I received some difficult news this week, the kind of words that, when you hear them, make your heart catch in your throat. The kind of news that, for a moment, makes you unable to think clearly...or much at all, and your soul sinks inside of you a little bit, just enough to tap into a well of tears that you fight desperately to hold back. That kind of news.
But that's not really the story.
(And for what it's worth, when I started this week talking about knowledge and wisdom and sorrow and grief, I didn't know this was coming, so it's unrelated to the past three days.)
The story, the real story, is God.
You've probably heard of the importance of having a daily quiet time with God, of being in His Word faithfully, of committing yourself to prayer and other spiritual disciplines. Maybe you wonder what that's all about because you've tried to do these things and they don't seem to make much of a difference in your life. Or they get boring...fast. I've heard some say that they read the Bible once, so they don't know why they would have to read it again. Or that they don't have anything to pray about, so they don't know why they would bother to pray. Or...the list goes on.
The reason you invest yourself in these practices, among a number of other reasons, is that these practices, even when they sometimes feel like ruts, become vital, life-giving grooves in your life. And they are life-saving and life-giving in times like these.
For years, I have started my day with a daily devotional. For the past several years (maybe 7? ish?), I have read the Bible through from start to finish every year in this morning quiet time, sometimes coupled with a morning devotional and sometimes not. One year, I read it chronologically. Some years, I've read it in the God's Word translation, others in the New Living Translation. This year, I'm utilizing a "Journal the Word" version of the KJV.*
The truth is that every year, I find something new that jumps out at me; reading the Bible, even though I have read it before, is never a waste. The truth is also, however, that some days, it's boring. Sometimes, I end up in a section that just doesn't speak to me in the season in which I find myself, and it's difficult some days. But I keep doing it, even when it feels like a rut.
Because it one day becomes a groove.
I practice in prayer, although I confess also that my prayer life is not where I want it to be. I have some work to do in this area, but I'm doing it. I almost rather enjoy feeling like I have some work to do here because it keeps me practicing, keeps me pushing toward what I desire. And I wonder sometimes if, in a thing like prayer, I can ever get "there" - where I want to be. I can always draw closer, go deeper, be bolder. I kind of like the challenge. So I'm practicing, I'm trying, I'm investing...even on days where I'm not sure that I know what to pray or how to pray or that I have anything to pray about. And it, too, can sometimes feel like a rut.
But it, too, becomes a groove.
And if you know me at all, you know that I practice a consistent Sabbath on Sundays. My Sabbath practice has changed and grown over the years, but it is what it is. I'm at a stage right now where it's becoming a new challenge all over again and where it's more difficult some Sundays than it ought to be, especially as deep into the practice as I am. I'm in a space where it feels a little bit like a rut.
But it's an incredible groove.
Here's the thing, here's what I'm getting at: maybe you're in a rut and you don't know what you're doing it for. Maybe you can't understand why you should have to invest yourself in these kinds of practices, or why you should read the Bible more than once or pray every day or whatever. Maybe you don't know what these kinds of grooves are for.
They are for such a time as this.
On a week like this week, when this kind of difficult news comes, those grooves are what rescued me. I didn't even know what to pray. I forgot that I knew how to pray. My heart was so crushed, in that moment, that my whole being went numb and for a few minutes, I think I almost forgot that I even have a God and that He is good. It was that kind of moment.
I was trying to drive myself home, my heart reeling and my head struggling to wrap itself around what I had just heard. I was on the verge of a complete breakdown, and I knew it; I was about to, as they say, lose my "stuff." And all of a sudden, without warning, without prayer, without petition, with groaning beyond what words could ever have done for me, the Lord came rushing through the depths of my soul, flowing through these grooves that have carved a path for Him through my life the way water rushes down a mountain pass in its own path. He just...showed. up.
At the very moment that I was about to break down, He showed up. When I was about to lose it, He found me. Not because of anything I had done in the moment, but because I have invested my life in the kind of ruts that make these grooves, in the practices that carve out the channels where God can come rushing into my heart at the very moments that I desperately need Him.
I am eternally grateful for this incredible God and the amazing way He's done this.
I tell that story just to say this: if you're one of those persons who doesn't know what it's all about, who doesn't "get it," who can't figure out why quiet time, Scripture reading, prayer, Sabbath, fasting, Examen, imagination are so important and so vital to a living, life-giving faith, particularly when these things become so monotonous, so boring, as to become a kind of a rut or are so difficult they're forced, this is exactly why. Because in moments like these, you need those ruts.
They become your grooves. And the God of all love and comfort, the God of all peace, the God of all mercy, comes rushing wildly through them to be with you.
*If you're wanting to know how to read the Bible through in a year, there are plenty of plans out there. One of the things I don't like about these plans, however, is that they can be a little bit erratic, having a lot of reading one day and not as much the next, which makes it difficult to plan a quiet time. The way that I ensure that I read through the entire Bible in a year is that as I prepare for the year, I take the number of pages in the Bible translation I'm planning to read and divide it by the number of days in that year (usually, 365, except in leap years). Then, I read that many pages per day. This helps to keep consistent the amount of time I know I need to set aside in the mornings so that I can plan accordingly. This year, I read 5 pages on odd days and 6 pages on even days, and this will get me to the end of Revelation by December 31.