I’m trying to practice the rhythm of consistency, but sometimes it’s not possible. Last week’s blog was quarantined as non-essential and stayed inside.
There are people in my life whom I love but no longer share a rhythm of relationship with. Some are friends who used to visit regularly, others are out-of-state family with separate lives.
It can feel like we start again right where we left off, but unless it’s one of those rare connections, we spend our time on updates during occasional visits. Checking in is fine for some connections, though. We need to be willing for friend and family relationships to morph as need and availability changes. It isn’t necessary to have everyone you’ve ever met, or who shares your DNA, over to your house for dinner each week.
Even if you live with someone, there can be seasons where all you do is check-in. If that becomes consistent, you can cover all the updates, to-do lists, and chores. Then, in the quiet space beyond that, there is time for fears, dreams, and thoughts. Deep connection takes energy, and we have limited capacity for that because it requires such a sacrifice of time and attention.
You couldn’t change my husband’s and my history, but if I only saw him on holidays for the next ten years, our relationship would not be the same. (He’s in the UK right now, so this is on my mind.)
You’ll probably have a better marriage or celibate partnership if you share meals and words more often than not. So I think it’s important to guard a consistent rhythm, aside from a marriage sabbatical. I recently learned about the idea and found some parts intriguing—just not infidelity in the single human relationship that’s meant to be exclusive.
I think God wants constant communication with us, and it’s the main reason he tells us to pray for our needs instead of letting us live in bliss without asking. One of my prayer partners used to consider Paul’s example of only asking God for something three times. She didn’t always see room for continuing. I favored the verses about the neighbor wanting bread and the woman wanting justice to legitimize persistence.
As far as the first approach, Paul received an answer. I wouldn’t stop seeking until you do. But as for persistence, my other prayer partner gave me a devotional book, and last month one entry read, “A long-term problem can become an idol.” I have seen this in my own life, so there is a reason to stop praying about things sometimes. There is a place for both kinds of prayer. As it often happens, two things were true. This is a good example of why we need community with contradictory ideas.
Of course, when you’re overwhelmed, even a minute with God, as your head hits the pillow, is an accomplishment. Practice means we don’t stagnate in arrogance or complacency. You try, and then you try again to make time for things and people you want in your life. You make time for intimacy.
The only exception to “making time for what you want” is when you’re struggling to keep your head up at all. But then you need God and (probably) other people even more. But, making room is your choice. How and when is also your choice.
You don’t need an Instagram worthy fireplace back-dropping tepid tea because you’ve been scouring leather-bound, gold-rimmed pages for 79 minutes without taking a sip while epic hymns lift your thoughts to the third heaven. Some prayers are in tears on the toilet during your 10 minute break.
Quality or Quantity
I remember the phrase “quality time” being popular when I was in college. There is something to be said for setting aside time for a romantic (sexual or not) connection. But it won’t replace rhythms of relationship. One common rhythm with God is that every thought becomes communication. Even, “Where did I put my keys, Lord?”
In a way, I like this because I’m certain he already knows every thought before I untangle it from my mind into a semi-coherent phrase. Also, it keeps me a little more honest with him when I think he’s a front seat passenger in there. (Not a backseat driver, gasping, judging, and telling me where I should have gone. Just someone patiently waiting with a map and zero PTSD about getting rear-ended.)
It probably wasn’t the intention of the admonition in Thessalonians for “prayer without ceasing” to become flippant-over-spiritualization. When “Dear Jesus,” is filler speech that you no longer say consciously, the words are annoying or amusing to human observers. Maybe it’s always a little diminished when others hear prayer meant for you and God alone. Praying out loud in the presence of others doesn’t innately draw people in awe to the throne of God.
You don’t always need to go deep, or be sliced open to prove intimacy. Otherwise, a therapist could be your most intimate (albeit one-sided) relationship. Sometimes you can gauge the intimacy by the consistency of your rhythms more than the vulnerability of the information shared.