So, I've been think a lot about what we call spiritual disciplines lately. It was spurred by a book I just read called Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God. The premise of the book was that maybe, for some people, the way that we have typically told them to spend time with God doesn't work for them because they don't think or operate that way.
It really got me thinking. I'm one of those people for whom the read a passage in your Bible, maybe journal about it a bit, and spend some time praying works for most of the time, because that fits with my personality. But, I think about my sister . . . trying to do that is just about impossible for her. She can't sit still and concentrate on something like that for any significant amount of time.
Or take the sermon portion of our services . . . how many people do you know who can really sit there and listen for that long and do nothing else? I can probably about 75% of the time . . . the rest of the time I have problems with that. And my sister . . . forget it! And she's grown up in the church and has done it all her life. But, I talk to her and she's never gotten anything out of those sermons when she's had nothing else to do but listen. So, then she starts drawing or sketching while she listens to a sermon . . . and gets something out of it for a change . . . and someone tells her that it's disrespectful for her to do that during a sermon. Excuse me! I've seen her drawings from when she's listening to a sermon . . . they very often relate to the message and are her way of making sense of it and learning from it . . . same idea as those who take notes during a sermon. What is wrong with this? Different kinds of people learn different ways. We have realized that in schools . . . why can't we realize and accept that in the church? Our one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work. Will we ever learn?
OK, end of rant.
The thing that came up when I was reading this book that really got me thinking was when the author started talking about the whole idea of some spiritual disciplines being helpful for a season and then not as helpful for a while. As I look at my own life, I can see that as true. There are some things that I have done for a time that have been tremendously helpful then, that I don't do anymore because they aren't as helpful to me right now. Not that there is anything wrong with these spiritual disciplines . . . just that they aren't how God is speaking to me for this time.
I have often wondered why we took something that is not specifically commanded in the Bible and made it the basis by which we measure spiritual growth. Yes, the Bible talks about and emphasizes our need to grow and develop in our relationship with God. But, it doesn't lay out a prescriptive course of action that we are to follow to a "t". The Bible describes what people did and emphasizes the importance that we don't try and do it all alone. But, no where does it say that to grow spiritually we have to get up early in the morning and spend a half hour or an hour in Bible reading and prayer. Are there examples of people who did that? Yes! Does it say that we have to do exactly the same thing? No!
Can I just challenge you today to think a little bit outside the box? Rather than trying to fit everyone into the same box when it comes to how we relate to God and grpw in our relationship with Him, let's allow people to do that in a way that works for them. Provide them with encouragement and ideas, but don't try to prescribe for them what they should do. It doesn't work.