What you see to the left is a picture of my nine month old daughter Hope and me from an early morning a couple weeks ago. This is characteristic of my morning “quiet time” (what I refer to as “personal worship”–I’ll use the terms interchangeably here). More often than not, early in the morning, I settle down with a Bible, a notebook, and a squirmy, noisy, giggly, grunty baby girl on my lap.
I’m a pastor, but I’m mainly a dad, so that means my personal worship times look less like the shekhinah glory and more like grabbing fingers, laughs and cries and babbles, diaper changes and bottle feedings all interwoven with reading, meditations, confessions, laments, praises, thanksgivings, and supplications.
Children are a blessing from the Lord…unless they are present during my quiet time! Has that thought ever entered into your mind? If you are a parent (especially a mom!) of young children, then you know the difficulties of trying to balance everything being a parent brings and trying to carve out time in your busy schedule for personal worship. It’s not only difficult, it can be overwhelming and even a source of bitterness and anger.
So think about the last time something like this has happened to you. Now take a step back. When Hope (or Bailey, our two-and-a-half year-old) “messes up” my quiet time, and I get angry or frustrated or just annoyed, I’m making a personal worship event about me rather than about Jesus. I’m slipping into performance-mode. At that moment, I forget that personal worship times are vehicles to cultivate repentance and faith in my life. Nothing more. Nothing less. Reading Scripture and praying and journaling and singing, etc. are means of grace that God uses in his kindness to make me look more like Jesus. So what being angry, frustrated, or annoyed reveals is that I’m really basing my standing with God and my progress in the faith on how my quiet times go. Quickly, I’m on the road to believing a different gospel (see Galatians 1).
So when a crying or laughing or giggling or snorting baby “interrupts” me during a time of worship, it’s imperative that I remind myself that my righteousness is in Jesus, not this worship event; my sanctification is in Jesus, not how holy I feel during this time; my hope is in Jesus; not how well this ends up.
This is good news—gospel—for my quiet times. It eliminates pride: if things go well, I remember that God is not more inclined to me than before because my good works merit me nothing. It eliminates fear: if things go badly (or get stopped altogether!), I rest knowing that if God gave his Son for me while I was an enemy, there’s infinite grace for this particular moment.
Now with this good news, I’m liberated. My personal time of worship doesn’t define me or shape my identity. Rather, its one tool, one instrument, one means to the end of knowing, worshiping, loving, and obeying Jesus.
I’m liberated to use this time, as a tool, to love and disciple my kids, rather than twist this time into a pseudo-savior and grow annoyed that they keep me from “going deep” with this idol. I can take advantage of this moment to model to our daughters what it is to believe the gospel and repent of my self-righteousness. Even though they are young, I can discuss with them what I’m reading. It’s never to early to teach them how to read and meditate on the Scriptures and pray and sing. I trust that over time God will use this to woo them to himself.
“But,” you ask, “what about my quiet times?!” Press on. If you have a literal “quiet” time, great. Take advantage. But for the other 95% of the time, engage with God and worship him in the mess of life. Kids are messy. Parenting is messy. Life is messy. Why should your quiet time be any different?