“For different seasons in life different disciplines are appropriate” (The Imitation of Christ, p.207, Thomas À Kempis, compiled and edited by James N. Watkins, © 2015). I’ve gone through several seasons of life and find this to be true in each.
When a young wife and mother, I yearned for quiet time alone for Bible study. I found out later that I (and others in the same season) would beat ourselves up with too high expectations. While a consistent devotional life is necessary for all seasons, we tend to want what’s not reasonable for our own particular situation.
Even in mid-life I would envy my husband’s time for in-depth Bible study, but he would say it’s his job, and that I needed to develop my own patterns. So I relaxed and put in time at my own pace. Only then could I enjoy my quiet time to its full advantage. Now in retirement, I can schedule more time, but that needs also to be quality-driven.
À Kempis goes on to point out that each person has a style of spiritual exercise best suited to his or her personality and abilities. I prefer to read something dated so that I can mark progress, such as a devotional classic like My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers or Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. But these do not replace reading the books of the Bible. I like to compare an Old Testament book with a New Testament one, such as reading Isaiah and John. Most important to my personal style is journaling. It’s a combination of reflection on Bible and devotional passages along with written prayers. But I’ve found that doesn’t suit everyone.
Prayer time is my most inconsistent habit. I’ve discovered that is true with a lot of people, but that doesn’t excuse me. The Meaning of Prayer by Harry Emerson Fosdick has been the one book on prayer that I treasure most and have read several times. Writing out my prayer requests has been helpful. Following through on resolve brings me back to consistency.
Toward the end of a year is the best time for me to decide on what book or pattern of reading I will process in the new year. How about you? What new resolve or practice is on your agenda?