My life is being radically transformed by five minutes a day.
Just recently, I was “invited” to take part in a training event for church planters. My fellow clergy colleagues know the reason I put that word in quotation marks. When pastors get “invited” to participate in a meeting or training hosted by their conference or denomination, it’s a nice way of saying, “this is required and you must be present, but we want to sound really nice when we say that.” So, I was “invited” to be a part of this training.
I didn’t want to go. I grumbled. I complained. I whined. I looked for ways out. Nothing worked, so I went.
To my surprise, the training turned out to be a retreat. I rolled my eyes some more. With all the things I have going on trying to plant a new church, I did not have time for a training event, not to mention a retreat!
Over the course of this three-day retreat, I discovered something about myself. We were given some time to read in the book of Revelation chapters one and two. I was speed-reading (in spite of being instructed to slowly read and reflect). Then, God’s Word cut me to my core. As I was about to check off another thing on my list, I read these words from Revelation 2:2-4: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance…I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
Without having realized it, I had become the church in Ephesus. I had become so busy working on planting a church that I had been neglecting my first love. I had not been working on my own personal relationship with Jesus. That’s the reason I am planting the church in the first place. I want people to know and fall in love with the Jesus I know and love. Yet, somehow, in the midst of everything, church work had taken over spiritual work…and make no mistake, the two are not the same.
Later in the retreat, we reviewed a spiritual inventory we had completed a month prior. Graphically, it was represented in a pie chart. Mine looked like someone had stolen a piece of my pie! The missing piece (or the piece that was extremely low) was about personal spiritual development – no big surprise there!
The rest of the retreat, to be quite honest, was a bit of a blur. I was so stunned by this divine revelation that my soul was deeply disturbed. How could it happen? Was this the path to burnout that so many pastors travel before leaving ministry? Was I becoming a statistic? Could I turn it around?
I began looking over my day. The truth is there was no time for personal spiritual development. My days were full of meetings, walking neighborhoods, phone calls, and emails. It was a very unhealthy way of doing ministry and life. I knew I needed God-time…just God and me. At the end of the day, I am so exhausted that I knew that would not have any benefit, because the moment I close my eyes to pray, I’d fall asleep. I’d tried that. It didn’t work – and the phrase, “when I fall asleep praying, it’s like I fall asleep in God’s arms” is just a lazy person’s way of getting out of prayer. That would not do. I had no time in the evening and no time during the day. The only time I could find was the morning. Let me just say that I don’t believe the devil is in the details, the devil is in the morning! I am not a morning person at all! I need at least ten minutes and a cup of coffee after waking before any conversation is directed toward me. I’m a firm believer that nothing should happen before 10 AM.
That being said, I had to make it work. It was my only option.
So, what did I do?
Well, I began setting my alarm clock to an earlier time…five minutes earlier.
That has been the key for me to turn things around. At first, it made little or no difference. Then, after a few days, five minutes became 15 minutes. Now, five minutes is an hour. I wake up before everyone else. I get dressed. I make coffee. I have God-time. It’s silent in the house. I invite God to come be with me, I read Scripture, I pray, and I listen to the Holy Spirit for whatever message I need to hear. This is sacred time for me. I believe it’s sacred time for God, too. I don’t check emails. I don’t check Facebook or Twitter. Those things can wait until after I’ve spent time with God.
I thank God for this time that I have. I thank God that He got my attention through an “invitation” to a retreat. I thank God that He saved me…again! I was headed in the wrong direction, even though the church was headed in the right direction.
Now, things are different. Things are better…not perfect, but better. My love for Jesus is getting stronger each day. And to think…it is all happening because of just five more minutes every day. Getting up five minutes earlier today than I got up yesterday. I’m willing to commit five minutes to recapture my first love. Will you give five more?