When I was fifteen, I decided that I needed more consistency in my devotions. So, I resolved to spend a certain amount of time in God’s word every single day. And I mean every single. Those of you perfectionists out there can appreciate, perhaps as no one else can, just how tenacious I was in such an endeavor.There were those nights when I had sleep-over company, and was up past all hours of sane folk, and remembered just as my weary head hit the pillow. I’d throw off the covers with grim determination and switch on the light by my bed—much to the annoyance of my company, no doubt—and a rather bleary-eyed reading of Psalms and Proverbs would ensue.Or the times when I was overseas on mission trips and had to be up before the birds. I was practically reading as I brushed my teeth.
Not one day in ten years did I miss. Not one. Not my wedding day; not my honeymoon; not the day I set up housekeeping in my new home. I was absolutely rigorous. My husband was amazed, and frankly, so was I. I think I may have even allowed myself to imagine that God was amazed, too, though I’d never have admitted it.
And then, one day, I forgot. It was a perfectly normal day. We went to bed at a reasonable hour. But the next morning I awoke with a little shriek of dismay.
“Philip, I forgot! I forgot to have my devotions!”
He looked at me for a moment with a funny smile creeping over his face.
“I am so glad,” he said.
I scowled at his off-handedness. But even as I did a strange sort of release began to steal over me. I was glad, too. It was a tremendous relief.
A very silly and perhaps very extreme case. But it showed me so clearly how eager I am to make a spiritual prop of anything close at hand. Even something as well-intentioned—and necessary, I might add—as my quiet time. When I really thought about it, I saw that my time with God had actually become my time with my devotions, a check on my to-do list.
It can happen with anything: church attendance, acts of service, lifestyle choices. And when something that we originally committed to out of simple love for God becomes a mindless routine it has a very ugly name: Legalism. I learned with my little overthrow that God does not love me one iota more if I spend an hour reading the Bible every day. Or any less if I’m just too busy to more than cry out for His help before my feet hit the floor in the morning. What matters to Him is my love for Him, my desperation for Him.
My devotions are still, or should I say, once again, the dearest part of my day. Mine once more is that first flush of wonder that God Almighty would even want to spend time with me. And it doesn’t hurt to have asweet little accountability partner to spur one along the way. But some days it doesn’t happen. Just like many other of our best-laid plans for life. And you know what? God is still right there. He still wants my heart, my first love. He still stands up for me and provides a refuge for me amid the storms of the day. And there’s a beautiful name for that: Grace.