My neighborhood Bible study doesn’t meet in the summer, which makes for a long stretch of time – 10 weeks or so – without my friends! Although we see each other at the pool occasionally, it’s not quite the same as meeting every week and delving deeply into each other’s lives. I often get discouraged in my walk with God in the summer. Why? I begin to wonder if I really have my own relationship with Christ or if I’m only in touch with Him vicariously through my godly friends! Do I lean on them too much?
In past years, I’ve returned to Bible study in August like a staggering refugee, deprived of water and sustenance after a long stint in the desert. Not surprisingly, my relationship with the Lord has suffered. The discipline of meeting Him daily went out the window in June. I’ve spent too many days “playing hooky” from my time with God.
This summer I’ve tried to be different. We’ve kept up our early morning coffee dates. In late May, knowing I’d be distracted without the discipline of my weekly NBS, I committed myself to reading a chapter or two of Psalms every morning. I even took my Bible and my devotional book, “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, on my beach vacation this year. Hey, there’s a first time for everything!
Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like He’s listening. Sometimes it’s hard to connect without my Christian friends helping me. But one thing I’ve learned from my NBS is to just keep coming. Even if I’m figuratively dragging myself into His presence, disheveled and discouraged, just to throw myself at His feet to cry, the great thing is -- He doesn’t expect or need me to bring anything to the party. He IS the party. All I need to do is come!
I despise getting up early. That’s my particular distraction. But, my first morning at the beach, I did just that, hoping that the promise of a glorious sunrise over the Atlantic would pry me out of bed. As I got my coffee and settled into a creaky lounge chair to watch the sun rise and read, I was rewarded with these perfectly wrought sentences in the voice of Jesus: Be willing to fight for this precious time with Me. Opposition comes in many forms: your own desire to linger in bed; the evil one’s determination to distract you from Me; the pressure of family, friends, and your own inner critic to spend your time more productively. OK, Lord, you have my attention!
Then I turned to Psalm 19, written thousands of years ago by someone I’ll never meet this side of heaven. As the sun rose into the sky, brilliant and alive with color, I read: The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in their skies, their message reaches out to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it and moves out across the skies as radiant as a bridegroom going to his wedding or as joyous as an athlete looking forward to a race. The sun crosses the heavens from end to end, and nothing can hide from its heat.
Really? I smile to myself. I am stunned by the specificity of the message. I’m floored by the way it touches my heart and seems written exactly for me, in this particular moment. He is listening. I thank Him, and then I silently thank my NBS for teaching me this wonderful discipline of coming to Him, just as I am. He is the party.
Erica Rountree is a freelance writer and the communications director at Action Ministries Inc. She lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, where she’s a member of a neighborhood Bible study and mama to two girls who constantly outsmart her and drive her to drink sweet tea.