In order to prepare for the state writing test, my sons had to do a lot of “on demand writing.” They would be given a prompt, something like, “Which is better Coke or Pepsi?” and have to write 5 paragraphs stating their opinion and backing it up with details. There was a whole method to this: planning, rough draft, edit, and publish. Of course, children need to be taught how to write, but it is hard to come up with an “engaging beginning” for something you could not care less about at a time when you could not care less about it! But, this is life, we all do things that we are not thrilled to do, sometimes when we are not thrilled to do them. Why? Because we have to. Jobs, responsibilities, time commitments, demand that we sometimes have to do what we don’t feel like doing, when we don’t feel like doing it, because we have to. As my mother told me, and I now repeat to my children, “Things will not get done if we do not do them.”
Recently, I was faced with having to make a decision and I did NOT feel like doing it. I didn’t want to think about it or talk about it, and I certainly did not want to actually make a decision about it. And yet, despite my delays and whining- I had channeled my childrens’ method of trying to avoid essay writing–I made the decision. I did something…because I had to. Just making the decision cleared up a lot of the anxiety I had about doing it. There’s some truth behind the old Nike slogan, “Just Do It”!!
I see this happening in my spiritual life sometimes too. Ok, I’m about to make a confession here. Yes, I, Jeanette, prayer group leader, Bible study teacher, Christian blog writer, Holy Land traveller, I do not always feel like praying, or writing, or studying my Bible. Nope, sometimes I want to sleep in, watch an extra hour of TV, or read a book….and sometimes I do because I feel like it. Plus, I really don’t “have” to pray and study and write every day…it’s the quality of time I spend not the frequency..right? Whereas I do not think that God has a strict schedule He expects us to follow in regard to growing our faith, I do believe there is something to be said about doing the things of God because we have to. Hear me though, I do not think we “have to” pray and study and use our gifts in the sense of earning points, like my children do on their essays. I think it’s more about being compelled to do them.
Over the last few weeks, my quiet times had not been as quiet, my Bible reading quick and scattered,and writing?…… Way on the back burner. As I watched my life get more hectic, I began to say to myself, “You should probably just skip quiet time, your heart’s not in it anyway…God isn’t interested in you just going through the motions. Listen to your Christian podcasts and pray when you can or with your group, that’s enough with all you’ve got going on.” As I continued to try to “work in” my faith-building activities in an effort to get my to-do list down to manageable, something strange happened. More stuff kept getting in the way of my time with God. I began feeling more stress, more confused, more scattered.
In my brief prayer times, I would pray for peace and rest before flying off to the next thing. I would listen to sermons on my morning runs and called that my “quiet time.” Writing, my love, my gift, was scant and the less I practiced, the worse I believed I was at doing it.
One day, after making that decision to do something because I had to, I realized that while God isn’t interested in me “going through the motions”, He does want me to develop habits that draw me to Him. Like my children, who despite their only writing “because they have to,” learned good writing habits. This has been planted into them now and they often write “because the have to…because they are compelled to.” They write to express, to communicate, to relax. And whether or not they were in the “mood” to write on the day of the state test, the “motions” were so ingrained in them, they were able to write “on demand”…because they had to.
Yes, God is a god of grace and mercy, and if I hit the snooze button or pray in the carpool line instead of my prayer chair, I believe He honors that. But, He has called us to be diligent in our study of His Word, to pray without ceasing, and to use the gifts He gives us to bring Him glory. So I’m going to study, pray, and write…not because I want to, but because HE wants me to. Because I do these things “because I have to.” When we do these things consistently-even when we don’t feel like it, guess what happens? When life happens, when we get side-tracked (that’s going to happen from time to time) when we do not study, pray, use our gifts, we will feel a strain, a tug, a pull…we will feel like we “have to”…we will be compelled to do them. It will be these very things, these habits of our faith, that have planted the Holy Spirit so deeply, that we will constantly be striving to come home to them, and in so doing, to Him.