May 7, 2020 | by: Scott Denny | 0 comments
Like many of you, the Shelter In Place (SIP) that began on March 17 has taken me out of my comfort zone. Personally, I have been forced to rethink how I use my time spiritually, physically, practically and pastorally.
I’m a creature of habit and routine. In fact I thrive on it, which at times can be a good thing because it forces me to be disciplined and use my time well. At other times, however, it can become my undoing and cause such rigidity and mechanistic devotion that I lose sight of why I’m doing what I’m doing, which can lead me to boast in my accomplishments rather than in my Creator. As the SIP began I hoped and prayed that I would not lose sight of lessons that the Lord might teach me as I found myself in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.
My first lesson was really an opportunity granted by the Lord through this SIP. I learned to push aside fear and failure and began doing family devotions each night with my grown children. With all of them home (my three who are still at home), they would have nowhere to go each night and I resolved that I would seize (or re-seize) those evenings for our good and for God’s glory.
A brief history - My family is a former homeschool family. We loved it - at least I did. There was rhythm to each day and each day closed with our time in Word and prayer. Mariam and I were committed to use our evenings to disciple and train our children, and this was our rhythm that began when Matt and Joe were newborns.
As my oldest sons went to high school, and Mariam continued on schooling the littlest ones, we continued with our evening devotions and prayer. After Matt and Joe graduated, a new rhythm was created. One for me that was uncomfortable. They had jobs and routines that didn’t always mean they’d be home for dinner or in the evening before Kay and Nick went to bed. So the rhythm of our nightly devotions began to change, and I didn’t change with it – because I don’t like change – and on it went as Kay went to high school and then college and now Nick is in high school.
Along the way I did find other occasions to sprinkle those devotion times here and there, but it just didn’t feel the same, and for me, different, is not good.
Eventually, I just chalked up the lack of family devotion and prayer to everyone growing up, and I began to be okay with that. I would seek time individually with my growing children here and there, but the routine was forever changed – or at least so it seemed.
Enter the Shelter in Place. It’s like 2010 all over again. Everyone is doing school at home and we all have our evenings together. So I resolved to make the most of the time and return to an old friend - Our evening time in the Word and prayer.
I have to confess that as much as I wanted to return to this practice, I was uncomfortable at this thought. I wondered what would everyone think? Why are we making this a new habit? Or worse yet, answering the question, “Why did we stop in the first place?”
For a moment, fear crept in and whispered, “Just let things remain the same. There’s no need to change. They’ll grumble about it.” But thankfully the truth of God’s word resonated louder than my fear or my comfort. “Your word is life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). So, I resolved on Day 2 of the Shelter in Place to feed my family with truth, and have us reflect on it and pray.
It was sweet. It was refreshing. It was a sweet time of encouragement hearing the prayers of my children. Hearing the maturity of their prayers. Hearing the same cadence of their prayers when they were little children. It also made me sad that I hadn’t fought harder to keep it. That I had let my own fears, failures and foibles keep me from doing what I knew deep down was important. But, I am forever grateful to the Lord for this SIP because it caused me to reevaluate what’s important and how I might better use my time as a father and a husband for the glory of God and for the good of my family.
Another opportunity has been given to me from the Lord through SIP and that is the opportunity of time. Time to redeem. Time to use well – Especially when it came to my time in the Word and in prayer.
Again, I’m a routine guy. I’ve disciplined myself to get up early, exercise, make coffee, read the Scriptures and pray. – Yes, generally in that order. I have found though that my time recently in the Word and in prayer had become too perfunctory, too habitual, too mechanistic – too quick. I was no longer feasting on the Word. Ruminating on the Word.
On many occasions my devotion time simply became a discipline to be done rather than a discipline to enjoy. So, I resolved that with no meetings to get to, and no kids to take to school that I could use this gift of time to slow down and use my time with the Lord differently, redemptively, and for that I am grateful.
In the slowness of my mornings, I now rise, make coffee and sit quietly in my room with my wife. Here I read. I reflect. I mediate. I journal. I pray. A new discipline that I look forward to as one day comes to an end, and a new day is only hours away.
These are just a couple of ways I’ve sought to redeem the time the Lord has given me by staying home, with nowhere to go and nothing to rush to. I’m grateful for the time of reflection. The time of slowness. The time with my family and the time with my God each morning.
As I reflect on my own journey during this SIP, I recognize that for some of you this time is difficult. I’ve spoken to some of you who are struggling. Your children, if you have them, may be much younger than mine and you might barely be hanging on for dear life. The idea of family devotions seems impossible as you hold on for dear life. True, this might not be the time to add a new rhythm to your family’s schedule. But perhaps you’re learning other lessons that are specific to your own walks with Christ. Maybe the Lord is teaching you to trust Him [Proverbs 3:5, 6], to find contentment in Him [Philippians 4:11], or simply to find rest and peace in Christ during this time of uncertainty [Ephesians 3:14, Philippians 4:4-8].
If you’re alone, you might feel disconnected and discouraged. I want you first to know that you are not alone. There is a God in heaven who hears your prayers [Psalm 34:17, 18], who cares for you and loves you [1 Peter 5:7, Romans 8:38]. You have pastors who are praying for you. You are not alone. I, also, want to challenge you to find rest and hope in the Lord’s providences [Romans 8:28]. What might He be teaching you about your own heart [Proverbs 4:23]? Your own hopes and desires [James 4:1-3]? Your own fears [Isaiah 41:10, 2 Timothy 1:7]?
Difficulty, hardship, trial, tribulation – These are gifts from God, sent by God [James 1:3, 1 Peter 1:6] that he might know what’s in our hearts [Deuteronomy 8:2, 3], that he might teach us about His wonderful care for us and that we might know his desire for us – that in the face of trials we might grow in our faith, trust and hope in the Lord, and that through our response to trials we might bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus [1 Peter 1:7].
What is he teaching you about how you use your time, your talents and your treasures? How is the Lord using this time in your lives to grow you, change you, mature you? How might you redeem this time so that as you look back upon it, you can say with the Psalmist “It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).
Until we meet again to worship together I pray that each of us redeems this time, and as we do let us not forget how the Lord met each of us where we are, and how He used this time for our good and for His glory.
Scott Denny is a Pastor at Grace Bible Church
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