A couple of weeks ago, I took little miss Jayla to the Saturday walk-in clinic. She had just picked up a cold that Camden was getting over. He had had a nasty, barky cough, and I wanted to get Jayla checked out before hers got to the nasty point. I knew there was the potential to be waiting for quite a while since it was walk-in, but I totally forgot to pack toys to entertain her. We sat in the patient room, just the two of us. I stuck my phone in my purse (though I’m sure there was something urgent beckoning me), and looked at the little girl on my lap. We played pat-a-cake and sang “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider.” We tickled, and we hugged. The doctor arrived rather quickly, and I found myself realizing that those few minutes were pretty rare – time spent with Jayla only, time without any other distractions or to-do list screaming at me. I left the doctor’s office (with a relatively healthy girl – just a virus) grateful for the wait and moments spent with my sweet daughter. Why is it that it took a trip to the clinic waiting on the doctor for me to spend quality, one-on-one time with my youngest? My list of answers – eh, I mean excuses – can go on and on, but the truth is that I simply had not made time.
I think our relationships with the Lord can be like that trip to the doctor’s office. Our days are filled with endless tasks and demands. We run from here to there “accomplishing” the things on our list. We are in constant motion. Suddenly, when we’re left with no other distractions, alone in a small room, our mind drifts to prayer, recalling Scripture, or maybe we even break open our Bible. We spend just a few quality minutes with our Savior and Creator and realize that this quiet time we’ve been missing out on is far more important than any of the tasks on the to-do list. While it’s important to work hard and be productive, sometimes we forget about pausing for a little one-on-one time with the Lord. Really, though, that is exactly where our priority should be.
I have a confession – I am a little obsessed with being productive and accomplishing things. I often judge the success of my day by how much I got done. I definitely feel an urgent need to get as much done as possible in the time I have. This is why I struggle with down time. Put me in a room (like a doctor’s office) unable to accomplish something, and I begin to feel antsy. It’s this constant need for productivity that helps me balance my kids, husband, teaching, my business, my house, etc. But it’s also this constant need for productivity that causes me to move through things quickly so that I can simply check them off my list. That’s great for tasks like the dishes, but when it comes to spending time with the Lord, he desires more than being checked off a list – and rightly so.
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus reminds us about our priorities. He is responding to those who worry about life. He’s explaining that our worry or obsession with the things of this earthly life are pointless. Jesus says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, emphasis mine). We are to put Christ and his kingdom first, at the very top of our to-do list. How many times have you ended your day and realized that you forgot to read your devotion or Bible, forgot to pray, forgot to look for the Lord in the pieces of your day? Or maybe it’s the middle of the week before you realize it? Or, maybe, it’s as you sit in church on Sunday realizing that this is the first time you’ve thought of God’s presence in your life since last week at this time? I’ve been there. I might be good at getting things done, but I’m not always very good about getting the right things done – seeking God’s kingdom first.
Even on the days or weeks when I remember to put God first and spend time with my Bible early in the morning before my official day has begun, I’m guilty of simply checking it off my list. The busy-ness of the day calls to me and my mind moves on to what’s ahead instead of focusing on the Lord. Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Through the psalmist, God tells us to be still – like physically stop moving. Even that is hard for me. Did I mention that I usually read my devotion and Bible on my phone while on the elliptical? Point taken… I should stop moving long enough to sit down for some quiet time with the Lord, but that’s not where it ends. We aren’t just supposed to be physically still, but I think the Lord wants our hearts and minds to be still as well. How do we stop our minds from racing, going a hundred miles an hour when that’s what we’ve been training it to do our entire adult lives? We shift our focus. The Psalmist understands what it is like to be distracted by a crazy life. In the beginning of the Psalm, he writes, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:2-3). Later he says, “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice the earth melts” (v.6). Uh… mountains falling and quaking? Waters roaring and foaming? Nations in uproar? Yes, I think he understands a busy, worried mind. And yet, we’re told to be still, to exalt the Lord. Exalt means to raise high, to elevate by praise, to glorify. So, how do we shift the focus in our crazy, busy minds? We exalt the Lord. We raise him up in our minds and hearts, we give him first place, we glorify him. We let go of ourselves, our lists, our needs, our desires, and our selfishness. This “letting go” thing looks differently for each of us. Maybe that means playing a song (I’m thinking “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman), maybe it means deep breathing, maybe it literally means locking ourselves in a quiet room where the craziness can’t reach us. Whatever it means to you, do it daily.
Instead of finding myself in one of those doctor’s office, nothing to do type situations with the Lord, I want to find myself being still and seeking him first every day.
Lord, forgive me for the times when I get too busy with menial, earthly tasks to seek you first. Forgive me for the times when my constant motion prevents me from being still in your presence. Father, help me to take time every day to exalt you and allow you to be first on my list. Send your Spirit to work in my heart so that I desire you over everything else.