Continuing on the same path of a few recent posts, I want to be open about another struggle in my faith. I've found there's healing in this, not only for me, but possibly for people reading this who share the same struggles.
I have to admit that I don't pray or read the Bible near as much as I should.
I feel a bit odd making an entire post about this, because this seems to be the most common source of guilt for Christians. I don't hear it all that often, since people tend not to air out their problems on a daily basis, but I can remember hearing it often enough.
Usually it's in the scenario of someone asking a church group for a hand raise if they think they pray enough, others are in writings from counselors who posed the question individually to many people. They always say they get the same response. Hands aren't raised, individuals express guilt that they fall short of the mark, and a face full of shame always accompanies the answer.
And the same goes for reading the Bible. Much too often, Christians fall out of the habit of studying the instruction book for our faith. We'll attend church services, talk to friends about this week's sermon, and admit our faith to the world, but this seemingly essential piece of the puzzle goes missing.
A couple years ago, my wife decided to get a 1-year study bible. It's a Eugene Peterson publication that has The Message chopped up into daily chunks. Every day, you get a little Old Testament and a little New Testament. Each book has a blurb about its importance in the big story, and every 7th day has a single paragraph suggesting something for you to pray on and meditate about as a way to rest from the week's study.
I started reading it occasionally, starting from the very beginning with the books of Genesis and John. Later that year, I began commuting on public transit, so finding study time became easier. I even had time to catch up on a couple days all at once when I fell behind. I was on this schedule for most of a year, but still I didn't make it through the study.
Since then, I've had more time at home than I've had since college. You would think I would catch up on my bible study, spend time reading and praying in the morning now that I left the house about an hour later than before. You would think that, but unfortunately you couldn't be farther from the truth.
Not only have I severely cut back on the time I spend reading for pleasure (I think I've finished 5 books during this year), I've barely picked up the study Bible. When I do, I tend to keep it up for a couple of days before I wake up late, rush through a shower, barely have time to wait for coffee to brew, and run out the door. I end up right back at square one.
The story isn't as structured, but the same goes for prayer. I like to pray in bed before we turn out the lights. I don't fall asleep during prayers, but I tend to drift off and get sidetracked thinking about other things. When I first wake up, I haven't thought through my day enough to organize my brain. So, I hold off my big prayer til the end of the day, and more often than not I forget about it. And when you don't pray every day, I forget to pray about the little things that come up, like a tough project at work, health issues with my friends and family, or just a waive of gratitude about something good in my life.
I should probably feel better about this knowing that so many Christians have the same struggles, but I can't help but see the outliers. People like my dad, who I remember seeing at least once a week at the breakfast table with his study bible and a notepad during my childhood years, never expecting to be noticed. People like my friends with their new baby girl, who I hear talk faithfully about what they read or prayed about the other day, accidentally letting me in on their habits of faith. People like my Facebook friends, who post scripture references on almost a daily basis, making me realize how some people live their lives completely focused on the word of God.
These are just outward signs of a private habit. A habit I wish I had. A practice I wish I was better at.
While it might not seem like it, this journal is about more than words. It's about me being honest with myself about myself, and it's about mapping my journey toward a better me. So today, I'm giving myself a goal. No, I'm making myself a promise.
Today, I am on day 265 of my 365 day study. 100 days from now, I will finish what I started 2 years ago. Not because I need a goal, but because this goal is important. I need to be a better man of faith. I need to lead my family more strongly. I need my children to see me at the breakfast table showing them what a faithful Christian looks like.
Always moving forward,