I’ve always been able to find something to do. Even as a child I can honestly say I don’t think I ever experienced boredom. This ability to constantly find an activity to engage myself in can be very beneficial but it also has its problems, for I can always find something else that I think needs doing that will delay me from doing what I really ought to be doing: e.g. during my training, my desk and study would always be cleaned and polished and the room just had to be vacuumed before I could start writing any essays!
I’m confident that I’m not alone in this character trait but it can be real problem when you’re wanting to spend time with other people and especially when you want to spend time with God. All too easily, other things that ‘just have to be done’; the washing, phone calls, emails, looking after the children etc. can all start to take priority and before we know it, the opportunity to enjoy some quality time with God has been missed and we will always be the poorer for it. The other things are, of course, important, but we need to learn how to prioritise and, if I’m honest; I don’t always get it right.
Our readings today draw us into the importance of putting aside some quality time for God, to make a conscious decision to spend time with Him and to listen to what He has to say to us. For some folks, the idea of spending quality time with God sounds a nice idea but in their mind, it swiftly becomes an activity that is more suited for other people rather than for themselves.
A reason for not doing so may be: ‘I wouldn’t know what to do’. The truth is that what we do, is actually far less important than the decision to honour God by doing something and setting aside some time that is devoted to Him and to nothing else.
‘I’m just so busy with such little time to spare’. On the news bulletin this week I heard of one Catholic churches’ response in Ireland to the busy modern lifestyle. This Ash Wednesday they are offering a ‘Drive through’ blessing lane at the church where a Priest can pray with them as they wind down their car window as they travel on their way to work or to the local shopping mall. We seem to be missing the point here. Spending time with God is not meant to be endured and crammed in or rushed over, but enjoyed. God wants to bless us with good things, to guide us and to instruct us, but just like any human relationship, if we don’t invest time and energy into it, the relationship becomes one sided, deteriorates and we are the ones who lose out.
The wonderful truth is that we can spend time in God’s presence anywhere we like and at any time we like but sometimes it’s good to get away from other distractions, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and enjoy some special time with Him. Moses took himself up a mountain away from the crowds and then had to wait six days before God began to speak to him. Perhaps that was the time God knew it was going to take Moses to get his head ‘sorted’ and into a place where he could be still and be prepared to listen and hear what God wanted to say to him. Sometimes we just need to be patient and allow God to minister to us, to rest us and to still us before we’re ready to hear his voice.
Jesus often took himself away to gain some quality time with his Father. In the reading from Matthew’s gospel, he takes three of his disciples up a mountain to escape the crowds and there has an amazing time. Peter, however, immediately wants to engage in activity and do something, whereas God wants him to be still, to enjoy the moment and to receive from him. Peter is interrupted, Jesus is affirmed and all the disciples are given clear advice: ‘Listen to him’. We would do well to do the same.,
As we enter the forty days of Lent many of us have become accustomed to giving something up to help us focus on what is truly important in our lives. How about taking something on in its place? Start to put aside some special time to sit, be still and to listen to God. I always thinks it’s good idea to spend some time at the start of the day as it gives God an opportunity to get involved and sort me out before I go charging off in my own direction and in my own strength! As you wake up try ensuring that the first conversation you have is the one you have with God.
‘Morning Lord. Thank you for being with me in the night. I’m here to let you know that I need you and that I love you. What can we do together today?’
Give time to read his word and to think over it. It’s there to bless us, guide us and to bring us peace and victory but we will not know any of that unless we start to spend some time with it. Thank God for his goodness and ask Him through his Holy Spirit to help you as you read it. Perhaps you might join us at St Margaret’s on a Tuesday morning at 10:30 for prayer and ‘Bible time’, or at one of the Lenten reflection meetings on the Lord’s Prayer. There are so many ways we can spend time with Him and there are plenty of studies available as booklets or on the internet to help us. If you have access to a smart phone you might like to download the Bible onto it and use some of the study guides there. Any time spent in His presence always changes things and it always changes things for the better.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale