It's true. And I'm willing to admit it. I quit spending time with God.
It's not true to say I wanted to be with Him but was undisciplined, or that I desired God's presence but didn't know what to do.
I knew what to do to have a quiet time; I even possessed a small measure of discipline. I just didn't want to do it.
Arrogant? You bet. Dangerous? Perhaps. A surprise to my Creator? I doubt it.
Evangelists like to say (because it's true) that Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship.
That, however, is where my reluctance to spend time with God began: My relationship with Him felt conditional and methodical.
I thought that if I rose each morning before sunup, memorized Scripture and prayed for the sick, then I would be in good standing.
If I shared my faith later in the day, Whoa!, even better. Big-time brownie points.
In short, I felt like success in my relationship with God was dependent on my adherence to a quiet-time formula: read, confess, praise, pray.
So if -- in my thinking -- it was my responsibility to cover all the bases, then the obligation was too much. I'd rather get off the ride than sit on my side of the seesaw, staring at the vacant seat above me.
I must say that these weren't necessarily conscious decisions. I just got weary of carrying the weight of it all.
This is too much work, I thought, This isn't joy. This isn't an easy yoke and a light burden.
Ultimately, I got tangled in the snare of believing that God's blessing and my maturity as a believer hung solely on the peg of whether or not I correctly and consistently performed my spiritual exercises.
A big, fat ugly lie.
The truth is that a relationship with God, like any friendship, does take work -- but then again, it doesn't.
I had to learn to relax, to get in step with the Leader, rather than grit my teeth and set the course myself.
During this time God was working on my behalf, shining His light of truth on my lie. He gently moved within my own affection for literature to draw me home.
While I rebelliously refused to spend methodical time with God, I still sensed His presence through the thoughts and prayers of a handful of Christian writers.
God whispered to me in books by John of the Cross, Andrew Murray and F.B. Meyer. And the Lord introduced me to new friends like Richard Foster, Frederick Buechner and Jerry Bridges.
Also, I often found myself drawn to Psalms and the Bible's other books of poetry. Now I can see how God was kindly coming alongside my own proclivities to keep me close to Him.
I'd abandoned my "official" pursuit of God, but He hadn't abandoned me; He was doing His part all along.
Though I squirm under the formulaic quiet time, it's also been tough to reject the plan and just be with God.
There's something sick within me that wants to believe I really have to do something to garner His blessing, that I can earn God's love by jumping through some holy hoops.
But when I repudiate that and come to the Cross, I feel free. I feel joy. I enjoy Him and I enjoy myself so much more.
Reading, confessing, praising and praying don't guarantee spiritual growth or intimacy with God, but these exercises do escort me to the place where I can know Him. They are not the end, but the means to grace.
Now, when I come to God, I'm not bound by duty. I ask the Lord to give me a desire for His Word, for Himself, for truth. And I began preaching the gospel to myself each day.
Now I remind myself to trust in the merit of Christ as my only hope for blessings (Romans 4:7,8), New American Standard Bible.
I dwell daily on the fact that, because of Christ's redeeming work on the Cross, God's holy wrath is no longer directed at me (Romans 8:1).
And I trust in His promise to continue His good work in me (Philippians 1:6).
Repeating these truths daily keeps me from tripping on the performance snare again. And they give me a grateful heart. I try what John Owen suggested:
"...[to] look to Christ as the one who bears the iniquity of [my] holy things, who adds incense to [my] prayers, gathers out all the weeds from [my] duties and makes them acceptable."
In retrospect, God was destroying the onus of wrong belief that had infected our relationship and bound me to performing for Him. He was saying, "Don't just do something, stand there." He was teaching me to use stillness rather than strength.
Perhaps I wasn't a quiet time quitter after all.
On a recent visit to see my sister Suzy, I got to see the new plants in her backyard vegetable garden, like watermelons, carrots and a half a dozen corn stalks. Suzy later asked if I noticed the cherry tomatoes maturing in a corner.
Assurance of salvation doesn’t depend on how we feel, but on God's unchanging truth.
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