By the Rev. Sarah Heath
I have a confession to make: the closest thing I have to a daily devotional is the a flip calendar in the staff bathroom at my office.
Yup, it is true. I am horrible at doing a daily “quiet time.” For those of you not familiar with the term “quiet time,” it is a time each day that a Christian takes to study scripture, pray, and reflect. People often use a devotional book as a tool for guiding their daily discipline.
Despite my own lackluster devotional discipline, I’m a contributing author for the just released Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels–a book of reflections on scripture. Seem crazy? I won’t after some background context…
When I was in college, several of my friends were really consistent at doing a daily “quiet time.” One friend carried around a tattered copy of The Upper Room (a daily devotional with scripture and encouragement). I would see her reading it whenever we had a bit of free time. We didn’t go to a Christian college so, you can imagine her sitting on a bench bible in one hand tattered devotional in the other was an unusual site. She was just such a “good” Christian.
I always wondered if I was even a real Christian because I never seemed to stick with a devotional past the first couple of chapters. Our college pastors would emphasize the value of having a daily devotional, but I never could do it. I even wrote in a devotional magazine for teens a couple of times. But when they sent me the free subscription for being a contributing author I couldn’t seem to make myself read it daily instead I would sit down and read it all at once.
I remember trying to make a habit of waking up early in the morning and reading a daily bit of scripture and a lesson. I would sit down to read and either nod off or find myself daydreaming. To beat this bad habit I started doing a quiet time with a journal in hand. I would end up drawing and although the time was spent with God it never fit the mold of an official “quiet time.”
One year I decided to use the book Co-dependent No More as my daily devotional, and for once it stuck. Anyone who works in the helping professions can tell you there is a certain personality that often goes along with the job. We tend to allow ourselves to become so other focused we truly become co-dependent. I found the devotional at a library’s free give away table. It seemed so enticing, a daily look at the ways we can release the need to control our lives and the lives of others. I loved that the book invited me to wrestle daily with how we are to walk with God. The daily readings, that sometimes included scripture, would give me inspiration without giving me the answers.
The reason that the other devotionals didn’t work for me was that they tried to tie up all the loose ends of the scripture passage in about a ten minute block of reading. I don’t like that in sitcoms and I definitely don’t like that when it comes to the bible. Not everything can be answered so quickly and when I read scripture I find so many more questions than answers. As I read scripture it comes alive and I end up with a page of questions.
Perhaps that is why I love reading scripture for sermon preparation. I have a chance to look through commentaries and really question why scripture says certain things, leaves out others, and is sometimes the most confusing piece of literature ever written. When I would read devotionals I always felt like I had just skimmed the surface.
So you can imagine my hesitance when a good friend Cathleen asked me to be part of her book devotional book project. She was getting a bunch of authors and generally curious humans together to write a new devotional. What hooked me was when she shared that the title would be “Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels.” That was a devotional I could get behind!
I imagine I am often walking between faithful and scoundrel. The editors, Cathleen Falsani and Jennifer Grant, invited us to share the part of scripture that bothered us most. I wrote about a part of scripture that has always bothered me: the idea that women are to be silent. I remember the first time I read it. It didn’t make sense to me.
I knew amazing women who had so much to offer the church. Why would God silence them? Now I have spent a good amount of time in seminary wrestling with that scripture and I have come to a nice understanding of why it is there, and how it has been misused, but as a college student that would have thrown me. If that bit of scripture had popped up while I was reading my daily devotional, I would have been left with more questions than answers.
As an adult I have learned that God is often worshiped by those questions we ask. When something doesn’t sit right with us we really look into it and it causes us to become single minded and focused as we investigate a passage. I think that is why I am so excited that I was part of the Disquiet Time team. It is a book full of ideas that continue to challenge us as we look at scripture. It causes us to pause and look deeper. It doesn’t promise a nice tidy wrap up but it does promise us that we will be challenged and through that challenge we will grow.
So, I hope you will read it and that it will be the kind of devotional you are excited to engage. Considering it asks the questions of why there are so many passages about poop, angelic netherbits, and what the end times is really all about I can’t see how it wouldn’t be something that would cause you to come back again and again.
Read more here: http://revsarahheath.com/disquiet-time/