To Put Ourselves in the Presence of God
The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and … up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish.
St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way
Take Up & Read:
Since the first Take Up & Read journal was published two years ago, the most commonly asked question I’ve received is, “How do I find time to create a habit of daily Bible study?”
And honestly, my knee jerk response is, “How do you not?”
Our Lord comes to us in the silence, and it’s in the silence that we are best able to hear His clear, consoling voice. More than anything, God wants our hearts, freely given in a true and genuine relationship with Him. To build that relationship, we have to be available to Him, just as we are available to friends or spouses or children or parents or anyone else whose relationship we value.
It’s easy to persuade ourselves that we are pursuing holiness in all the things we do--the tending, the caring, even the overt activities of ministry. But activity for God isn’t the same as relationship with Him. It’s not that serving is unimportant; it’s that sitting at His feet is the most important (see Luke 10:38-42). It’s foundational to holiness, which makes it foundational to the foundation.
We have a habit of Sunday Mass; we set aside that time every week to hear the Word of God and to worship Him. We communicate with Him both spiritually and physically, and we nurture a relationship there. That is good; it is so very good. Now, imagine if you were married and you only communicated once a week for an hour. That hour would be very good, but would it be enough? Your marriage would languish, no doubt about it.
In order to begin the day in the presence of God, we have to put ourselves in the presence of God. This intentional creation of quiet time with Jesus in the Word is going to look different in different homes. Ideally, we take St. Josemaria's advice and we set a fixed time to rise and we just do it every day until making our feet hit the floor right away becomes a habit as natural and unthinking as buckling our seatbelts as soon as we sit in a car. But what if you are awakened at unpredictable times to meet the needs of an infant? That’s when intention takes over: that is your heroic moment, a moment given to you by God to sanctify. This is one of the few times I’m going to suggest a smartphone is your friend. Pull your baby close, open your Scripture app (and only your Scripture app) and like the baby you are feeding, let yourself be fed. Take those morning moments to “[r]id yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1-3)
Those morning moments of precious silence are holy and they set us on a course to live our day in the practiced presence of God. Whether you are a night person or a morning one doesn’t matter. You are God’s person, and He wants to capture your intention and speak into your day. It is a virtue to get up out of bed promptly and offer the day to our Lord. The best way to develop this virtue is to consistently practice it with the Lord’s help.
Being alone and quiet is not enough. Be alone with the Word; otherwise, you’re just hanging out with yourself. Christ will communicate to you through His Word. He’ll become alive and real to your soul through his Spirit in that time. He will honor and glorify your effort to receive Him.
We want to be holy and we want to pray better. Scripture can help us do that. The stories God wants to tell us during our time in the Word can teach us all we need to know about sorrow and pain, joy and faithfulness, fear and trust. Every human emotion and need is addressed in God’s Word. When we open our Bibles, we allow him to show us that he knows and understands basic human feelings, and he can help us to live with them in holiness--to do better and to be better.
Finally, when we start the day in prayer with the Word open to our souls, we are reminded of God’s covenant with us. We know that He promised our forefathers in faith, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” (Jeremiah 30:22) What Bible study tells us is that the Jews did innumerable things to break that covenant in innumerable ways and still, God made good on that promise. If we let him, God will remind us every day of our lives that the Bible is the story of His unbreakable promise to us. It’s worth rising a little earlier for that Divine reminder, because with that knowledge there is truly power to take on the day.
Focus on establishing a habit of rising. If you are able, get out of bed at a set time every day and touch your Bible first (before your phone, before your chores--fix something hot to drink, if you must, but be quick about it and set about praying the Word.)
If your waking is finely tuned to a child, prepare ahead of time to incorporate scripture time first thing with your baby. A handheld issue of Magnificat magazine might work if you have adequate light. If you must, read scripture on your phone (biblegateway.com is free and the Dwell app has audio options) or play the Divine Office quietly while you nurse (search “divine office audio” for some options). Whatever you choose, be sure to set it where you can reach it or queue it up on your phone the night before so that it’s accessible while tending the baby.