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You know the phrase “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”?
I have a new version, designed for parents: “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing at the first opportunity you get…you sure as hell won’t get another chance”.
Example: my kid goes down for a nap. “Great,” I think. “I’ll just empty the dishwasher, tidy away lunch, put a load of washing on, then read my Bible…”
MISTAKE. I just know that I won’t get round to the last thing on the list. My kid will wake too soon, or I’ll get distracted by other needy tasks.
I’ve talked about the challenges of praying as a busy parent, as well as meeting together with other Christians, so today I’m going to approach the idea of Bible reading when we’re in the trenches with littles.
Do I have to read the Bible each day?
There is, of course, no Biblical directive to spend time each day reading the Bible. And thank goodness for grace, which means salvation through Jesus, not through our own endeavours.
But if I believe that the Bible is God’s word, then spending time reading it, hearing from God, needs to be my number one priority for those rare opportunities in my day when no one else is making any demands on my time.
Unlike my kids, God never makes demands on my time. He doesn’t repeatedly say my name over and over until I take notice, like my 3 year old, or bend His head round into my line of vision so that I can’t ignore Him, like my 1 year old. But if I take seriously our relationship, I will choose to make time for Him.
It’s all my kids’ fault!
I need to be careful that I don’t blame my kids for my own lack of discipline. Were my daily devotionals perfect when I was childless? Were they even daily? No they were not. As I made very clear at the start of my book Redeeming Advent, I am hopeless at spiritual disciplines.
But – let’s be honest – protecting a bit of time each day for God is always harder with small people around. Our time is no longer our own, but theirs. For the hours of the day when our children are being looked after by someone else, or asleep, chances are we are at work, doing housework, calling the doctor, or just falling asleep, shattered by the day’s demands.
I would like to say that I’ve cracked this one, and here are five simple tips to help you find the disciplined life you’ve always wanted. But – again – no. This blog continues to be a log of my failures. (Failure log = flog??) But Jesus came for failed people, so that’s OK; I’m learning to see things through His eyes and not the world’s.
A return to routine
There is one thing, however, that I have learned: Bible reading requires some sort of routine.
When you have kids, they also have some kind of routine. But it changes. Sometimes after a year, sometimes after a few months, sometimes daily. So, as parent-disciples, we need to be flexible to adapt our routine to theirs. When my kids’ routine changes, so does mine.
Some weeks, it will suit me to read my Bible when I wake up. Other weeks, it will be when I go to sleep. There will be seasons of Bible reading during nap times, and other seasons of Bible reading whilst sitting outside children’s rooms, waiting for them to go to sleep.
One day I might be reading my Bible in the car, waiting for my child to finish their piano lesson. Another day, I might be able to steal away to a coffee shop with my Bible while they’re at a party.
Bible reading needs a routine to be effective – but, as parents, this routine will change over time. Let’s be flexible and open to this.
Where can I find time?
God has given me 24 hours in my day as he has everyone else – and therefore I know there must be time to spend with Him.
The thing is, it may not clearly resemble how I was ‘taught’ to spend time with God. It may not be uninterrupted, and it may not be the same time every day. Some days, it may involve children climbing on top of me, or being sprayed with toast crumbs, or having a soundtrack of cbeebies playing in the background.
It may not even involve opening a Bible, but reading a verse sent from a friend, listening to a Bible-based podcast, reading a blog post which explains a passage of Scripture.
It may not last 30 minutes. It may be just five minutes, or one minute, or even 30 seconds. Some days, Bible reading may only occur with our families, and that may have to suffice.
It may look very different to pre-kids, it may look very different each day, and it may not be many minutes at all, but I believe in a God who is powerful enough to use each word of His word to grow us more into His likeness.
And that is the hope I want for our family.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17