Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Ever feel guilty when you hear somebody preaching about how Christians don’t spend enough time communing with God and we should?
And Guilt Descends…
Well, I used to react that way, too.
And then I took this topic to the Lord in prayer.
Here’s my story and maybe some encouragement for you as well.
Because, you see, it’s all good.
I was listening to a discussion on being mindful of God and the importance of spending time in prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship. I remembered my early months as a new Christian when I might go days with very few thoughts about God! And, back then, that realization held fear and disappointment for me.
One day, I prayed, “Lord, I should be thinking more about You (what we now call being more “mindful”)! Help!”
I had not come to Christ at some revival, church meeting, Bible study, or even via someone’s evangelistic outreach. I was too cynical for all that, I’m afraid, so there were no people involved, as it were, to go to for help.
(Although, thinking back, there were Christians living in our apartment building who, I recall, did live differently than the rest of us. They had a certain peace and calm about them. They prayed together, the husband and wife, Sue and Stu. Probably for the rest of us!)
I had come to Christ through Bible reading, a book I had regarded simply as a “best seller,” which became my “best Savior,” you might say, that night in November 1973 when certain words I was reading suddenly became “real” in a way I was not expecting nor did I wholly understand.
I just “knew” it was “my time to choose.”
I suddenly realized that all the other “learning” about life and spirituality I had done on my own steam had born little helpful fruit.
“I choose You, God,” I said, that night, and my world forever changed.
By the grace of God (and likely the prayers of Sue and Stu and others) I began my relationship with Jesus Christ.
I had a religious upbringing, Roman Catholicism, but This. Was. Different.
This was an “inside job,” not all that external effort.
I was hungry as I never had been for God, His Word, and spiritual growth, like an infant always looking for food and contact. My testimony elsewhere details the Catholic Bible/Liturgy Study I attended for a while in those days because I knew nowhere else to go for spiritual instruction. But I came to realize that that particular curriculum was not only not classic Christianity, it failed to satisfy.
I took this disappointment to the Lord in prayer, too.
“What am I not getting?” I asked Him.
What came to mind was this: “You are going to books to learn of Me. Come to Me and I will reveal the Word to you.”
Here’s what: day by week by month by year gleaning what spiritual food I could from reading the Word of God, meeting with other like-minded believers, attending Bible teaching churches, participating in various Bible study groups, and prayer. Although, as illustrated above, not the book kind of prayer, mostly just talking to God as I would talk with someone else. Oh, and learning to discern the “answers,” too of course, as I grew in understanding, to make sure they aligned with the rest of His words.
I grew spiritually as we do when we “feed” on the Word of God, like feeding on literal food. Sometimes fast food, other times, a leisurely meal; sometimes a quick snack, other times a seven course feast. All of this spiritual nutrition, however, doing what food does: aids growth, healing, and satisfaction.
It’s not that I had/have set times every day when I pray or read the Bible or study. It’s not that I went to Bible College, or attend church every time the doors open. I just fed—feed—when I can, with whom I can, and where and when I can.
It’s all good.
My growing “mindfulness,” then, has been more like a testimony I heard once by a young woman who had been saved out of the “pageant world,” as she put it.
Her young life into her twenties had been consumed by entering beauty contests in which there were also plenty of social events featuring “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll”.
And then she met Christ.
And pretty soon she, too, couldn’t seem to get enough of God’s Word and teachings.
“It was as if the more I filled up on God’s Word,” I heard her say once on a Christian television program, “that other stuff was gradually pushed out.” She compared it to a glass of “dirty water” filling up from the bottom, now, with “clean water,” all the while pushing the bad out.
Her testimony is a story of a very quiet, gradual “deliverance” from a destructive lifestyle via learning about God in His Word. She said she realized one day that her life had just completely changed—and this awareness took her somewhat by surprise.
Her priorities, she realized, had, over time, dramatically shifted. The constant focus on the physical was slowly supplanted by growing spiritually and she finally found the peace she had craved in the pursuit of beauty crowns and her old social life. She had also stopped drinking, smoking, and destructive partying, almost as a side effect, she said.
I think there are more testimonies like this than the drama we so often associate with spiritual transformation.
My own “transformation” was similar in that little by little I became more mindful of God as I slowly became more versed in the verses, gaining knowledge of God a “jot” here, a “tittle” there, so to speak.
Though my spiritual growth has sometimes stagnated other times soared, through time I have come constantly into more of the depth and breadth of this life of grace. A work in progress.
Now, these forty-three years after my spiritual re-birth, although I maintain my family, fellowship, and work schedules the first thing I want in the morning is more of God’s Word, commentaries and teachings. Indeed, I am often inspired to write another blog post, such as today’s, by some topic I listen to on Christian radio programs that I tune in to as I am readying for the day.
In contrast to my early days as a believer, I don’t think these days even one hour goes by without in some way being mindful of God via some scrap of Scripture remembered for guidance or comfort, by inserting some kind of prayer into a need of the moment, or by simply praising Him for what I see, hear, taste, touch, or smell of His good work in my purview, in addition to more traditional forms of growth in Christ via fellowship and Bible studies.
And this, I have to say, is by His grace. Indeed, as He promised, “He is (has and will be) perfecting that which concerns me” (Psalm 138:8)—even my mindfulness of Him.
It works the same for everyone.
May I encourage you, too, reader, to bring your own concerns to Him and then see what He will do for you.
I know this for sure: He can replace your worry, disappointment, and guilt with joy and growth you hadn’t known possible. And you, too, will soon realize how much closer you have become to Him.
Because the truth is, “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
You see, He desires communion with you, too.