Come close to God, and God will come close to you. James 4:8
Is it better to spend Quantity or Quality time with the Lord?
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, discovered this:
- Quantity is best for starting a new habit.
- Quality is best for improving a habit.
Quantity is produced through consistency, and quality through intentionality.
The consistent practice of just showing up daily will help to form the habit, and then after that foundation has been built, sprinkling intentionality into those workouts will prevent plateauing. While I have experienced the truthfulness of this mindset in my ultratraining, I realized there are implications for our spiritual practices as well.
Many of us commit to building a regular spiritual workout routine after an amazing God encounter, Spiritual retreat, some dramatic life moment, or some other quality time with the Lord. However, many of us quickly quit these habits because the daily routine becomes monotonous and fails to produce the same quality experiences day after day.
By giving up, however, we loose the consistency necessary to develop a spiritual habit. Quantity is necessary to make the routine stick. By losing this consistency, we lose the small, imperceptible efforts that will led to life-long changes.
We go into times of devotion, prayer, bible reading, small group meetings and worship services expecting God to do something powerful every single time. Then when it does not happen we walk away wondering if that effort, time commitment and sacrifice was really worth it.
Thomas Merton captures this when he describe his daily devotions: it was “more laborious than consoling, and required a sacrifice. It was much the same with all my devotions. They did not come easily or spontaneously, and they very seldom brought with them any strong sensible satisfaction. Nevertheless the work of performing them ended in a profound and fortifying peace: a peace that was scarcely perceptible, but which deepened and which, as my passions subsided, became more and more real, and more and more sure, and finally stayed with me permanently.”
Many of us have allowed this pandemic to interrupt our regular engagement in public worship. In doing so we have lost that consistency. Therefore, it should be no wonder why it seems that anxiety, anger, fatigue, loneliness and despair have emerged within our hearts.
Merton, Clear and Jesus’ brother all make the same point – Just Show Up.
While it may seldom bring a sense of satisfaction, over the years you will discover a peace that is more real and more permanent than you ever imagined.