Last week I posted about the necessity of regular Scripture reading in the daily life of the Christian and also made a recommendation for those wanting a bit of a guide to consider using the New ACNA Lectionary for morning and evening prayer and suggested the "Rookie Anglican" version to do so, which is what I am currently using (periodically I'll also use the 1962 BCP).
My hope is that some of you tried this, whether it be starting with a simple step of a Psalm and Gospel reading every day, or perhaps you took a look at the Daily Offices and dove right in. I'm guessing, and as a human and Christian, I feel like I can make a pretty educated guess, that at some point you felt like you "just didn't get anything out of it" that day. Well, in the words of a new friend, and a fellow priest from Missoula, "So what?"
On Friday of last week, I met Fr. Justin Read-Smith, and we sat in Jonny Bean for a couple of hours discussing lots of fascinating topics about life and ministry, but as we discussed the Christian life of prayer, study, mission, social justice, community, worship, etc. I was captivated by his passion for the Daily Office (morning and evening prayer). I had already planned a second, follow-up post for this coming week, but his abrupt answer of "So what?" to the familiar feeling of getting something from Scripture made me laugh and deeply consider my insatiable need for, and over-consumption of immediate satisfaction in every facet of my life. Even my spirituality.
Justin+ aptly described this daily practice as the water of a river gently lapping against a jagged rock. The first few times the water touches the stone, there is no apparent impact, but if you were to return in 50 years, the change is noticeable. Its jagged areas will have smoothed, the shape of the rock has changed, it glistens and reflects the brightness of the sun - the water has slowly, over time polished the surface. It is an entirely different stone than it was when the water first touched the rock.
It is remarkable what a gentle stream can do to something so hard and rough if given time.
It would be foolish to place a large rock in a gentle stream and be frustrated when the water doesn't immediately and entirely change it. Yet, this is precisely how we come to the Lord; this is precisely how we come to our spiritual disciplines. If we don't see the immediate desired impact or change, we may as well just quit and not try it again, because it didn't work anyways, at least not in the consumeristic and entitled time-frame that we have predetermined to be appropriate and acceptable.
Rob Dreher, who wrote The Benedict Option, describes the modern church as always desiring the next revival, continually seeking the next spiritual high-point, while neglecting or even resenting the beauty and depth of the slow and gradual (perhaps mature) spirituality and transformation that comes through daily Christian living, especially through morning and evening prayer. Most of you who will read this know me and you'll know how badly I long to see revival, but when that is our expectation and hope every time I go to the Word or prayer, it quickly can become a source of frustration and disappointment, with God and our own, for lack of a better word, progress.
Our culture of immediate short-term satisfaction is the opposite of what the spiritual life is meant to be - deep, steadfast, and immovable. Like water lapping on a rock, you will be reshaped and transformed, it may be slow, but it is profound and lasting. God will strengthen and stabilize you and you will find yourself able to withstand the storms of life because your roots are deep.
The Psalmist David writes, blessed is the person who, "delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither" (Psalm 1:2-3).
So, maybe you tried to pick up your Bible again or tried the Daily Offices and felt nothing. So what? Stop thinking about short-term, immediate satisfaction and entertainment. Give yourself to something real and profoundly deep. Even if it is going to take awhile. In 20 years, you'll look back and see how much he has smoothed out your jagged edges, transformed, and reshaped you entirely.
Let's stick it to our entitled cultural attitudes that demand something here and now, even if it lacks true substance and growth and embrace a process which is proven over time, that is real, lasting, and transformational.