with God that had always been the root of my spiritual walk.
I saw my faith begin to teeter and my spiritual growth basically come to a halt. As I started worrying about this, it became another anxiety alongside my growing adult responsibilities. I went to college in a rural part of South Carolina. It was a twenty-minute drive away from any places to eat or shop. That isolated setting helped change my spirituality in a lot of ways.
Surrounded by mountains and creeks, I began to find a special peace doing things like sitting on my back porch to watch a sunset. I started going on hikes on Saturday mornings, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. These were ways for me not only to escape my newfound concerns and anxieties but also confront them more calmly. God started using my new environment to cultivate the quality time that I needed to connect to Him.
After college, I moved to a city, the complete opposite of my mountainous college life. I was stuck between apartment buildings, metro lines, and big office buildings. And again, my ways of connecting with God had to adapt to a new phase of life. For a while, weekend bike rides became the only time I could manage to pray. Racing down busy city streets, I was undistracted by bills and fears about the future. I found that the city has a type of intimacy to it, and it was in that space that God again restored me to intimacy with Him. This was so different from the type of spiritual life that I had been taught. I didn’t think that these new ways of encountering God were wrong. They were just outside of my spiritual paradigm.
And I not only got to encounter God in different ways, but I also began to appreciate how God was working in other people’s lives. My relationships with high school and college friends had to be sustained on a diet of phone calls and group text messages. Going long stretches of time between conversations with friends made it a lot clearer how they were growing with God when we did talk.
I think we’ve all been taught certain ways of relating to God. Some may be better than others. But I found that when I limited myself to one way and became so fixated on it as the only possible way, I lost the opportunity to see God using a new phase in my life to offer Himself to me.
We always experience a loss as we grow up. We have to sacrifice something of our past in order to gain what’s waiting for us in the next stage of life. Will that quiet-time-centered faith return later on in my life? I have no doubt it will. For now, I’m satisfied with something new.
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