When I was a youth pastor I encouraged students to have daily quiet times. I told them that a daily quiet time was like recharging their batteries. “Our batteries are drained throughout the day,” I said, “so we need to plug back into the outlet and get recharged and bring God with us into the day.” That’s a pretty good metaphor, right? Wrong.
The problem with this illustration is that it implies we are only with God in the midst of our quiet times, but not the rest of the day. I unintentionally taught those kids that God is not present in our everyday experiences, and it is our responsibility to drag God with us through life. But if we live as if God is not in the mundane, everyday life, we neglect the numerous opportunities for learning and growth that are present in ebbs and flows, the successes and failures of ordinary life and our spiritual growth is stunted
Spiritual formation just doesn’t work according to the rechargeable battery theory. If we don’t follow Jesus in our everyday lives and all our experiences, we are holding them back from him. If we don’t follow Jesus in our work lives, we are keeping it away from his influence. If we don’t follow Jesus in our social circles we hold him back from influence there. How can we expect to be more Christ-like at work or with our friends if we are not intentional about following him is these arenas?
Set aside times for devotion are necessary, and transformation does happen in the quiet space that will influence our whole lives. However, a connection to the vine that ends when we finish a quiet time will have a fraction of the transformative power that is found in a connection that remains throughout the day. Imagine the difference between someone who walks with and learns from Jesus every moment of every day and someone who walks with and learns from Jesus two to six hours a week.
I struggle with patience. I have a desperate need to grow in this area, but I don’t just want to act more patiently. I want to BE more patient, and this will require a great deal of inner transformation.
How much transformation do you think I will experience in this area if I am only interacting with God at church, in a small group and in devotional times? If I follow the rechargeable battery approach, I get a short time every day to experience transformation, and this time is usually set apart at home or in some other quiet place. I am expecting to experience transformation away from the environment in which the transformation is necessary.
On the other hand, how much transformation do you think I will experience if I interact with God throughout my every day? If I am following Jesus in the midst of the moments where transformation is necessary, I will have many, many opportunities to experience growth. Now when I find myself stuck behind a “poky puppy” on the road, I hear God reminding me to slow down. When I am stuck behind Mr. 25 items in the 10 item or less lane, I am reminded that I need to extend grace.
Being a disciple is a whole life commitment. You can do discipleship in given moments of your life, but if you want to be a disciple, it will require living your whole life, every bit of it, in relationship with Jesus.