I will never forget sitting on my bunk in Dorm 4 at a Christian University, getting ready to open up my Quiet Time Diary. I was 21 years old and desperately in need of a connection with and a word from God. Before cracking it open to see where I would be reading that day, I pleaded,
“Dear God, I desperately need to hear from You. I need communication; I need to know what is true, what is right, what to do, what You mean. Please speak to me from Your word.”
The passage that day was somewhere in the Gospel of John, and I heard nothing from above. I recall the despair with which I confronted Him after reading the text over and over again.
“God, it’s just a story; it’s history, but I don’t see any deeper meaning. I don’t hear or see any answers to my questions…. I need to hear from You; what am I to do?! What am I to understand?!”
I didn’t receive an answer for 7 years. Those were 7 arid years of wandering in a spiritual wilderness.
It was marriage that revealed the proper role of personal devotions. The walk of a believer is one of relationship with our Creator. Just like any earthly relationship, the degree to which we feel the reality of that relationship is determined by how much we put into it.
In other words, I have experienced moments of pure relational ecstasy with my wife over the years. However, they were hardly daily events, and they would never have happened if it wasn’t for the many, daily moments of relational “drudgery”, which I invested into our relational bank account.
The amazing thing is those daily talks about seeming nothingness, the daily laying down my desires to honor her, are transformed by the relational highpoints into something much different than “drudgery.” What is the feeling of love after all, other than the sum of many highpoints? Highpoints that are the result of a daily, momentary decision to put the desires of your loved one above your own. And the amazing result is when you discover that putting your loved one above yourself has become your own desire!
When my brother and I were growing up he was a poster boy for proper fiscal behavior. It didn’t matter whether he received $2 or $20, he was going to deposit some of it in his savings account. I, on the other hand, felt it was hardly justified to deposit anything less than $20 or $50, after all it made no discernible difference in my account statement.
Guess who graduated with quite the nice bank account? Hint: it wasn’t me. Daily devotions sometimes prove to be $50 or $100 deposits, and I treasure those moments, but more often they are $ .50 or $1 deposits that eventually add up to a deep, abiding relationship with my God. And the amazing thing is that years later I now delight in $ .25 deposits!
Sometimes I use what I’m studying deeply as personal devotions. Sometimes my study is dry and academic and I simply randomly read the Scriptures for devotional purposes; at other times I follow some sort of plan, like the weekly Torah portion or 2 chapters of the Old Testament and 1 chapter of the New Testament a day. It doesn’t really matter any more; the point is that I find out more about God in His Word to me. Sometimes I find gold nuggets and sometimes I leave puzzled. Either way, the information I’ve gained, re-iterated, or made available for meditative pondering is precious to me…all because I’ve chosen to love God.
Currently I’m studying the weekly Torah portion (among other things) and reading the weekly Gospel portions for devotions. However, I am hesitant to make a hard distinction between devotions and study, because what is the point of Scripture study after all, if it doesn’t relate to our daily walk.
There was a day when I forced myself to stay sitting at the supper table with my wife because it was the right thing to do. Today I look forward to those times. Those moments rarely merit recording in my diary, but I wouldn’t trade them for all the harems in history!