Rising early in the morning has a sort of stealthy, Special Ops feel to it. I slide out of bed at 6:00, grab my workout clothes, and slink down the stairs, holding my breath and praying my boys don’t hear the squeak of the floorboards. My morning is spent unloading dishwasher—silently; working out in the living room—silently (minus some huffing and puffing); all while hoping my boys continue their slumbering, and then it’s out to the porch for some time with God.
From there on, things get a lot more noisy. The porch sessions with God entail supplies. I have a Bible, a journal and pencil, my phone, my computer (it never leaves my side), an ever-present cup of coffee, water, bug spray, and my lap desk. The routine involves me forgetting any one of these items and traveling back and forth about forty times to make sure I am properly equipped. Also, my coffee has to be reheated at least twice, so there’s that. The porch door creaks open repeatedly as I pad back and forth, until I am finally settled with all that I need. Then I cue up my Bible app on my phone—but only after I figure out that I’m at low battery and slink back inside, yet again, for a charger cord.
I have an app for my Bible reading, as many do. It took me ages to allow this, since I tended to think that my Bible reading needed pages. But convenience finally won. At my fingertips are hundreds of different studies. On any given morning I can dive into Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or a topical study on living debt-free, or an in-depth reading of the Gospels. Today I was finishing up a five-day study on vision that I had started in hopes it would help streamline my calling as a writer. Also, when I started this last week, I had no idea that the study included videos for daily viewing, so my morning now involves watching and reading.
At one point, my journal bobbled on my lap, and I dropped it. As I reached for it, my phone clattered to the floor. I sighed with frustration. After I retrieved the phone my app started to glitch, and I couldn’t find my vision—or my patience, it seemed. I started randomly scrolling for other studies, in hopes there would be something there to give me a feeling of peace, of feeling more settled.
My phone dinged. A text message arrived from my friend, asking if I wanted to meet for coffee this week. I remembered that I needed to pick up more coffee at the store. I wondered if I could order it online for a better price. Oh, and I needed to check my Amazon account to see when that package would come. And on and on.
Most of you have heard of Marie Kondo by now. She was a Netflix phenomenon a few months ago, when her angelic smile and tidying techniques took streaming and social media by storm. “Does it bring you joy?” she would sweetly ask about your crammed closets and your jumbled drawers. Then she would militantly make you throw all your stuff into a pile and reduce everything by half. There would be some crying, and then everything would be rehomed with great precision and preciousness in its exact place.
Oh, how I love Marie Kondo. I’m a mom, and I long for such tidy order. Let’s face it, when you get married to a semi-hoarder and then have two slob babies, the concepts of “neat” and “tidy” fly out the window. One night while binge-watching Ms. Kondo, I grabbed my husband by the hand, dragged him over to the couch, and demanded he watch with me as she painstakingly released some guy’s fifteen pounds of tiny pieces of paper from her delicate grasp, tossing them all in a fit of righteous cleaning. “See!” I proclaimed. “Your office is not bringing you joy! Marie says so!” Brian did suggest that the joy issue, or lack thereof, was mine and not his.
I have Kondo’d most of my house now, to my husband’s chagrin. For me, this removal and simplification of stuff smoothes out the kinks of daily living. And this morning, I was wondering if perhaps my own Bible study routine could use a good tidying as well. It seems my quiet time had become weighed down by gadgets, plans, and supplies. I don’t remember the last time I simply read the Bible and talked to God, without accessorizing all over the place.
Some years ago I embarked on a mission trip to Berlin. My crew and I were working with displaced Thai women. One young woman I met had not seen her own family for more than five years and didn’t have much hope of ever returning home. She was a quiet girl with a wide smile. She introduced me to the joys of Thai sticky rice balls, and I tried to introduce her to Jesus.
Modern conveniences are wonderful. They can streamline and speed up and offer all sorts of information. But lately, my app had put so many choices in my lap that I spent more time looking than choosing.
One steamy afternoon, we met at a local McDonald’s, and over a very weird Berlin Big Mac and fries, I offered her my Bible. It was a small book with a weathered cover. I hadn’t planned on giving it away, but I had at least three more at home. When I slid the Bible across the table and explained my gift in jumbled German, her face lit up. She grasped it to her chest and smiled. And she said, “All I need,” and smiled more.
Modern conveniences are wonderful. They can streamline and speed up and offer all sorts of information. But lately, my app had put so many choices in my lap that I spent more time looking than choosing. At the same time, my morning ritual, with all my equipment, had become cumbersome. I decided to forego all those topical studies and videos and even my journals. I put down my phone, and I read out of my print Bible. Then I prayed.
I’m not sure how long I will keep this pared-down version of my quiet time going, but for now it is all I need. The cleaning out opened up space for God, and I found myself sustained by only his presence and his Word.
Well, and coffee. Always coffee.