I didn’t notice it happen, I swear. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t stride here deliberately, more tripped and stumbled my way along, but I’m here. It’s true. I’ve broken the first rule.
Not the ‘unforgivable sin’, mind. I’m still at a loss as to what that one’s all about, but I’m pretty sure I’m innocent there. No, I’ve broken the first rule of evangelicalism: read your Bible and pray every day.
It’s been drilled into me practically since birth. I think there was a little Sunday school song – I will choose to follow every day, I will read my Bible and pray. At the very last church event I went to when I left university, we were sat down and strongly exhorted: “ Don’t fall away after university. If you want to persevere as a disciple, you must read your Bible and pray every single day.”
It’s the only habit that will keep you safe from the prowling advances of the devil. It’s the only way you’ll keep walking in the right direction as the world tries to steer you off path. It’s the only weapon you can use in the constant battles with temptation.
Read your Bible. Pray. Every. Single. Day.
Only, we actually mean more than that. The unspoken part of this rule is that it has to be in the form of the ‘Quiet Time’. It means you sit down for a concentrated period of time and first pray, then read a passage of the Bible, followed by some devotional notes, and then you pray again. And although a good youth or student leader will concede that different times of day work best for different people, everyone knows that the holiest among us do it first thing in the morning.
That’s where I’ve slipped up, fallen short, gone astray.
I haven’t had a proper ‘Quiet Time’ in months.
My genuine, honest reason is this: I haven’t got the right sort of chair to do it in. I know. I know. But at home, I had a favourite spot in the corner of the sofa. At university I had a chair by my fireplace. In my current house, I don’t have a spot.
I can’t do it in bed. Mornings are so horrendous that the pull towards going back to sleep is strong enough even when I’m sat in the office; in bed, it would be irresistible. I can’t do it in our kitchen. I live in a house of six, and it’s hard to pray when other people could walk in for breakfast at any point. Those are all my options.
But here’s the thing: I’m still a Christian. I miss those ‘Quiet Times’, I do, but the lack of them hasn’t destroyed me in the way that I was led to believe. I’ve settled in to a church, I listen to sermons and share Bible studies with my small group. I read a few verses on my phone. I read a bit with my boyfriend when we remember. I pray in bed, or walking home, or on the toilet. My life hasn’t fallen to pieces, and nor has my faith.
God stays the same, even when I don’t have the right chair.
It turns out, my perseverance as a disciple doesn’t depend on my ‘Quiet Time’ habits. It turns out, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. And that includes when I live in cramped houses, when I remember him and when I forget him. When I rise for a sleepy commute, and when I lay down after a chaotic night. He’s familiar with all my ways.
Image credit: Gareth Nichols