When an hour or more is a balm for the soul.

We live in a culture that equates business with importance and so we often find ways to keep ourselves busy. Occupied. Unavailable. Just out of reach. Yet we are also a people who desire to connect with Jesus. As apprentices of Jesus, people who learn to do as he does, we know and understand the importance of time spent. Still, we often choose to remain busy instead of choosing to remain in his presence. If I had a nickel for every time someone including myself said, “I really need to spend more time with Jesus, but I’m just so busy,” I would be ready for a very cushy, early retirement.

If the past year has taught me anything, it’s that I have more time than I realize. I simply don’t always spend it in ways that draws my gaze toward Jesus. Before the world was asked to stay home to flatten the curve of Covid, I filled much of my spare time with activities. It wasn’t like I ran around town like a murderous lunatic creating havoc and leaving destruction in my wake—sometimes I went on walks with friends or met someone for coffee. I drove to and from various places and blasted my favorite music or podcast. I devoured books and scrolled social media to the point my mind was overflowing with information. I was busy creating noise, even some good noise, when all my soul craved was an hour of silence in order to hear the voice of my heavenly Father.

I needed an hour—an hour of quiet—an hour of quiet to remain with Jesus. An hour was a balm for my soul.

If you’ve been around with me for a while, you know I’ve talked about quiet time. Not just any quiet time, but the fancy quiet time that is so popular in American Christianity. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, first—where have you been (kidding, sorta…), but it’s that perfect time early in the morning before it’s light out, before anyone else in your house is awake, with a cozy blanket, a hot cuppa something, a candle, and quiet possibly a heavenly host singing quietly in the background. Why am I am so snarky about this?!

Anyway, my personality pushes against the twenty-first century notion of an ideal quiet time. There’s nothing wrong with it and I don’t hate that people have this perfect quiet time. Maybe I’m jealous. I think about passages in scripture where we see Jesus spend time with his Father. In Mark 1:35, we read, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” I don’t get the impression it was a perfectly staged quiet time: Jesus, a quiet fire, a scroll from the Scriptures, and some parchment. No—this was a disciplined practice. It doesn’t seem fun at all, but it does seem necessary. Regardless of your quiet time aesthetic, we both know it’s important. Time spent with the Father is important—it is the balm for our weary souls.

So what am I saying? Am I saying you need to start spending hours with God? Yes and no.

No—you don’t need to begin setting aside an hour every day to meditate on scripture. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it’s not what I’m saying to you here. What I am suggesting is that we might not be as busy as we think and even if we are, we can change that. No, you don’t need to quit all of the things you’re engaged in, but can you examine them? Can you take a broad view of your life and schedule to determine which things are necessary, which things are life-giving, and which things are not?

We know we need time with Jesus when our souls are weary—but here is a pro tip: we don’t have to wait until they become weary. We can make time to remain with Jesus.

Yes—spending time with God is good and wise and beneficial and restorative. As apprentices of Jesus, we need to incorporate more hours of our lives to remaining with him. Time spent equates to transformation over time. Our minds, hearts, and yes even our bodies are transformed over time and we reflect Jesus more closely. By the power of God, we change.

Yes, we need to spend more time with Jesus, but how that looks is between you and Jesus. In the following section, I’ll share a few ways I’ve spent extended time with Jesus over the years.

Quiet. It’s difficult to physically cultivate and even harder to find in the wild, but quiet is possible if you’re willing to be creative. One way I’ve recently invited quiet into my life is while I’m on walks. It’s not ideal, but if I waited for the ideal time, place, or space to be quiet before the Lord, I would miss all of the hours I could have been quiet with the Lord.

In a previous blog post, I shared about my internal struggle between wanting to zone out on walks by listening to music or a podcast. Both are good things that bring joy into my life, but there are times I need Jesus more. So instead of matching my steps to the rhythm of the music, I match my steps to my breathing until all I can hear are the internal sounds of my inhale and exhale. I can’t explain why it works for me, but in addition to becoming in tune with my physical body, this practice also serves to quiet my mind. Once I have settled into a sustainable rhythm, I tap into my God-given imagination. I imagine I am walking with God—because it’s true.

The great thing about quiet is that whether you are young, old, single, dating, parenting, working, married, divorced, widowed, or otherwise—quiet is possible. It isn’t a practice reserved for monks and nuns who live separate from the rest of society in the Swiss Alps. Quiet is for us too. Shh.

Scripture. I cannot stress how beneficial it is to spend time in scripture. For years, I neglected this practice out of fear—fear of interpreting a passage incorrectly, fear of misunderstanding a story, fear of finding out something horrible about God, and fear of stumbling upon something that conflicted with my worldview. Also I was lazy, so there’s that (air-high-five if you can relate).

There are a multitude of reasons why we should spend significant time reading the scriptures, but primarily it’s because it is God’s story—for us. Scripture is where we learn about who God is, what God has done, what God promises to do, and who God says we are. Time spent in scripture will never come back void.

A couple of years ago, I started waking up every morning and opening the Bible app to see what the verse of the day was. It took about two minutes, but I didn’t stop there. I thought about the verse several times during the day, but especially in the car. My boys were in 2nd, 5th, and 7th grades and we had two schools to drive to—so we had time in the car. I started by reading the verse of the day before we left the house. Then in the car, I’d ask the boys about the verse—how it made them feel, what it taught us about God, or why we would want to incorporate the verse into our lives. Those were some great car rides. We could spend twenty minutes talking about one verse.

I’ve talked about this before in another post, but it is worth mentioning again. Sometimes I participate in a reading plan. I’ve used several through different apps, such as She Reads Truth, Faith Social, or Olive Tree. Right now, our entire church is engaged in one reading plan and our goal is to read through the entire New Testament by the end of the year. We started in the gospel of John and now we’re in 1 John. It’s so neat to read a chapter in scripture knowing there are hundreds of other people you know and love who are likely doing the same thing. Sometimes I’ll text a friend and ask what they thought about a section, but sometimes I journal about it myself. I’ve really enjoyed this practice—maybe you could start something like this with a group of friends.

Retreat. Honestly, this one is so fun and so versatile. If you’ve ever gone on a youth retreat or a men’s or women’s retreat, you know they have the potential to be incredibly life-giving and restorative. There’s something special about gathering with others in order to spent time with God as a community studying, praying, and deepening relationships. Often, retreats take place over an entire day, a weekend, or a full week. No matter your current stage or station in life, retreats can be a wonderful balm to the soul.

Everyone experiences retreats differently and every retreat is different. For every retreat I’ve attended that has provided space for intimate connection with Jesus, there has been another that had the opposite effect. It’s so interesting because sometimes I’ve loved a retreat and a friend has come home depleted and vice versa. The key to experiencing a deep and prolonged connection with Jesus while on retreat is to expect that Jesus will meet you there. How he meets you may look different than you expected, but having the expectation has been immensely helpful for me.

And can I just say that a retreat doesn’t have to be formal. Last year, a couple of my friends took turns going up to a cabin that belonged to their family. One weekend, he went by himself and studied, read, enjoyed nature, and lots of quiet. One weekend she went and did something different. Each of them spent quality extended time with Jesus in their own way. It doesn’t need to be complicated.

Some time ago, someone I met shared a really neat rhythm of connection. It went something like this: one hour a day, one day a week, one week a month, one month a year. I honestly wish I could remember who said it (and if you’re reading it right now, please text me so I can give you credit). The point of this rhythm was to regularly set aside extended time and dedicate it to disconnecting from those things that distract us from God in order to connect with God.

Truthfully, it sounds like on of those aspirational goals—like one day when I have a pet unicorn and we regularly fly over rainbows that sort of ethereal rhythm might be possible. As I think about it though, why couldn’t it be possible now? I mean how we spend that time might look vastly different depending on our life circumstances, but is it truly out of our reach or are we just not tapping into our imagination?

Can we spend one hour in a day, even if we break it up into four fifteen minute increments, and pray, read, journal, and be still. Might we set aside one day a week and detach from technology in order to enjoy the relationships around us and explore creation. Is it possible that one week every month we can choose to meditate on one particular Psalm from scripture in order to know God more intimately. Will you imagine yourself setting one month out of the year aside in order to dedicate yourself to a particular spiritual discipline such as meditation, silence, examine, or memorization?

Do you see? If you and I are willing to be creative, it is possible for us to experience deep and meaningful connection with Jesus. Our souls can be restored by the balm of connection with the Father. We don’t have to wait for unicorns and rainbows—we can remain with Jesus right now.

Thanks for letting me share what has worked for me. I’m curious—what are some ways you regularly spend extended time with Jesus? Leave me a comment below.

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