The Small Things are the Foundation
When your usual spiritual habits stop working
In a recent post, I referred to a resource I’ve been working on. Well, IT’S HERE.
I don’t have a name for the resource yet (email me if you have an idea?) but here are the important details.
It’s a resource to guide you and your family* through the spring season with the goal of forming spiritual habits and cultivating delight in the world. In the guide, offer suggestions for simple spiritual practices, along with some topics to explore with your family through a poem, picture books and easy activities. Find it by clicking the button below.
In the guide itself, I open by sharing some favorite quotes and thoughts about why “cultivating delight” matters for the spiritual life.
In this email, I want to share some thoughts about my vision behind the spiritual habits I share in the guide. So, read on…
There was a season in my life where my sole, private spiritual practice was reading a chapter of the Jesus Storybook Bible before bed every evening.
You might think I was five years old, but I was actually 21.
The advice came at the counsel of my college pastor during a hard time of my life. And it ended up being a season of my life where I came to know the love, grace, kindness and mercy of God in a way I never thought possible, especially when such a “simple” habit was the sum total of my personal devotional time.
By nature, I’m a reader, interested in spiritual things and religion, and I enjoy a challenge. When I was introduced to the concept of “the quiet time” in middle school youth group and promised rewards for 30 days, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years of daily quiet times, I was all in. Grow my faith through daily intense reading, study and disciplined prayer? Ok, ok, sign me up!
I continued the practice of a (mostly) daily “quiet time” through all of high school and into my first few months of college. And then, for many reasons, the “quiet time” stopped working, or maybe, I stopped working the quiet time. That’s another story all together, but that eventually led me to my nightly reading of the Jesus Storybook Bible.
That stepping away from the good but not Scripturally mandated “quiet time” was the slow, slow beginning of disentangling evangelical cultural practices from the wisdom and commands of Scripture about what it means to obey God’s Word, pursue communion with God and cultivate spiritual maturation.
After Phoebe (my daughter) was born three years ago, I gave a lot more thought to my spiritual habits as my day-to-day routine was upended and the emotional and physical demands on my life shifted.
In my early marriage/pre-kids years, I’d established some fruitful habits that resembled the quiet time of my high school years. It was a rich season of life that formed me in countless ways and I am so thankful for that time. But trying to keep up those habits as a new mom felt like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
So instead of spending my energy trying to make my old habits fit my new life, I stepped back and asked God what it looked like to be faithful and obedient in my current season.
The answer to that question unfolded slowly, and honestly, is still very much unfolding. But two things have become clear.
First, I massively underestimated the power of simple practices/liturgies of singing, prayer and Scripture reading.
James K.A. Smith writes the following in You Are What You Love:
“As Craig Dystra once put it, ‘The life of Christian faith is the practice of many practices,’ not because this is something we accomplish, but because the practices are the ‘habitations of the Spirit.’ The practices of prayer and song, preaching and offering, baptism and Communion are the canoes and boats and helicopters that God gracious sends our way. He meets us where we are, as creatures of habit who are shaped by practices, and invites us into a community of practice that is the very body of his Son (i.e., the church). Liturgy is the way we learn to ‘put on’ Christ (Col. 3:12-16).”
As I reimagined what it might look like to develop my spiritual life after becoming a mom, I moved from having “Bible study quiet time” at the center and instead considered how I might thoughtfully incorporate spiritual practices of singing, Scripture memory and reading, and prayer in my daily life.
Over the past three years, those practices have become the bread and butter of my spiritual life. I still try to take a few hours a week for traditional Bible study and I love that, but my spiritual sustenance—my pathway to putting on Christ daily—is “the practice of many practices.”
Second, I don’t need to silo off my children’s spiritual growth from mine; our spiritual journeys are braided together.
There’s a tremendous opportunity to cultivate spiritual habits that are accessible to my children and I can invite them into. There’s a distinct difference between dumbing something down and clearing needless clutter so that content and practices are approachable and available for every age and stage of development.
As I’ve focused on cultivating spiritual habits that are accessible to all the members of my household instead of elevating practices that require literacy, favor an aptitude for study or are simply interesting (and possibly helpful) but not commanded in Scripture, my spiritual life has deepened, become more steadfast, and at times, flourished, even if it’s not quantifiable.
Stepping back from having a conventional “quiet time” wasn’t laziness; it was embracing humility, being attentive to God’s presence, and trusting his work in my life, instead of plowing ahead with what I thought I needed to do to be worthy or what culture said I need to do to be holy.
Now, back to the guide I introduced above… in the guide (on page 6) is a list of suggested spiritual habits for Eastertide, now through June 4. There are also printables for the habits at the end of the document.
These habits are truly suggestions that I’m sharing because I’ve found adding some definition to spiritual practices for a short-ish span of time brings some fun energy to the work of establishing habits and gives us a refreshing vision for what discipleship can look like, both personally and in the home.
Like I share in the intro letter for the guide, this guide is work in progress, so drop me an email with any feedback (things you love, things that don’t work, etc.) you have.
Peace to you on this first Monday of Easter.