I am a bit of a life hack junkie.
I only follow family and a few other people on social media and rarely post, but I can be lured by life hacks! So far this year I have adopted a new way of cutting clementines, made my sweet potato casserole for Easter without peeling the potatoes before boiling them, and I have learned how to re-run a dryer load in a way that gets the wrinkles out. It’s fun to learn time-saving tricks-of-the-trade!
But there is no life hack for spiritual cultivation.
This tweet by Sharon Hodde Miller caught my eye on April 1, 2023:
It’s no coincidence that Jesus’s primary vocational metaphors for ministry were not soldiers, hunters, or even builders. But shepherds, farmers and fishermen. Why? Because the work of spiritual cultivation is slow, sometimes tedious, and entails a lot of waiting.
Shepherds, farmers and fishermen are aware that though they must tend to tasks, those tasks cannot be rushed.
Spiritual growth cannot be rushed.
I have heard of some examples recently of Christians rushing. A very popular podcaster explained that she reads books by listening to them at double-speed and assured listeners that doing so counts as reading. I can’t get that off my mind. Yes, the information is being heard. Yes, she is able to efficiently prepare for her guests, but would she glean more from the books if she ingested the material more slowly?
We know the answer.
The Gospel Coalition also endorsed a book recently that ended up having a very controversial section. Once that section was made public, some of the individuals who endorsed the book published confessions that they had not read the entire book writing an endorsement. Is is possible to rush Kingdom work?
We know the answer.
Some pastors have admitted to using CHATgpc to write a first draft of a sermon topic. Done in minutes. Whoo-la! It gets the job done, but was this sermon the work of the Spirit, infused with a deep inner work between the pastor and God to bring the Word to the church next Sunday service? Is it possible to be too productive?
We know the answer.
Just so I don’t get accused of pointing fingers, the lure to rush is in my every day life too. There is always something to do on my computer. It is my job to answer emails from my students and colleagues promptly. That device can call my name. I can walk right past my bible to the computer screen to get the day moving. I can get out of bed and move my feet before I bow my knees.
I think we need to be careful.
Rushing is not how the Kingdom of God grows. Search the Scriptures and find any example of quick growth that lasts. I haven’t found it yet, and my challenge is sincere. If you find one, put it in the comments.
One of the ways I have provided an environment for spiritual cultivation in my life is through consistent bible study both individually and in small groups. For years — spring, summer and fall — signing up for small group bible studies has kept me reading, studying and learning my Bible. Like a farmer, this habit of tending to my mind and heart gives God lots of opportunity to intervene and helps me grow.
Bible studies keep us in the slow-moving world of relationships.
Ah, the beauty of flesh and blood relationships. Perhaps more important than bible knowledge, bible studies keep me in women’s lives. There is no rushing in relationships. They all start the same way, “Hello, my name is…” Can’t rush them. Can’t speed them along. Relationships are slow, circuitous, difficult and downright necessary and beautiful.
When you are in someone’s life, there is no need to write down prayer requests because we automatically remember. For the duration of a study, I carry a group of ladies in my heart. When I awake in the still of the night, they are on my heart and I can bring their needs to God without turning on a light or pulling out a prayer list.
Relationships are God’s way.
Relationships can’t replace a podcast, a good book, or attending a conference, nor can they be life-hacked with double-speed or partial, skimmed reading. Relationships only thrive when done well and are how God does His deepest work. It was the way Jesus changed the world, and it is our way too.
Someone else is on the same page.
Beth Moore posted something along these same lines on April 12. Here is an excerpt: Paul speaks in Colossians about a growth that comes from God. The implication is that there is also a growth that comes from human effort and hype, great speakers and programs. But that kind of growth can only be sustained by the flesh, getting fleshier and flashier.
I could be completely off, but I get the sense in my spirit that this is a moment in time when we, like many generations behind us, are called to the slow patient work of the gospel…A fresh focus on face to face, on discipleship, and the joy of knowing such a thing characteristically takes place in smaller circles.
Are you in a smaller circle?
Are you in some relationships outside of your home? Are you ready, like I am, to slow down the hyper-efficiency technology offers and once again to look at faces, know the struggles of others (which keeps ours in perspective), and pray from the heart for others?
Find some people.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)
Join the way that Jesus said the world would be changed. Join growth that is slow but strong. Enter the intimate, scary, rewarding world of relationships.
Picture Explanation: Busy month of birthdays, grandchildren travels, and Easter!
Speaking of a fresh focus on face-to-face relationships:
If you are interested in being contacted to participate in a One Gritty Blink Bible study in 2023, click on the Oaks Ministries link below and contact me by email. The next opportunity for a face-to-face study starts June 7. Let’s focus on things that count for eternity!
© 2023 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.
I love how your titles tie the main thought with today’s buzz words… in a beautiful bow. Some of my young single mothers I have mentored are learning that there is no “life hack” in developing a relationship with God. They agreed that when I lived in the home with them they could come and talk to me 24/7. Since I moved into my late brother’s barn 4 hours away, we talk, text, and email. They all agree it is not the same. They miss the up close and personal time.
Happy Trails, Trials, and Life Hacks❣️
It’s not the same but I am so grateful each of those ladies still has you!
Laurie, I love this post. I’ve read it multiple times and every time I do, something new sticks out to me. This time, “Rushing is not how the Kingdom of God grows,” stood out to me.
I’ve found that statement to be true through gardening. Producing fruits and vegetables from seeds takes time. Some plants take weeks just for the seeds to germinate and when they do, the tiniest little leaves start to sprout. The growth (that I see) is tiny, but the roots are deep and strong.
Gardening has also taught me the importance of relationships as your post suggests. In order for fruits and vegetables to grow, the plant must have a growing and nurturing relationship with the sun, water, soil, and fertilizer. Even bees are a part of the relationship as they pollinate the plants.
Your post gave new light and meaning to the parable of the seed and the sower.
Thank you for reminding me to not despise small beginnings – in relationships and nature.
And thank you for reminding me to slow down enough to not let the cares of this world distract me from building slow, intentional, relationships with deep roots and Godly focus.
You are welcome, but know I need the reminders as much as you. We are in this pressure-cooker life together!
Perfect read for a Sunday afternoon! The gift of slow in a hurried world!
Glad to help you out with that! 🙂
Life hack: bake your sweet potatoes and then just squeeze the juicy contents out of the skins. I used to peel and steam them. Baking and squeezing is so much easier and the casserole is delicious!
Favorite sentence: Relationships are slow, circuitous, downright necessary and beautiful. Our relationship has been this! What a blessing you have been to me for the past 43 years, and how wonderful it is that it will last forever!
Thank you for continuing to faithfully write this blog!
Ha! I could write that sentence because I am old and have decades-long relationships with good people like you. Forever friends.