When you make an appointment with a parishioner, do you keep the appointment?
What happens if something comes up? Do you reschedule with that person as soon as you're able?
Assuming you do, why? Why do you keep your appointment? Why do you reschedule? Probably because...
- you respect them
- you genuinely care about them
- and they deserve your undivided attention
What would happen to the relationship with that parishioner if you cancelled and rescheduled twice? Five times? Ten? It's likely...
- you'd feel disconnected from them
- you'd miss out on the things they want to share with you
- you'd lose opportunities for collaboration and mutual encouragement
You know where this is going, right?
But this isn't another guilt trip or admonition to prioritize God. Our problem is not in our intentions. You're a preacher. Of course, God is a priority. Of course, you want to spend time with God.
The problem is in the execution, which often comes down to our planning—or failure to plan.
Plus, with competing demands, many of which are worthy and important, prioritizing this time of solitude with the invisible God can feel abstract, less tangible than the hospital visitation, and therefore less important.
We're tempted to think it doesn't really matter. But it does.
Why does it matter?
God always wants to be on our schedule, but not because God's ego needs us to show up. God wants to be on our schedule for our benefit.
So we remember we have God's undivided attention.
So we learn to recognize God's voice.
So we experience the love of our creator.
So we can rest in this sacred relationship from the need to perform and produce.
God knows that when we are connected to God, we grow in knowledge that we are loved, that we are secure, that nothing can separate us from God.
When we are loved, we love. When we are secure, we offer freedom. When we are confident that nothing can snatch us from God's hand, we are willing to enter into the dark and lonely places of oppression to bring light and life.
Not only is this time necessary for the life of any Christian, but we who are stewards of the Gospel, who have the privilege to speak about God from a position of authority, have a particular need to know—intimately, first-hand, in real life—the One we speak of.
Fortunately, we're always on God's agenda. In spite of all that's on God's "plate," God still makes us a priority.
So how do we create regular, consistent space for God in our busy pastoral and personal lives?
Write "God" on your calendar
I suggest you write "God" in your calendar daily and stick to that appointment with at least as much care, attention, and respect as you do your parishioners.
If you need to cancel, no doubt God understands. But reschedule that time for later in the day. Then keep the new appointment. If it must wait for the next day, at least turn to God with full attention as your head hits the pillow.
The risk, though, is that we will become desensitized to "rescheduling" and find ourselves putting God off day after day: always too busy, always giving priority elsewhere.
Pretty soon, we'll find ourselves running spiritually empty and offering spiritually empty words in our sermons.
Consider instead what happens to your relationship when you do give God your undivided attention. What happens to your spirit, heart, stress level, and sermon? Only good things.
Go and do it right now. Schedule your appointment with God.
Then take a few minutes every Monday morning to look at your calendar and decide when you and God will meet each day. Schedule "God" on your calendar, and enjoy your time together.
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