“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8
One of the simplest principles of the Christian life is the relationship between seeking and finding (Luke 11:9-10). If you tell a child that they must search for something in order to have it, they will immediately understand. When this principle is applied to a relationship, we intuitively understand that the person is not physically hidden, but that it takes the searching and seeking of time spent together in order to grow in knowledge and the experience of love. We receive the gift salvation in Jesus Christ freely, but our depth of intimacy with Him is contingent upon our choices to respond to His grace through the disciplines of discipleship. In other words, we need to make room for Him. We must carve out time and space to actively seek fellowship with Him.
We might not immediately identify religious tradition as an obstacle to this. Our tradition likely doesn’t look like elaborate liturgy or formal ritual. Tradition can just as easily take the form of a fixed, assumed standard of what is normative for how we seek the Lord, how we will serve, and what political or ideological affiliations we embrace. Though far-removed from incense and sacrament, non-denominational church life in the Bible belt, for example, can have very rigid traditions. The challenge for any people at any time is to constantly allow the scriptures to challenge these norms. When we stand before the Lord at the judgment seat, our lives will not be measured by how we compared to the way most Christians in our community sought the Lord.
Our tradition might say that if we attend a service on Sunday morning and then have fifteen minutes of “quiet time” every day, then we are doing great. Are we though? Is that biblical? It may be routine for us to partake of social media, entertainment, and recreation in ways that consume significant portions of our day. What if the question flipped, and instead of asking how much time we can have for a hobby or for Netflix, we asked how much room could we carve out for devotion every day? If we changed our schedule and eliminated non-essentials, could we give an hour to prayerful attention to the Bible every day? Could we find two hours every day?
The specifics will look different for every individual. Parents of young children will likely feel like every moment of their day is spoken for until they collapse with exhaustion at 9 pm, and they are probably right! The real issue is discretionary time. How much time to do we have active control over, and how can we redeem that time for intimacy and eternity (Ephesians 5:16)? At first, none of us will likely admit that we have an abundance of discretionary time, for that would imply we aren’t using it very well. Yet we need to have the courage to be honest and soberly weigh what things in our daily routine can be sacrificed so that we can make room for what is most important.
Room will not just come. This space for God will not simply happen. It must be created. Distraction is so multi-faceted and invasive that one must make room and then defend it, as though it were the vault of a bank. Everything will assail this sacred time and place. Jesus said to go into your closet and shut the door (Matthew 6:6). If He had been speaking today, He might have included a warning to leave your phone in the hallway outside. It is hard for us to even sit still. Our brains are so impacted by the constant barrage of stimuli vying for our attention in fifteen second increments that we find it difficult to give sustained attention to anything. The prospect of slow, prolonged, quiet waiting before One whom we cannot see feels daunting. Yet it is the only way forward.
His way really is better. It is the path of deep life and lasting peace in the midst of a world often filled with frenzy and chaos. It will take time and patience, but this truth will move from being a confession that we affirm to a testimony that we have tasted (Psalm 34:8). May Jesus truly be all we are chasing! Let’s set our hearts to make room for Him.