Talking about my devotional life feels like I am giving you the secret ingredient in the recipe for a glorious day. But I know that it can also be the secret to what holds us together on the hardest of days. Yet what that secret looks like is different in every life, every season.
My own devotional life has adapted and developed as my life has changed. What worked one year may not have worked another year. The amount of children I had, their ages, schooling, sports, church duties, health — it all factored in.
When I was a child, reading the Bible was sometimes used as a discipline for bad behavior. Sometimes the devotions were given in a preemptive measure, but that was just too much, too hard to help me connect. There was a time when my dad was in Bible college that we had a ten chapter a day rule. Every day we had to read ten chapters of the Bible. Record was kept and if you did not complete the ten chapters, the next day you had twenty. I picked a lot of Psalms to read, always wanting the short chapters. I skimmed. No one should learn speed reading with their Bibles. Eventually, it became a mathematical impossibility to complete the assignment. It just snowballed into failure. I’ve had to unlearn and relearn what “devotions” are. It’s not the amount and it’s not a punishment.
Then as an adult, I spent some time as an unbeliever while yet living a very Biblical life. I can relate to Paul who can list credentials and spiritual ambition; I too was a Pharisee of the highest order. So once again, I had to unlearn and relearn devotional life as an adult. I had developed my devotional life into an information gathering session. Topical searching was my go-to way of learning. It is a very good way of learning, but for me as an unbelieving Pharisee, I was searching emotionally led thoughts and subject matter. Yes, one can project some humanism into daily devotions.
It wasn’t until my late 20’s after almost two decades “in” Christianity that I began to have these moments that were really and truly devotional. And once I got a taste of it, I’ve always wanted more and craved this set apart time with God. You know how hard that time is to find. When the babies were little, I preferred that quiet time in the hours after all four boys were put in bed. Oh, that blissful moment! In those seasons, I was reading passages looking for something, reading the Gospels looking for hospitality or kindness. It was slightly different from topical because I was using larger passages and context. It was in these times of devotional reading that I learned the importance of context.
Then my devotional life settled into sunshine and afternoons after school and before dinner preparations. I’d sit outside with hot or cold tea, my Bible and books that led me in thought. At this time in life, teaching four levels of all school subjects, there wasn’t even the possibility of ability to make my own thoughts. Study guides were a big help to me. My favorite book that led me to Scriptures (and I had to be careful that these books wouldn’t lead me away and become their own voice) was Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Cowman. These daily devotions were short, but packed with poetry, deep thought, and something for my thirsty and depleted soul on these life giving days. There was always a verse listed, but I would read the whole chapter. Study guides improved my devotions during this stage. I needed help and this book in particular kept me in the Word, not distracting and pulling me away from it (I’ve been through it nearly six times).
Then my childrens’ teen years and the nonstop activity and them never going to bed and always hungry and wow, how did I survive? I got up before them. Morning became my quiet time. Before breakfast, school, ortho and ballgames. I had to adjust the schedule or my devotional life would tank. The nights were spent waiting for kids to come home and no momma can put her mind on much when she’s praying for her children to come home safely on the winding, foggy roads. So morning became my devotional time at the same time I was introduced to the SOAP method:
Oh, I loved this format. There were blogs that had themes and they gave little plans away. I used this method to redeem back my own topical searching ways. This sustained me for many years. On days where I couldn’t get all the letters in, I would take a week to do the SOAP. One passage or one verse. It was highly adaptable. I struggled with the application the most. My observation felt loftier than the ways I could apply my observations. But I did learn to write prayer to God. And this was my biggest blessing and gem I found in this devotional season. I wasn’t writing in these years. Perhaps I could say this was where I first started writing: in prayers to God. I loved this season of devotions. But it passed and changed too.
Now I am in a copywork type of season. I fill journals with books of the Bible I have written out for myself. There is something very personal to me about transcribing out the words of God. It is slower than reading, very kinesthetic to me. I pause over words and phrases I’ve missed for decades. I’ve learned meditation with this method, as I remember words and ideas more and muse on them throughout the day. I needed to be slowed down. I needed to touch and feel, connect. I needed it to be about words, and books and books of them. I have a little Bible app on my phone that lets me look up words and their meanings, so while it all seem relatively simple in this reading and copying format, I am getting context and learning about certain and specific words. It’s what I need right now.
I imagine I will have time in my life to adapt a few more times. Can I encourage you to keep adapting to the time constraints, schedules, and fresh ways to see God’s Word? Do what you can to have the steadiest devotional diet, rather than yo-yo-ing your devotional life. You can think and meditate for hours on what you’ve read: you don’t have to choose large portions to read. If reading through the Bible in a year is simply providing you with reading material, please allow yourself to slow it down and take smaller bites.
Developing my devotional life has taken a lifetime. I think that’s the purpose. I’ve gone from a child with a Bible, reading out of obedience, to the different stages of motherhood where I ranged from desperate to the need to escape noise and just be in a holy hush with God and His Word. Now, I’m nearing the empty nest age and I’ve settled into a powerful and beautiful rhythm. I’ve learned in every stage and God has come near to me every single time I’ve met with Him. I’m still thirsty for Him. More so than I’ve ever been. Still wanting to learn. I know you must feel the same.
Please don’t stress over the perfect devotional format. Don’t spend tons of money. Don’t let all the pictures on Instagram intimidate. You may not have a scenic view. You may be hiding in the bathroom just trying to get a moment alone. I understand. My devotional life has never been picture worthy, but it has been consistent. God knows I will meet Him and I know He will meet me. You will not only develop a devotional life, you’ll develop a relationship. And you don’t need ten chapters a day to do that.
How is your devotional life developing?
Photo Credit: JenniMarie Photography