Discipleship for the Frazzled and Busy

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I spoke at a conference earlier this year. The best part of the conference, by far, for me was a panel of mature disciples. The moderator asked a simple question, something like, “How have you managed to integrate spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading into your life?”

I jotted down some of the answers. Start small. Get someone else involved. Drink dark coffee and get used to early mornings. Pick a designated place, like a favourite chair. Find an author you like you stimulates your affections for God. Expect distractions and dry spells. Accept that young children are a devotion killer. Don’t fret about what you don’t understand; keep going. Find someone to disciple you.

I loved the panel. “I would love all of you to read The Works of Jonathan Edwards,” the moderator said. “That would be a great thing. But that’s not going to happen for most of us.”

“I’d be happy if we developed a daily habit of Bible reading and prayer, even if that meant starting small and simply and staying at it.”

We don’t necessarily need everyone to do great things. We need ordinary believers to take small, ordinary, consistent actions to pursue God over a long period of time.

We don’t necessarily need everyone to do great things. We need ordinary believers to take small, ordinary, consistent actions to pursue God over a long period of time.

The Frazzled Mother Test

I’ve developed a test for myself.

When I make applications in my sermons, or describe the ordinary Christian life, I use the frazzled mother test: could a tired mother of twins do this?

It’s not that I want to set the bar low. Someone mentioned last week that they want to invite others in the church to join them in reading the Bible from cover to cover over 40 days next year. Go for it, I said. Some have more capacity. Some people thrive on that kind of challenge.

But others are exhausted from caring for young children. Some are on the road too much for business and come home after long days with little energy left. The question isn’t only what discipleship looks like for those who have margin in their lives. It’s also what discipleship looks like for the frazzled mother, the overextended student during midterms, the retail worker working an evening shift on top of a full-time job to scrape enough money together for food and rent.

That’s why I loved the panel. The panel wrestled with what discipleship looks like not just in our Instagrammed lives but in real lives of too much stress and not enough time — in other words, in my life, and probably yours too.

People I Admire

Most of the people I admire don’t live ideal lives. They are stretched and have too much to do. They don’t have a lot of extra money, and it’s hard for them to get up some days. They don’t always feel like opening up their Bible and praying.

But they do. Not perfectly, mind you. Some days they do better than others. It’s not always pretty. But they’ve figured out how to make a daily habit of seeking God though his Word, prayer, and participation in the life of the church in the middle of their overstretched lives.

That, in my books, is the kind of discipleship we need.

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