Quality Time

Catching back up to the A to Z blog challenge… I took too much time over the weekend and failed to get Q and R posted. It’s amazing how fast stuff piles up.

If I don’t make the time for writing, I find I won’t get much done. It’s intentional, a choice, a setting of priorities that I must then carry out.

Otherwise I find myself scrambling to keep up, or looking back on missed opportunities.

My daughter turns 14 in June, and my wife and I aren’t quite sure how we feel about that. On the one hand, she has often been so helpful and mature, and on the other hand, we worry she may not be fully prepared for adult life. And of course there’s the fact that as parents, it’s hard to let go.

Our children grow so fast, but the distractions and trials of life often keep us from noticing the passage of time until it’s too late. Especially when they’re young, but even when they’re older, parents often worry about their relationship with their kids.

Are we spending enough time with them? Are we getting quality time? Do they know how much we love them?

One of the hard lessons as a parent is that we can’t make quality time without quantity time. We don’t get to flip the switch and say, “I’ve got ten minutes right now, let’s make it awesome, okay GO. Instant quality.”

Quality moments happen here and there as we spend a significant amount of time and put forth significant effort to make it as good as it can be.

The same is true of our relationship with our Father in heaven, isn’t it? I never feel like I’ve really connected when I take five minutes in the morning to glance through a devotion and whisper a prayer. I hardly feel close to God when I forget Him in the daily shuffle and only remember just before bed.

And just like with kids, greater quantity doesn’t ensure quality unless we put forth effort. I’ve been to prayer meetings and worship services where I come in exhausted. Sitting there half asleep listening to the prayers and songs of others, maybe mumbling an Amen or Yes, Lord… that doesn’t grow my relationship to God.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that just like with fitness, the collection of little things we do all day is more important than some arbitrary measure of ‘devotion.’ Keeping God in mind, staying true to our beliefs, maintaining frequent prayer, and meditating on His Word is – in my experience – more beneficial than trying to read five chapters of the Bible a day or hitting an hour-long prayer goal.

But there should also be those special moments, as with any relationship, where we take extra time to be together, to grow closer, to learn more about the other party. And that will often only happen when we set aside time.

We are called upon to seek the Lord, to draw near to Him. He’s taken several steps to reach out to us, hand extended. How we respond determines the quality of our relationship to God.

We make time for what is important. Our kids see that. Our friends see that. Our spouses or significant others understand it. God is no different in this respect.

I have to make a quantity of time available, and as I do so, I’m sure to discover a better quality of time. That’s not just my opinion, not just a hope or common sense. It’s His promise.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8

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Song: Rain Over Me

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 NJKV

Rain Over Me – audio file posted on SoundCloud

I was playing Hide and Seek with my kids the other day. They’re quite talented, but I excel at cheating. While I was counting, I kept messing up… skipping numbers, counting past the agreed upon number, forgetting what number I was on.

That way, I got them to talk and tell me I was doing it wrong.

And them talking told me roughly where they were hiding.

Jonathan is the sneakiest of the bunch. Deborah and Justin do pretty good at hiding, but Jonathan–it’s like he can fold himself up into a little cube and hide anywhere. He’s a ninja.

True story: When he was seven years old, we had the following conversation:

“Dad, I think I want to be a scientist who studies rocks when I grow up.  …or maybe a ninja.”

“Jonathan, that’s really neat. But being a ninja is hard.”

“I think I’d make a great ninja.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Well… Ninjas have to be good at climbing, and I’m great at climbing. I climb the trees around our house better than any of the other kids.”

I knew this to be true.

“And ninjas have to be good at sneaking, and I’m great at sneaking. I was hiding in the bushes right next to my friend, and he didn’t even know I was there!”

He thinks for a moment.

“Ninjas have to be good at martial arts, too. I have to work on that.”

Back to Hide and Seek… Jonathan lurks in a cabinet. Jonathan climbs up on the shelves above the refrigerator. Jonathan squeezes himself into a small cabinet at the bottom of our entertainment center. It’s ridiculous how easily he hides anywhere he wants.

Then it’s my turn to hide, and I decide to have some fun. Justin (our seven year old) is now the “seeker,” so I make it easier on him. I try stuffing myself into the cabinet where Jonathan hid. Sadly, I’m a little pudgy compared to him, and so try as I might, I can’t quite fit in there. My head is sticking out.

But the point of Hide and Seek is to be found. That’s part of the fun.

In his book, God Chasers, Tommy Tenney writes about hide and seek with his daughters (if memory serves). And he equates the game of hide and seek to our relationship with God.

There are times when we seek God but He seems hidden, far removed, silent. Tenney talks about how he stays hidden while his daughters are enjoying the game, but there comes a point where they become desperate. Maybe Daddy has really left. Maybe he’s not here anymore. Maybe I’m all alone. 

Their tears start to flow and their laughter turns to crying. And the heart of the father is stirred to make himself known, to burst out of hiding and rush to the child, to catch them up in his arms and reassure them that “I have been here all along. I would never leave you nor forsake you.”

Tenney talks about that cry of desperate need and how it catches the Father’s heart and, in a way, commands His attention.

Can you imagine God that way? Can you see the loving Father who sometimes hides His face? Can you picture the tug on His heart when we become desperate and cry out for Him? Can you see the “Hider” turning into the “Seeker” as He rushes to scoop us up and reassure us that all will work out, everything will be fine? Can you hear Him whisper, “It’s okay, I am here. I never left you, even though you didn’t know where I was.”

Hosea 10:12 was a theme verse for my church back in 2001.  We really focused on the thought that God is out there just waiting to be found, and as we live out righteousness and experience His lovingkindness and mercy, as we break up the hard ground of our hearts in our desperation for Him, we can trust that He will turn and respond to our cries. He will come and rain down His righteousness upon us.

“Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you.”

“Seek the Lord while He may be found.”

“It is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness upon you.”

We seek God, calling out to Him… until we discover He is coming toward us — the father running out to meet the prodigal child — ready to embrace us and pour out His love on us again.

I always want to surrender to that love. I always want the “ground” of my heart to be broken up, softened, ready for His work. I always want Him to come and pour out the rain of His Spirit over me.

Rain Over Me

You are all I need

Jesus, You’re my everything

You’re the One I’ll seek

For all my life

 

Your all-sufficiency

Answers my dependency

Your unfailing love

Is now my life

 

I will seek You with the rising sun

And serve You till the day is done

Jesus, every day I’ll praise Your name

I will follow You in righteousness

To know Your lovingkindness

Seeking You until I catch Your heart

And You rain over me

 

Rain over me, rain over me

(repeat)