Spiritual Disciplines in a Busy Day
In the precious early hours before my kiddos wake up with requests for books and pleas for Frosted Mini-Wheats, I’m hunched over my phone scrolling the morning feed while my Bible lies in my lap unopened. When I finally get to reading and praying, I have only a few minutes to spare before the day begins. That afternoon I hesitate to ask a new neighbor over, concerned about what she would think of our house, the old rug, the messy playroom, the sink full of dishes, and, oh—those Frosted Mini-Wheats, still on the counter. I decide not to invite her over.
Almost hourly throughout my day, my mind turns to our years-long adoption journey. My heart cries out, “God, where are you? Did we do the right thing? Are you still good?”
In each of these moments, I am forgetting what I sing about on Sundays. What I read about each morning, and earnestly teach my kiddos. Oh, and stake my whole life on. Many refer to this as “gospel amnesia.” I forget in these moments to live out what I believe.
Our Attention is Getting Shorter
My husband, a professor, recently brought home a study on Gen Z, the primary demographic of his students. Apparently, members of Gen Z have the attention span of a goldfish: eight seconds. But before I could shake my head at Gen Z, I learned that millennials are just behind their wandering minds with an attention span of approximately twelve seconds. Eight to twelve seconds is all we’ve got before we’re distracted.
Not only are our hearts prone to sin and selfishness, but growing up in a digital age has given us another layer of forgetfulness. It's also created an even greater struggle to focus and remember the gospel. This problem feels new, but it’s really a tale as old as time.
Forgetfulness Runs in the Family
Moses’ warnings to Israel throughout the book of Deuteronomy—specifically that when full bellies, fine houses, and wealth come, “then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deut 8:14, NIV)—demonstrate that humans have always been prone to forget, especially when life is easy. Moses boldly warns that if Israel forgets God, they “will surely be destroyed” (Deut 8:19, NIV).
We live as though our lives are a result of our own efforts. This, as Moses warns, leads to our destruction. We can shake our heads at the Israelites and marvel at their remarkable forgetfulness. But God knew that his children for generations would fall into this same pit. Whether in big or small ways, we forget God, his promises, and his character at some point every day.
So we must train our hearts and minds to remember God. Just like runners don’t begin marathon training on day one by running 26.2 miles, training for godliness takes time and discipline. Timothy writes, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim 4:7–8).
Training for Godliness
Training for godliness takes practice. But we aren’t the first Christians to need this training. In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney defines spiritual disciplines as “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are habits of devotion, habits of experiential Christianity that have been practiced by God’s people since biblical times.”
Whitney outlines many of these practices that turn our hearts toward Christ in our everyday moments. These include Bible intake, prayer, evangelism, silence, journaling, fasting, solitude, and learning. These disciplines help us to train for godliness. They are the practical exercises to help us do what Moses says to the forgetful Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:5–9)
Moses tells them to eat, sleep, and breathe God’s words, going so far as to constantly have them in front of their eyeballs. He then once again says that they must do this “lest you forget the Lord” (Deut 6:12).
Learning to Apply
When I choose to waste time on my phone, head bowed in worldly worship to a device that steals time and life, instead of bowing my head to the one who gave me life, I am certainly not acting like his Word is my daily bread, needed each day just as I need food to survive (Matt. 6:11). But when I read, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word, my phone holds less appeal.
Practicing the discipline of gratitude—attending to all the good gifts he has given me—can help me recognize how good God is and thereby increase my hunger to be in his presence.
When I’m worried about what my neighbor thinks of my home, I’m forgetting that the most important opinion about me is my Savior’s. The discipline of study remedies this, reminding me that what God says of me is infinitely more important than what others, or even myself, think of me (Gal. 1:10).
And when I’ve forgotten what I studied that morning by lunchtime, one likely contributor is the hurry and scurry, the frequent and incessant dings from my phone. The spiritual discipline of silence—literally silencing my phone for twenty minutes every day—hinders hurry and gives me space to remember God’s faithfulness in our marathon adoption journey.
Spiritual disciplines target gospel amnesia. They help us train for godliness and train away from forgetfulness. We desperately need God’s help to do this, and we must recognize his grace in all of this, for without it, we wouldn’t even have the energy to train.
So I will pray alongside the hymn writer,
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above.”
Meet the Author:
Rachel Dee lives in Columbus, Georgia and is most passionate about Jesus, being a wife to Matt, and being a momma to her two boys, Jack and Thomas. She enjoys being outside with her family, learning photography, and writing.