Sometimes doing devotionals can get in the way of really hearing from God if it makes us dependent on others’ thoughts to get into Scripture. In this article, Jessica LaGrone narrates the story of how when and how she stopped doing devotionals in order to get back into the Word herself.
I have a confession to make. I’m done doing devotionals.
It started a few years ago. I showed up for an appointment and learned I would have to wait for about 45 minutes. I headed to my car to find something to do during the wait (this must have been before smart phones, because now none of us ever wonder what to do with 45 minutes). I found a Bible in my car, so I brought it inside. I thought, “Great, I’ll take this time to do my devotional for the day.”
Then I realized I couldn’t.
First of all, I didn’t have my devotional book with me—the one with two sentences of Scripture printed at the top of the page, and then a full two pages of someone else’s thoughts and stories to give me something inspirational to meditate on that day.
I didn’t have my special colored pencils and Bible highlighters. How could I do my devotionals without those? To make matters worse, the Bible I had stashed in my car wasn’t the one I was used to using—my devotional Bible—the one where a third of every page was Scripture, while the rest was the devotional writing of the celebrity Christian author and editor whose name was on the cover.
Think about that. That’s how you know you’ve arrived: Your name on the cover of a Bible. God’s not your co-pilot, he’s your co-author.
So I couldn’t do my devotional. Because all I had with me was a plain Bible.
Somehow in that moment of waiting, sitting there bored with my Bible closed on my lap, I realized how ridiculous the whole thing was. I had gotten so dependent on these resources that would help me study God’s Word, that I had forgotten how to directly engage with The Source itself.
So I stopped doing devotionals.
I don’t want you to think I stopped reading the Bible. This absurd moment actually made me realize how much I longed to reconnect directly with God’s Word. I cut out the middleman in my spiritual life and began reading the Bible for myself.
I love great writing about God’s Word. I’ve been called to give my utmost, heard Jesus calling and discovered a life driven by purpose. All of these have made me a better Christian. But none of them contains all things necessary for salvation. None of them is the Word I long to hear spoken from the heart of my Creator and my God.
There’s a kind of devotional reading that satisfies a need to feel we’ve checked off a box somewhere in heaven. And then there’s reading that truly brings us greater devotion to the God who longs more than we can imagine to connect with us. While I return from time to time to devotional reading of other books for inspiration to love God more, I find I am no longer satisfied just with someone else’s words about the Word. Give me a spoon and let me dig in myself.
I’m a little wary when I become too attached to one author or another for spiritual sustenance. A person’s teaching on Scripture should make you hungry to hear more of God’s Word, not more of that person.
It just makes sense to me that the resources, the cups of water bearing life into a thirsty world, would point us back to the well of living water. I’m done being satisfied with anything less.
I find that I have to vary what I do in my morning devotional time. The office for morning prayer offered by the Mission St. Clare is helpful. http://www.missionstclare.com/english/
Sometimes I need to read through a Psalm slowly and prayerfully. Some times someone’s thoughts are helpful in giving me new perspective. My rule (for myself) is: don’t do anything always. But, maybe that’s just me.
Craig, I have the same sort of rule of prayer. Vary things often so that it doesn’t become rote. My personality doesn’t lend itself to routine, so routine doesn’t necessarily help. My husband, on the other hand, is a wonderful creature of habit. I believe God wants each of us to find ways of spending time with him that fit our personalities – just as I spend time with each of my children doing things that suit their needs and interests.
Great piece, Jessica. I have arrived at much the same state. I found myself reading devotional material and spending more time arguing with what the author had written than I was engaging with God. That’s when I knew it was time for a change.