You Gotta

YouGotta-2

Here’s the deal with time in the Word: you gotta.

You just have to. Done.

Is it hard to find the time? Yeah, it totally can be. Jobs and friends and kids and meetings and ministry and dishes (or ignoring dishes) easily fills up days and weeks and months. Sometimes my sink smells. Bad. But, you gotta.

Is it difficult to figure out where to start? Yep. That Bible is BIG, y’all. 66 books. Some of us haven’t read 66 books in our whole lives.  And some of it is just laws and genealogy. Blech.

Are you going to be confused? Oh, for sure. There is some CRAZY stuff in there. Suicide, destruction, violence. Dudes hanging out in fish bellies. Weirdly specific laws about bodily functions. Figures we place in high esteem committing murder and adultery. Get ready to furrow your brow and scratch your head. Get ready to have all your notions challenged. Get ready to think, “I’m not sure I like where this book of Job is going…”

But…you gotta. You just do. And here’s why…

If you haven’t heard the phrase, “It’s not religion, it’s a relationship…” Congrats! You have been spared from at least one pithy saying we like to throw around in the hopes of explaining the unexplainable. But the phrase isn’t wrong…it just isn’t simple. Religion says, basically, if you complete this list of steps, accomplish these things, abide by these mandates, you are in. If you don’t, so sorry, you are out. That’s simple. Unobtainable, but simple. Relationship says, “By grace you are in. End of story. Now come get to know Me. I have beautiful things to show you. Ways of seeing and doing that are better than anything you could think up on your own and harder than anything you can do on your own. Come and know Me.”

If you have entered into a relationship with Christ, you have said, “Ok, dude. You and me. Long haul. Here we go.” Any relationship you have suffers from time apart, no? People spend lots of dollars and tears and time on improving communication for the sake of their marriages and families. You don’t saddle up with someone and then never talk to them again. You wouldn’t base your marriage on what your husband or wife’s close friends had to say. You hang out with that person. You spend purposeful time doing things, going places, listening to their jokes and their loves and their passions. If someone tries to sell you a falsehood about your person, you can call foul because you know better. If someone came up to me and said, “We just threw your bestie a surprise party and she LOVED it.” False. She hated it. I promise. I know her. She probably has an arm cramp from the strain of not punching you in the face.

My struggle is that I am terrible at initiating in any relationship. You have to come find me. I most likely want to hang out with you, but I’m not going to call you or text you or send you an email because I also like just sitting at home. You’re not terrible. My couch is just awesome. But I do that with Jesus. I just sit around and wait for Him to come find me, for a little prick of inspiration to zap me and then I’ll say, “Oh, hey dude! Yeah…whatcha got for me today?”

Scripture says He stands at the door and knocks, but I’ve already let Him in. I have prayed to receive that salvation. I have opened that front door, but much of the time I’m content to just let Him hang out in the spare room I never bother to enter. Jesus also says, “Come to me.” A lot. And He will give us rest. And His burden is light. Come everyone who thirsts. Jesus died on the cross. Jesus defeated death. Jesus sweat blood in the garden. Jesus was betrayed by His friends. Jesus continues to meet me and heal me and change the world. I can find 20 minutes of my day for that guy. I found 60 minutes to watch Limitless on Netflix, so clearly I’m working with some margin.

But how? What do you do? What is a “quiet time,” a “devotional,” a “Bible study?”  Well..it’s a lot of different things. The basics: you, the Bible, prayer.  

No matter what tools or methods I’m using to interact with scripture, my pattern always looks like “pray, read, pray.” Generations of people read scripture without lesson plans, reflection questions, video series, and $30 study guides. If you start your journey into scripture with a quick, “Ok, God…what’s happening here? I love You, want to hear from You, want to know more about You. Meet me here, please, Lord.”  And then you read a Psalm a few times over (you can even pick a little one!) and pray again. And let there be a little silence and a little space for listening. Ask, “What does this tell me about who God is? What do I need to do in response?” He will meet you, you just have to start.

If you “pray, read, pray” through some small bit of scripture every day for even a few minutes for just a few weeks, your heart will change. Your eyes will change. The words of your mouth will change. Small changes all accumulating into something greater. Tons of tiny bricks built up over time turn into mansions of faith. If you turn to your neighbor or your small group and together join in encouraging each other and holding each other accountable to maintaining your individual relationships with Christ, imagine the entire beautiful neighborhoods that could be built. City blocks thrumming with life and grace, promise and invitation.

Man, you gotta.

Read the same small Psalm over and over. Meditate. Google up Kay Arthur or Beth Moore or Tim Keller and jump into something more structured. Go through a book of the Bible or a study with your small group and commit to doing it daily. Jump into a Gospel. Check out SheReadsTruth.com (also HeReadsTruth) or IfEquip.com, which both provide free daily scripture readings and commentary. I’m currently loving my Write the Word journal. Traci Fredricks at a meeting with some of the worship team suggested this one: choose a worship song that struck you on Sunday and pray through the lyrics, searching out coinciding scriptures. You can literally just grab a line and toss it into the search box of BibleGateway.com. The Bible app on my phone provides daily readings and devotionals. It also will read the Bible aloud to me in several different translations.

Find a place in your home that works for you. Or a place not in your home. Your couch, your bed, the kitchen table, a coffee shop, your car, with earbuds in your ears as you weed the garden. Ask someone you trust, someone who looks like maybe they’ve been down this road a while, what they do to stay in the Word and what resources they can suggest. Please, oh please, bring your questions and ponderings to your small group or check in with a mentor or pastor. Don’t sit in your struggle all alone. Go at your own pace. Your relationship will look unique to you so resist the temptation to compare yourself to the Christian next to you. But build this habit: you, the Bible, prayer.

Your relationship is yours. Not mine. Not any pastor’s. Not any theologian’s. Not your mom’s. Not your friends’.  This is on you. We are in this together, the struggle is real and universal, and I’m saying this to myself more than anyone: YOU gotta.