I grew up in a ministry family. My father was the local director of an international Christian youth organization and I spent my younger years very much a part of all of that excitement and energy that surrounded that group.
When I was in the tenth grade my father began taking big groups of kids to the mountains where we would spend a weekend worshipping, laughing and becoming introduced to some of the spiritual disciplines. Most of us were “churched” kids who loved Jesus and 1. Were excited to be out of suburbia and 2. Wanted to get closer to God. But we’d each been sitting in youth groups and Sunday School for years hearing “about” Jesus so this hands on approach to God was all a new experience.
We learned about solitude and prayer. We learned about study and Christian meditation. We talked about service and about silence. And then we practiced them.
With a journal in one hand and the Bible in the other, we would spend 30 minutes or longer alone in the near woods asking God to speak to us through nature. We watched pine trees sway and ants build homes and wondered what truth of God could be learned from such things. We read the Bible and asked God to reveal Himself to us in new ways from the Scriptures.
Sometimes we were silent.
Sometimes we just prayed.
Sometimes we meditated on something Jesus said.
All in all, we were being coached in how to live a spiritually interpretive life. We were encouraged to try to find the sacred and true in the minutiae of the journey. And we were being taught how to live with Jesus rather than just learn about Him.
I went to these weekend camps with my dad and mom and other young adults twice a year for almost a decade. I credit this, even above any church service or big Christian conference I ever attended, with what has helped me the most in my year to year life with God.
I’ve listened to a lot of sermons and sat in tons of Bible studies. Like a lot of us, I’ve been a part of prayer meetings and Friday night services and worship evenings. I’ve heard a lot about God and a lot about the Bible. But for me what has stretched far beyond pulpits and what has lasted well into the next decade has been the regular practice of practical, godly, spiritual disciplines.
These are the small things that have kept me close.
When I don’t feel like reading the Bible and I go months and months without cracking it’s pages, I seem to fall back to prayer and meditation like they are old friends. The idea of studying a child’s laughter or why a bird builds a nest near my dining room window comes easier to me because I’ve done it before and God has spoken to me through these things. I’ve practiced it with my own hands. The years when sermons seem dry and Bible studies bore are the years I find myself picking out a single verse and meditating on it over a kitchen sink full of dishes, my arms half deep in the soap. And to be alone, to be silent in communion with God is ever preferable to me over many other things.
I’m not at all against church. I love church and I love my church very much.
But at the end of it all, it won’t matter what church we’ve gone to or how many women’s Bible studies we’ve attended.
It will matter, I believe, how we let Him infuse our days with Himself and how we allow ourselves to be taught by the little, beautiful things in life. And I think it will matter, at the end, how we choose to live with Jesus every day.
What are the small things that keep you close to or bring you back to Jesus? How have you seen God in daily life lately?
ABOUT SARAH MARKLEY
I'm the mother of two little girls, the wife of an amazing husband who'd rather play the guitar than anything else and I love to write. I spend my weekends watching my daughters ride horses and play...