I don’t think there is a better time to refocus onto God than right now, when school is ending and the summer is beginning. Like someone prayed tonight at Cross Training’s worship service; just because the summer is a break from school doesn’t mean it’s a break from God. Nearly every summer since I’ve been a Christian has been marked with some kind spiritual lethargy. Either I’ve been living in sin or just simply not seeking out the Lord. Usually, though, it’s both.
For the past couple weeks I’ve been reading through and meditating over the Proverbs. Usually it’s a nighttime study that I do right before I go to bed so it’s the last thing I think about. But occasionally I’ll wake up early and flip through the chapter I read the night before or start a new one. In any case, I realized something so essential to our spiritual walks and yet something so difficult to practice: discipline.
One Proverb that seems to have echoed through the rest of the book has been 3:11-12; “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” And then 6:22 has also stood out to me for the past couple of days; “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.” Usually the reason for all the backsliding I do in the summer is because I lack discipline. And I don’t mean discipline in the sense of merely making a routine out of seeking God and praying; I mean disciplining myself to following God’s ways in all that I do even when I’m not able to seek Him. When I go to work or school, if I’m not training my mind, heart and soul to serve God in all that I do, then I’m more susceptible to backsliding into the same old life I lived before I met Him.
This season of spiritual-fading can be countered by disciplining ourselves to not only reading God’s word, studying His ways, and surrounding ourselves with His people, but by constantly having Him on our minds and hearts. I have found that when my usual routine is broken, like suddenly not being in school, the amount of free time I have is probably the worst thing. Or, if I have some kind of full-time job, my new routine is so incredibly busy and chaotic that I forget God’s even there. In either case, I frequently fall back into a sinful lifestyle because I forget about the kingdom that I’m supposed to live for.
Last summer I tried writing a blog every day and I think I’m going to try the same thing this summer, but I think the most important thing for any of us to do is to place God at the top of our daily priorities. It shouldn’t be any more important now than during school, I know, but I think it is. Because unlike being in the school year, the summer time seems to take away the usual spiritual communities we’ve been involved with throughout most of the year. Bible studies, ministry gatherings and even church services seem to deplete a little over the summer because people are traveling, going home, or – like me – just being lazy. The summer has always been viewed with a great sense of freedom and liberty and a time when responsibilities get tossed out the window. But for the sake of our walks with God, we can’t buy in to this mentality. We need Jesus because we feed off His word. And I don’t mean that as a Christian cliché, that we have to read our Bibles everyday (although that helps); I mean that in the sense of seeking the Lord out with our hearts, souls, and minds.
Honestly, I’m excited about this summer, but not excited about it at the same time. I’ll be taking journalism classes, something I’ve never done before, and that’s exciting. But like all the other summers before this one, I’ll have a lot of free time to simply be lazy. The Proverbs teach strictly against this. But what can we do when we’re removed from the school routine? What do we do when most of our spiritual brothers and sisters are somewhere else? Well, as I’ve enjoyed for the last couple of nights, God’s always still there.
This is the one thing I’ve missed this year: prayer. I don’t know what it was for the last two years, but something about being in a house of eight or nine guys made me want to pray constantly. Throughout every term I was praying each night before I went to bed and each morning before I went to class. But then we moved out last summer and went our separate ways. So not only was I transitioning from the school routine to the summer routine (even though I was taking summer school, it definitely was not the same), but I was also transitioning from one house to another where I’d have to find a comfortable place to talk with God. And yet right there in Scripture, Jesus gives us a commandment that will always isolate us so that we can come before Him directly: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret,” – Matthew 6:6.
It all comes down to where our hearts truly reside. We might be busy with jobs or bored with summer school, but wherever our hearts are at is going to determine how well we function spiritually and how much we enjoy the summer. As I’ve been realizing these last couple of days, it takes discipline. Not so much waking up at a ridiculously early hour or plugging my nose into a daily devotional, but rather making sure that I find time each day to connect with God. The daily-devos, the ritualistic prayers, and the daily Bible studies are all great tools that can help make that connection, but they aren’t essential. What is essential is disciplining our hearts to seek God on a daily basis, whatever it takes. And if we manage to just seek God daily, before we know it school will be back in session and we’ll be more prepared to pray, read, study, and worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” – Luke 9:23.