Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Starting from true north

I’VE LONG considered a daily devotional time to be a bit like going to the gym—you may not always feel like you are getting a lot out of it, and sometimes staying in bed longer instead seems to be a much more attractive proposition. Still, there’s an accumulative effect you can’t get any other way. Fitness, be it physical or spiritual, is incremental.

Now if you’re going to drag yourself out of bed to exercise, I figure you might as well try to make the most of it. So when I work out, I like to aim for good form, to maximize all the effort. Why not look to get the greatest return you can on your investment, right? That mindset has led to one simple but significant change I have made in the way I start my days with God.

Mornings have always involved some quiet, prayer, Bible reading, and maybe a devotional book of some kind, though the format has changed through the years. You name it, I’ve tried it: I have followed programs, read commentaries, worked through individual books of the Bible on my own, and utilized the stick-a-finger-in-the-pages-at-random-and-see-if-you-can-make-sense-of-what-you-find approach.

For the longest time, I’d hit the alarm and then pad into the kitchen and put the kettle on for a cup of tea. While it was brewing, I’d check my phone for messages and glance at the news headlines, then settle down with my mug and books.

Then, a couple of years ago, it hit me: I had this all backwards. I wasn’t concentrating on the form of my spiritual exercises—literally. By the time I settled down to read, think, and pray, my head was already full of all kinds of distractions, bright shiny things tugging on my attention. I was already out there in the day, not here with Him.

So I reversed things. I still brew my tea first: I like to think maybe Adam and Eve shared a pot with God during their afternoon visits, before they turned from tea leaves to fig leaves. But I make it a point that the first thing I set my eyes to reading each morning is the Bible. No texts, no headlines, no email, no books, nothing.

Some mornings it’s just a few quick verses; some mornings it’s a leisurely delight. But either way, I have found improving my form, as it were, with this Bible-first emphasis to be meaningful and helpful.

I believe there are two reasons. First, I want to try to be open to God’s Word without prior diversions, and as someone who can be easily distracted, I need some kind of blinders. I want God to speak before the world starts yelling.

Secondly, it’s not just turning my eyes and my head toward God, it’s turning my heart to Him. In just a small way, I’m demonstrating to Him, myself, and the universe that He comes first. My true north is God: I may wander in the hours that follow, but if I do, I am just then trying to find my way back on track.

This orientation has proved to be so much more calming and freeing than beginning the day distracted and feeling that I’m forever after just trying to find my way through the clutter to God. Rather than fitting God into my day, it’s like I am fitting my day into God.

Photo credit: Foter.com

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