Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Diet Coke with Jesus

For a time when I was young, I hated the word devotions.  It sounds so pretentious and pious in a way that didn’t express what I was doing—or thought I should be doing—when I took the time to read my Bible and pray.  In my young adult years, the preferred expression was quiet time, but that sounds like a nap or what you ask your toddlers to enter when you have had enough noise for a while.  I suppose I could borrow from my new favorite daily cartoon strip Coffee with Jesus,[1] but I’d have to change it to Tea with Jesus, and I don’t always have tea:  Diet Coke with Jesus?  I don’t know.  So I am back to the word devotions; at least it’s shorter than daily prayer and Bible reading


So on my daily teuxdeux list[2] you’ll see devotions.  Is it awful to put something that should be personal and intimate and important on a teuxdeux list?  A task to be crossed off?  For me, it’s not so awful, because I also write down such “tasks” as make cookies with grandkids and walk with BFF and plan Mom’s 75th birthday party.  To keep my life focused on the right priorities, even the personal, intimate, desirable, wonderful teuxdeuxs end up on my list.  I am easily distracted by less important activities such as Facebook Scrabble (which, to be fair to myself, I do at least in part to keep the aging brain sharp, which all the self-help articles tell us we must do to avoid dementia and—ooh, squirrel!), things that seem to happen even though they are not on the list.  That is not a reflection of their relative importance so much as their relative “automaticness.”  Or perhaps I am suffering the effects of too many years of multitasking.

Devotions is something I plan to do every day, although I don’t always get to it, even though it is on my teuxdeux list, waiting to be crossed off.  The days I don’t get to it become a sort of control group to compare to the days I do.  I have noticed, especially in recent months, that the days I get to devotions are better days than the ones I don’t.  I do not want this to be true, but it is.  Don’t get me wrong.  Devotions are about my relationship with God, and he does not punish me for “missing” my daily devotions by giving me a bad day any more than my husband does if I forget to ask him how his day went.  Regardless, the days that begin (and yes, the earlier the better, in my case) with devotions have a different feel to them, a different smoothness, a better light.  Why?

When I wonder about the quality of my relationship with God, I often ponder my relationships with people I love, with the hope of gaining some insight into how that vertical relationship might work.  For instance, the days when my husband and I have time together to talk, to play games, or even to work on household tasks or run errands together are just plain and simply more fun, more satisfying.  I work at home, alone, much of the time, and often I am more productive when my husband is physically present, even if we are not talking or interacting.  My best friend and I rarely see each other because of our busy schedules, and in between visits I sometimes forget how important our friendship is.  But when we are together, we can tell each other things that we cannot tell to a single other living soul, and our burdens are lifted and we remember how grateful we are for this friendship.  If I am worried about my children, even if I am regularly praying for them, the best cure for my anxiety is time with them:  playing games, running errands, doing craft projects, cooking a meal. 

Nothing beats physical time and space.  When I am actually present with the people I love, my days go better:  I am happier, more productive, freer, and calmer.  But still, I do not plan to spend time with them in order to get happiness, productivity, freedom, or calm.  I spend time with them because I love them, because I long for their presence in my life, because our lives are intertwined and we have committed to being responsible in some way for one another.  The joy is a bonus.

And I love Jesus.  I long for time with him, even though it’s a little more esoteric, harder to grasp, than when my grandkids come for a visit.  Our lives are intertwined.  He has given his life for me, and I have given my life for him in the best way I know how.  And when I spend time with him, my days go better.  I don’t think I spend time with him so that my days go better; but when I’m having a rough day, I look back to see what’s missing, and I realize sometimes it’s Jesus.

Again, don’t get me wrong.  My good days often have the same kinds of tasks and interruptions in them that my bad days have.  What’s the difference?

Yesterday started off with tea with Jesus.  The day was filled with both have tos and get tos, and even though some of the have tos were filled with purpose and delight, some such as folding clothes took up very little space in my active attention.  In the afternoon, after seeing a movie with my younger daughter, I returned my attention to a repeating task, one that requires some thought and concentration and creativity.  It presented some difficulties, and I had to re-do a portion of it before I was satisfied.  I had some interruptions, some of which were urgent.  I kept getting distracted. Small portions of the task remained unfinished at the end of the day.  (I’m big on closure, on getting things crossed off the list, so that could have been upsetting.)  And yet it was a good day

In my experience, I realized, the good day is not necessarily one that is perfectly productive or without interruptions or without problems.  My project did not go smoothly; it had bumps and fits and starts along the way.  I was occasionally stymied.  The difference was that I felt satisfied with the process and the progress.  I persevered.  The obstacles and setbacks felt almost necessary to the task, as if I were growing and changing and adapting as the task presented its difficulties.  The frustrations did not frustrate me!  They were part of the goodness of the day.

Jesus invited me into his presence a long time ago, and I accepted his invitation.  But on a daily basis, it’s as if he says, “Are you home today?” and I say, “Yes, please come over!  I have some things to do, but you are welcome to hang out.  As a matter of fact, I’d appreciate your help.”  And when he gets here, we sit down and have our coffee or tea or Diet Coke, we have our intimate conversation and talk about what’s on our minds; he might even suggest some changes to my teuxdeux list or give me some new things to think about, and I remind him of some of the things that are beyond my control that I need him to tackle.  Then we clear the dishes, and I pick up a hammer and he picks up a measuring tape and we get started on the tasks of the day.[3]  Maybe I’ll have to do some backtracking and redo some things, and maybe the work will go smoothly, and maybe it will present some frustrations.  But Jesus is here.  And it is a good day.

Actually, Diet Coke with Jesus does have a nice ring to it.

[2]; I don’t know how I ever functioned without it. 
[3] Computer and white board, dish cloth and broom, chalk and eraser, choose your own tool metaphors!

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