Growing up in the conservative church subculture of south-central Alberta, there was no end to the Jacob’s Ladder a young lad had to climb to attain spiritual maturity. It started with a prayer, combined with the common sense to abstain from smoking, alcohol, movie theatres and pool halls. This was Christianity for Dummies. Hatred for communists, playing cards and Rock ‘n’ Roll showed our elders that we had the potential for something greater.
I could fudge my way through these prerequisites, but after that my spiritual DNA mapping took a detour.
I tried, dammit. My faux-leather Bible cover was stuffed with Sunday School papers. I logged hundreds of humble miles down the aisles of all kinds of churches, my spirit clothed in I’ll-be-a-better-witness sackcloth. It wasn’t long before people started thinking I was enlightened beyond my years, simply because I took to heart the Proverb that says, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Lastly, I’d make sure that any reference to the ancient scriptures was followed by the chapter, verse and version from whence it was gleaned.(Proverbs 17:28 ESV, in case you were wondering, with the translation stated in a condescending acronym because true believers don’t need the whole thing spelled out.)
There was one point, though, where I was a total failure: the elusive Quiet Time. I couldn’t get the formula right. All I knew was that it was different for everybody, and to be more than spiritually anemic I needed to find my own perfect combination of Time of Day, Duration and Devotional.
I’ve been a Christian probably longer than half of the world’s population has been alive, and I still haven’t figured it out.
“So,” you ask, “how did this failure to live up to such a foundational discipline work in my favour?”
Easy. I supplemented my lack of dedication with one simple, heartfelt prayer:
“GOD HELP ME!”
It helped to say this often. Over and over. Lots.
The same prayer uttered in less panicked moments has been loosely translated into “God, have mercy”, or even simply a weary sigh of “Oh God” or “Jesus”. It is a reflex prayer, but is nonetheless sincere. An awareness that prior religious works are impotent accompanies this invocation; often a recognition so deep as to be barely acknowledged.
This is the beginning of Christianity 2.0.
In time Jesus becomes everything, as I am reduced to ashes. A quest for the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, self-control and so forth – is laid to rest as I hunger instead for the Spirit alone.
My computer and the apps on my phone seem to need constant updates. The software developers are always adding something to make things go faster or run smoother. It drives me crazy; just give me the real thing! How refreshing it has been to find that upgrading my Christian experience begins with downgrading the religious caca.
The ancient prophet Isaiah wrote, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…””
Let it be said of us, that we would have ALL of it. If spiritual strength comes through quietness and trust, may my whole life be a Quiet Time.