“Good Christian Checklist”
by Shauna Wallace
If you’ve been around church much, especially a Baptist church, the term “quiet time” is likely very familiar to you. My parents required it! While I’m so grateful they elevated time in God’s word to a place of high priority in my life, I turned it into a to-do list activity to be completed out of obligation verses desire. I didn’t approach it as a way to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus; it became a task to check off my “good Christian” checklist.
As such, I always loved a good quiet time formula, like SOAP (read a Scripture, make an Observation about it, consider its Application for your life, and then Pray about it). There is an important place for acronyms like this, as they give us a way to approach the time we spend studying God’s word, applying it in our daily lives and relationships, and praying about it. The danger for me is that I…
…simply tacked acronyms like this to the end of my checklist. What was designed as a tool became a crutch. If I ticked off each letter, I knew I’d had the perfect quiet time and could move on with my day, once again having completed the task of being a good Christian.
Please hear me on this: There’s absolutely NOTHING WRONG with acronyms and tools in spending time with the Lord! But if, like me, formulas have become substitutions for relationship, maybe you need freedom from the checklist!
The Bible tells us, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). The Lord does not want us in bondage to anything, including the “Good Christian Checklist.” What He desires is a pure, undivided heart totally in love with Him.
To fall in love with someone is to spend time with them, and that’s what having a quiet time is all about: falling in love with Jesus, and with our Heavenly Father, by spending time getting to know them through what they reveal of themselves in scripture and by the Holy Spirit. If we don’t, we aren’t going to have the intimate relationship they desire to have with us.
The thing I had to learn is that my quiet time might look more like a toddler’s diet than a food pyramid.
Let me explain.
When I was raising my first toddler, I was distraught when my daughter refused a daily intake of fruits or vegetables. Remember, I’m a checklist-loving, formula-following kind of gal, so naturally, I expected my child to eat the food pyramid every day! When I called my mom, who was a pediatrician, I knew she’d have the solution! What she said set me free. She explained that a toddler’s diet is more of a weekly intake verses and daily requirement. If she ate a ton of fruit one day and didn’t want any more the rest of the week, that was fine. Same with vegetables, protein, starches, etc. What relief! What freedom!
The Lord recently reminded me of this life-changing conversation (at the time, it truly was life changing!), and He used it to confirm my freedom from any rigid, obligatory mindset I had adopted regarding what’s required when I set aside time each day with Him.
Some days I only pray. Other times I just journal to Him or work through the Bible study I’m doing with my ladies group. There are times when I’m studying a topic, searching His word for specific answers, or writing my own Bible study materials. Sometimes I get so engrossed in the word that I run out of time to do anything else! There are even occasional mornings when the Lord tenderly lets me know that sleeping a few extra hours is the most spiritual thing I can do! If I only look at that morning only, I’m sure to condemn myself as eating an inadequate spiritual diet. But if I look at a week or even a month, I’ll see a heart that longs for nothing more than a deeper intimacy with my Lord and Savior, a wife who desperately wants to love Jesus more so I can love my husband better, a mom who wants to be so yielded to the Father that she is a much better mama, and a friend who wants to know the word in greater depth so she can encourage and teach others to experience the fullness of the riches of Christ Jesus through knowing Him and His word. It’s not a daily routine that does it. It’s a heart and life yielded to the Father and led by the Spirit.
Just this morning, I got out of bed early to have my time with the Lord. I love drinking coffee with the Lord in the early morning hours! As I read a bit of the book I’m working through on breaking generational curses and pulling down strongholds, my mind kept wandering to this message, and I knew. This time was for this message. So I set aside my journal and book, picked up my laptop, and let the words flow. And it’s okay. I didn’t neglect God in setting down my Bible to write what He was impressing on my heart. I embraced Him in obedience. It’s okay that I didn’t spend hours in intense study or prayer. That might happen tomorrow, but today, that’s not what the Lord had in store.
I do have to be sensitive to my motives when I have a busy versus still quiet time or a period when I’ve been doing more than seeking. Sometimes I default to “activity” like writing or studying because I’m avoiding the Lord. Yes, I can actually engage in “spiritual” activity and avoid God! It is my way of feeling spiritually accomplished without letting Him in. When I become aware I am doing this, I will make myself sit and journal to the Lord. I crucify my flesh with its passion to run and desire to hide, and I submit to the conviction and walk by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25).
I’m so thankful for the freedom to walk by the Spirit! Do you need a bit of that freedom today? Not to neglect the spiritual disciplines God sets forth in His word because He knows the benefit to us, but to break free from obligation and simply seek Him because He’s inviting you to draw near to Him?
As moms, do we require our kids to have a “quiet time”? That’s between you and the Lord. I know some moms who do, and their children have developed a beautiful habit of studying God’s word daily. Because I turned the requirement into a duty, I don’t. My children know when they come downstairs and see me curled up in the same spot on the couch, under the glow of the lamp, coffee cup on the end table, Bible, books, and sometimes my laptop spread around me, that I’ve been there for hours. I share with them the things I’m learning in God’s word or the answers He gives me in prayer. They know it’s critical to my life. We talk about how important spending time with God is, but rather than require it, I ask the Lord for His grace to turn their hearts to Jesus, giving them the desire to be with Him and know Him more. I’d much rather they spend daily time with Him because He drew them there, not because I forced them.
And I realize, too, our time with the Lord may look very different. The way we feel closest to Him isn’t always going to be or look the same. For me, I feel closest to the Lord when I’m learning His truth through His word, and He’s revealing its relevant application to my right now. It is literally electrifying! I have a harder time just being still in prayer and worship, yet I’m in a constant conversation with Him throughout the day, acknowledging Him, petitioning Him, thanking Him, adoring Him. One of my close friends feels closest to the Lord when she’s praying in the Spirit and worshiping. It’s what comes most natural to her. And it’s okay! I don’t have to be her to be more spiritual, and she doesn’t have to be me. Yes, we should both do all of it because the Lord desires and deserves it, and sometimes we need to determine to do what doesn’t come the most natural to us, but we can know how He’s wired us, be who He’s made us, and rest in His sovereignty, mercy, love, long suffering, and goodness.
Like a toddler, we need it all: study, prayer, worship. As moms, let’s release ourselves from the spiritual food pyramid. God made our bodies to need every food group, but the pyramid itself is from man. The Lord made us to spiritually need all forms of spiritual nourishment – study, prayer, fellowship, worship, but formulas are designed by men. They are helpful tools, but ultimately, relationship with the Father requires walking by the Spirit, and sometimes the Spirit doesn’t follow tidy rules.
Are you maintaining an expectation in your time with the Lord or deepening a relationship? What does your quiet time look like? What have you found to be helpful? In what ways do you feel closest to the Lord? Thank Him for how He’s made you and how He draws you to Him. Rest in His peace. Enter deeper into a relationship with Him, not by checking things off a Christian to-do list, but by loving Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, in whatever way He leads you.
An inspirational writer, teacher, and speaker, Shauna Wallace burns with passion to see women experience the fullness of God’s grace, faithfulness, peace, joy, protection, and provision by becoming wholly His. Finding hope and life in God’s word motivates her to help other women discover God’s power to transform lives.
Transparent and real, she opens her life and heart to encourage others. She and her husband, James, serve their church, community, and clients of their custom home building business. As a homeschooling stay-at-home mother of four, Shauna treasures the privilege of being James’ helpmate and training her children in the ways of the Lord.
Check Out Shauna’s Blog Here!