In college, I had things down. I went to all our fellowship meetings. I spent consistent time praying and reading the Bible. I met with a mentor and mentored a couple of younger guys myself.
When people told me things would be different after college, I believed them, but I didn’t really know what they meant. Not until 6 months later.
My first job was working in the fundraising department of Columbia University’s Teachers College. I was also in grad school. To make it all work financially, I worked full-time, so I could qualify for tuition benefits, and went to school full-time, to get reduced-cost housing. (This was New York, and on-campus housing was the only thing I could afford.)
I suddenly went from being “FAT” (faithful, available, teachable) to scrambling to survive. I knew that God was with me, but I just couldn’t do all the things I had learned to stay close to Him.
After crashing more than once just trying to hang on, I learned that for this new life to work, I had to re-organize. It was all trial-and-error at first, but in the end, I had to find an approach that
- Fit the time I had
- Gave me good “bang for the buck”
- Wouldn’t kill me, given my limited mental and emotional energy
For me, that meant less Bible study but much more Bible reading. Reading, it turns out, not only fit my schedule, but it also fit my capacity. Instead of tapping into the same “bucket” I was already drawing on for everything else (I was studying day and night for school and for my job), reading filled me up in a different way. It got me connected to God’s big story.
Another big change was not expecting to have time to do the same things every day (a 30-45 minute quiet time each day, for example) but much more variety: multiple, short “touches” Monday-Friday (for example, writing down a few verses and reading them during spare moments when I could) and longer times to read and reflect on the weekends.
Getting married, having kids, moving overseas, new jobs full of demands and other changes in schedule and pace of life have taught me again and again that the things we call spiritual “disciplines” are much more about heart than technique. You have to do something! But what God wants more than anything else is my devotion, love and trust. In seasons of relative calm, I can take more time. In hectic times, I don’t stop coming to God – God is never not my highest priority – but I do have to find ways that fit. It can be hard to accept both the freedom and the responsibility to adjust and change, but that is exactly what is required if we are going to walk with God for a lifetime.
If you are crushed for time, here are two ideas:
- Make a short list the things that have helped you feel close to God. Pick just one thing from this list (for example, setting aside 10 minutes to pray) and make time to do it this week. If it works, try it again and try it more often. If it doesn’t work, try something else.
- From the same list, look for things that inspire you that are already part of your everyday life. For me, it can be sports (I love seeing people sacrifice for the team) or looking at the sky or passing by a beautiful tree. The next time you find yourself already doing one of the things on your list, just say a short prayer: “God, you are indeed mighty!”
If you have a little more time and want to explore what works for you, try working through this exercise.