Sunday, April 6, 2014

firstfruits

"Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God..."  
Exodus 23:19

There was a lightly attended morning convocation service I enjoyed during college if I had time between classes. One Friday morning, a guest speaker whose name I do not recall and whose face I would not recognize, shared a challenging story about his own journey with God because of a commitment he made to read his Bible every day for a year. The idea was to read anything, short or lengthy, so long as the Bible was opened and the date was recorded in a journal as a form of accountability.

It seemed a simple enough commitment, with a rewarding enough outcome, that I took up the challenge. I didn't exactly get all 365 dates of that year in my journal, but it was the first time in my life I had engaged in regular Bible reading and quiet times with God, and it was life-changing.

I consider that decision to be one of the dramatic turning points in my testimony, transforming me almost overnight into a woman pursuing solid food instead of milk (Hebrews 5:12-14). The commitment also turned me into a journaler, though I am sure no one who reads this blog will be surprised to learn I process my thoughts by writing them! I continued in this pattern of setting aside quiet time, with my Bible and journal in hand, on a mostly-daily basis for many years.

Then I had kids.

The change was gradual at first. However, recently it has become obvious that the main obstacle between my Bible and me is that there is no such thing as QUIET TIME. Quiet now means that the volume in the house is such that I can hear the thoughts in my own head because the little voices are talking to each other instead of me. Time is what I use to cook dinner or empty the dishwasher or move toys from the living room back into the bedroom. Awakening early ends up awakening the others in the house early as well. Actual quiet time is a rare enough occasion that when it occurs I become immediately anxious about how to fill it... should I finish the project I started 3 weeks ago? should I sweep up the crumbs left from dinner last Wednesday? should I take a nap? return a phone call? pay bills? check my email?...
Should I read my Bible?

It is a daily battle for me to find time for anything that doesn't involve six small, enthusiastic, but not-so-helpful hands, let alone quiet time that belongs to me and God alone. Yet, it is God who first invented the idea of motherhood. He put this love and desire for children deep within me. He designed the whole of mankind to prosper through the affection and nurture of a mother. He endorses and embraces my role as mother. He intimately knows each busy, noisy, detail of my day, and still longs to meet me somewhere, anywhere, on a daily basis.

He is not asking too much. Even in my busiest seasons He has never asked me to give Him something I don't have. He asks only for the firstfruits of what I do have. In this case, He is asking for the firstfruits of my time.

"Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God..." 
Exodus 23:19

Literally, the firstfruits are the first and best harvest of a crop. The ancients were asked to give to the Lord the first and the best of what they had grown to survive, trusting that He would ultimately provide all they needed.

Time has always felt like something I need to survive. I cling to it tightly, selfishly, with anxious ownership over how I want to distribute it. There has been, and always will be, something more pressing to do than reading my Bible during any free or quiet time. In my moments of struggle with what to do, how to divide, where to give, I try to remember that the time was never mine to begin with. It is a gift from God.

Pursuing God and Biblical wisdom has come to look different than it did during my childless days. It is not as quiet. It is not as focused. Yet, it can still be a regular pursuit. Perhaps pursuing Him involves a greater sacrifice of time than ever before. But the reward is sweet. He asks for the firstfruits of my time, promising that as I give it to Him, so will He provide for me in all the ways I need.


2 comments:

  1. Ah, yes! Those of us who are moms completely understand! Here in my tiny house I found the same thing--if I woke up early, it was to a cold house and I could not even build up the fire or make some tea without waking up the kids, so I would huddle under blankets having my morning time. : ) Now my kids are old enough that we have Bible reading time together on my bed, and that's such a luxury. (The only downside is that the girls can't read their Bibles if I or Bronwyn is reading aloud to Evan, because they find it too hard to focus on their reading if we do--so he just looks at picture Bibles. But then we do more Scripture reading together at the breakfast table (where we pick passages to memorize together), so I don't feel like he is not getting some of God's Word in his day!

    When Gwynneth was a baby, I remember having a very strong conviction about first fruits too. So I started giving the first half of her afternoon quiet time for Bible study--the time of day I always looked forward to! : ) I would tell myself I only had to do 15 minutes--but before I would realize it, an hour would have passed. But instead of making me feel like I was missing out on that precious time without a baby, it really felt like precious time with my Lord. It truly felt like I was giving a worthy offering to Him. The afternoon naptime was not the first (earliest) time of my day, but it was the most precious, and that's what made it my first fruits. : )

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    1. I love hearing what others do in this same scenario! And I look forward to the day when a "group quiet time" might be feasible in the house - though the thought is laughable now! Truly it is we who benefit when we give up something to God instead of hanging tightly to it ourselves.

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