I used to try and "do" a devotion every day. You know, to start off my day by crossing something off the list!
It was never fulfilling. Surely, it was my fault! I couldn't stay focused. I was stressing about everything else I could/should be doing. I didn't feel any better afterwards, and I certainly didn't meditate on it again later. I blamed myself for years:
I’m not trying hard enough.
I should have gotten up earlier.
This devotional isn’t right for me.
I need to highlight and underline more.
I should write more.
Nonetheless, after 5-10 minutes, I could say I did it. I'd accomplished something that sounded admirable.
As much as I love to write, I can't journal. It invokes pressure to summarize everything that has happened since the last journal entry. Too obligatory for me.
But, isn’t that what good prayer time looks like?! Reading and writing! Memorizing scripture! Quoting passages on Facebook and texts! (I've always envied people who can share from their daily time of meditation.) For me, it just never felt authentic. Not natural. If I'm going to do it, I want to do it the right way!!
You know, so I get credit for it…
Years of attempted journaling and "doing my devotion" gave me nothing of value. I never felt better afterwards! Instead, it left me with feelings of resentment towards something else to do, insecurity about doing it wrong, and self-pity. Why couldn't I feel how everyone else looked?
I didn't feel accomplished. I just felt done.
I have so much for which to be thankful. Carl and I really do have an incredible marriage. We live in our dream house and have been blessed so that I could leave a great job to stay home and manage our family. Ben is in 5th grade, Mia is in 4th and Addy is in 3rd. They're healthy, happy kids. Shouldn't I be spending HOURS in quiet time, praising God and journaling about all of the wonderful things in my life? I mean, clearly, I have time! I should be journaling about all the ways I can give back, and how to serve the world in the kids' school or at church.
Instead, I was skimming through a passage every now and then and rushing back to my to-do list. A list that left me exhausted, stressed and in the same place every afternoon. Unsatisfied. Bored. Empty.
Years of pursuing a finality that didn't exist was too much to bear. I was never finished. I could never claim victory over this big, giant life called grown-uphood. There was always something else to do, someone else to care for. Those feelings led me to drink.
Why couldn't I just get THERE?!!
Where IS there?
Now, let me be clear. I didn't start drinking because of a single major event. There wasn't a death in the family, a loss of something or a tragedy. I just started to feel life. I was married, I was raising kids, I was working and I was BORED. Everything was good. But it was monotonous, the same every day. Like Groundhog Day. I couldn't handle the lack of completion, of fulfillment. No matter how hard or fast I ran, I never arrived.
My to-do list wasn't of things that were spiritually fulfilling to me or my family. It was a list of things to help form other people's perceptions of me. Yes, I had to go to the grocery and we needed clean laundry. But I was spending the majority of my time and valuable energy on things for which I needed others to approve.
- Clean house.
- Buy new Christmas decorations.
- Pick up this season's "it" shoes.
- Get hair done.
- Buy supplies for craft I saw on Pinterest. (Just kidding. I'm not crafty at all.)
But do you hear where I am going? NOWHERE!
The same was true of my relationship with Jesus. I was just trying to impress Him by "doing" a devotion every day. I wanted His approval for my good deed of the day. It never happened. I never achieved it. I was failing at managing all parts of my life.
It wasn't until I pursued treatment for my alcoholism that I realized I had no control over my disease or my life and that I WASN'T SUPPOSED TO.
That's right. He's always known who I am and who I want to be. He's known what I want and what I need. I'm not supposed to DO anything for His approval, other than acknowledge all of this by talking to Him.
Wide-eyed emoji again.
That's too simple. That's too easy. Surely, it can't be that way!
Oh, but it is. I'm not supposed to be like Carl or my friend down the street. He didn't make me like them. I'm supposed to be me. The me that makes lists and tries hard and wants to do right. The me that cares about her family and faith and is learning how to show it. The me that isn't supposed to be in control.
Why'd it take so long for me to "get it"? I don't know. But ,He does. It was all in the plan. My alcoholism was too. He had to give me this thorn to FEEL Him and acknowledge His power in my life. I must depend on Him for everything, especially my serenity and sobriety. That dependence looks like conversation. I talk to Him. I ask Him questions. He speaks. I listen. I cry. He consoles. I complain. He counsels. Pretty simple, really. I wasn't supposed to connect through the little devotionals or a pretty notebook. I was given a different lifeline.
So what does my prayer time look like now? You guessed it! LISTS! As soon as I wake, I "brain dump" my to-do list, then flip it over to allow myself to focus. I can rest knowing that I've written everything down that I "need" to do later. Then, I simply list things the way I think of them. Lists of gratitude, personal requests of God, people to pray for laid upon my heart at the time, verses or song lyrics that come to mind. Really, it's more like a storyboard (without the pics), 0r a project plan (without any real organization), or a conversation with someone (who is ALL OVER THE MAP!)
I do read every morning from my favorite devotional, Jesus Calling. It fits into my new understanding of Him. I think about what I read, I look up the scriptures referenced. Sometimes I underline, but mostly I just list things that come to mind about Him, or how I need Him in my life.
I still don't have it all figured out. I don't think we're ever supposed to. But I'm of clearer mind and sounder body now, thanks to nearly five months sobriety. Through this blog, I need to continue to share the journey I've been on for the last eight years, and the lessons I'm learning now that I'm walking and not running. I live in recovery-something else which I must surrender in hope of "finishing". It will never be over. I will always be an addict who must depend on a power greater than myself to get through each day. Lucky for me, He's always there, talking.
All I have to do is listen...and list what I believe He wants me to do next.
This cracks me up. It's the image of an organizational system for sale in my favorite home decorating catalog. You'll see lots of them in the next month when stores push out their annual "get organized in the New Year" campaigns. My lists have NEVER looked like that. If this is all I had to do, I wouldn't need to write it down-especially in a stationary place!
Here are some of my lists from this week! (They travel, if you can't tell.)