I love growing in my faith. I love learning new things about God and new aspects of stories and situations in the Bible. But it’s really difficult to get excited about opening the Bible and just start reading, when I need context explained to me to really understand the passage. And a daily devotional doesn’t go deep enough to meet my need for learning.
I took a day off between Christmas and New Years, while my son went to daycare. I needed time to realign with my spiritual needs. So I went to a Christian bookstore and bought a few devotional books. I found a few and quickly swept them up for an inexpensive $30 (hurray, sales!). And I got started. But there was no one else reading with me. I wanted to have conversation about what I learning; that helps me process it and make it stick. And it is usually difficult to be motivated to do this reading after 9:30pm…once I’ve helped put the 2 year old in bed, finished any necessary household chores, attempted to do yoga (half the time I get sucked into other YouTube videos on the way to Yoga with Adriene), touched base with the husband, and accomplished my ready-for-bed routine.
So, I chose to be bold and ask my husband if he wanted to have a quiet time every evening together. We’d start small: read anything Biblical-focused for 10 minutes then pray together. He was a bit hesitant (due to nerves for what this might “look like” – and let’s be honest, probably more fearful of what a huge deal I might make it. I am an overplanner. That’s not always a good thing.) The only problem: I had material from the bookstore and he didn’t have much to work with. He asked me if I’d be willing to seek out something for him, or us to read together. I didn’t prioritize that action; I simply kept it in the back of my mind. But we stuck with this 10 minutes or reading and praying as best as possible – and only missed one or two nights per week. But it felt very separate. I liked the reading, but I was missing the “growing by talking about it” piece, and the actions we were taking weren’t totally helping us grow with God either (granted, this was a month-in, so a bit preliminary to make those kind of accusations).
Fast forward to the first week of February, and my decision to spend a Friday evening and most of Saturday attending the IF:Gathering in Lincoln. This was a choice I agonized over for weeks. When you work outside the home and away from your family full-time, evenings and weekends are extremely coveted time for the three of us. In addition to the mom guilt I feel for being away from lil O, do I really want to spend this time away from my boys? Jim, like the dreamy husband he is, encouraged me to go. And I got a friend hooked in too, so there was a bit of accountability factored in as well.
But when I made the decision to commit, God showed up. IF:Gathering is a large women’s conference held annually in Texas – and live streamed across the globe. It’s just what I needed: to be reminded of God’s presence in my life, via inspirational speakers who are clearly walking close to Him. I learned about the many IF tools, and noticed their IF: Gathering app, a totally free resource with devotionals that involve reading, a short video, and a place to comment and connect with others in that community. It was designed for women, but I approached Jim with the tool to see his interest in it potentially being our “together” thing.
The verdict so far? I’d say it’s working. We connect most nights sometime between 9 and 10 o’clock to read a short IF:Gathering devotional (we’re in the Acts study right now) and, more importantly, use the one discussion question to spark conversation. Jim has said he’s enjoyed having something intentional to talk about that isn’t “the schedule.” I couldn’t agree more. When you’re in the day-to-day grind of who will pick up the kid from daycare, what meal to put on the table, and setting up numerous appointments, your brain runs out of energy for anything meaningful. The one conversation-starter question typically leads us onto other topics that challenge us, but best of all, reminds us of why we’re together: to grow together.
I was reminded of my favorite verse that can be related to married couples. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
We symbolically put this verse into action during our wedding ceremony, with us braiding a cord with three ropes. And it hangs in our bedroom as a reminder of our need for God in order for our marriage to survive – and, hopefully, also thrive.
I was really nervous about reaching out to Jim and asking him to do a quiet time with me. I was afraid of his rejection and also fearful he would be intimidated by me taking initiative on this ask. He knows I’m a very independent person (I can practically see him raise his eyebrows and speak under his breath, “you think?” to that statement), but I know I can be a little overpowering. But just like sex, money, or what to have for dessert at a restaurant, spiritual matters can be tough to bring up. Jim was all-in.
But God was at play in our circumstances. He knew we both needed time with Him and each other, and I’m thankful for his presence.