|My sister, brother and I|
This article by Rebecca Jones was first published in Presbyterian Church in America’s Messenger, May 1991. I remember reading it but I was only 19 years old then. Now, with 5 kids of my own, I can actually relate. This brought tears to my eyes as I realized my own struggle is no different than my mother's.
As a child, I always loved the Lord. One vivid childhood memory stands out. With the rest of my tearful family, I am at the bottom of the stairs of our home in Pennsylvania. A hurricane rages outside. Floods are pouring into our basement. Yet we are only aware that the doctor is upstairs examining my little seven-month-old sister—will she live or die? Each of us prayed fervently that evening. I begged my Father in heaven to spare my baby sister. The following morning a surgeon performed exploratory surgery and discovered intussusception —in time! My sister Anne is now the mother of five. From the moment her life was saved, I knew God was there and that he loved my family. By the time I was eleven I had established very regular habits of “devotions.” I don’t think I missed a day until I was married at twenty.
Earlier habits were disturbed. I was no longer alone in the evening and I had to get up and out early to my teaching job in a school for delinquent girls. This kind of stress was entirely different from writing term papers! The next year I taught seventh and eighth grade in an inner-city school in Trenton, New Jersey. With no experience, no text books and expecting a baby, I left each morning feeling sick. I cried whenever I wasn’t in front of my students.
Disappearing Quiet Times
The battle had begun. My “quiet time” began to disappear, squeezed out by grading papers, fixing meals, teaching, and by sheer exhaustion. Little did I realize that the rhythm I developed that year would one day seem easy. Since then my life has been a whirlwind. We left for France via England, where our second child was born. When we arrived she was only three weeks old. I faced learning a new language, getting settled in, the birth of a third child, the discovery that our second little girl was deaf (with all the emotional and physical energy involved in her education). Still later, more children, a home to build and later yet a second. Of course, there is always housework, laundry, meals, always a baby or a toddler, guests, parties to give, Sunday School to teach, Cued Speech classes to present—I’m sure you can imagine the rest.
Where Did it Go?
What happened to my quiet time? In 1985, we were in the States for a six-month furlough. I was alone again with six children to raise, since my husband was traveling. I felt particularly guilty about not having my personal time with the Lord. Late one night I was reading a Christian book on the disciplines of the Christian woman. When I got to the part that suggested setting my alarm clock at 3:00 am to have my quiet time, I slammed the book closed and threw it at the wall. That book has probably been a blessing to many, but I never dared finish it. For me, right then, it just made me mad. My alarm was already set. Not for 3:00am, but for a reasonable 6:00am, so I could wake before the baby’s feeding at 6:30am. Since my various duties had already kept me up well past midnight, I would be getting plenty of piety points by getting up at 6!
The next morning at 5:45, the baby began to cry. So did I! Why did the Lord seem to be deliberately frustrating my attempts to be with him? Why was he avoiding me? Surely, he could have kept the baby asleep for forty-five more minutes. Like a kind of spiritual neon sign lighting up in my soul, Isaiah 40:31 flashed into my mind. To my knowledge, I hadn’t read that passage in the days before, but the Lord whispered it to me now:
Am I one whose hope is in the Lord? My soul shouts out a resounding “Yes!” Does the fact that I haven’t opened the Bible in week mean I don’t love him anymore or that he has abandoned me? My soul shouts out a resounding, “No!” A few weeks ago, I got up early to spend time in the Word before breakfast. I couldn’t concentrate. Two of my girls were already dressed and in the kitchen, getting their own breakfast in time to get off early to school. Without thinking, I went out to pour their tea, give them a kiss and listen to last minute lessons before their math test. Did I do the right thing?“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, the will walk and not be faint.”
Some of us may be surprised to find out how many hours we have actually spent with our Lord Jesus when we meet him face to face. He may ask me, “Don’t you remember giving me breakfast before I went to school and showing me you cared about my math test?”He may ask you, “Don’t you remember giving me that lovely warm bath when I left my jacket on the bus and was so cold coming home?” “Don’t you remember staying up late listening to my pain and comforting me when I felt so rejected by my so-called friends?” “Don’t you remember entertaining me among those fifty guests who stayed till 2:30 am and washing up those dirty dishes after us?”
We will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?” The king will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
No, I haven’t stopped trying to have my quiet “quiet times.” Maybe someday when my seven children are a little older and my schedule slows down I will be able to have them on a regular basis again, as I long to do. In the meantime, I’ve learned that my noisy “quiet times” are every bit as precious and honorable in God’s sight. I’ve also learned that right now, it’s one of the precious ways he chooses to commune with me.