You may have heard of the book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ by Dr. Gary Chapman. It was written in 1995 and sold millions of copies.
In it we read of five ways in which people like to give and receive love. Supposedly we all fit into at least one of these categories and so we are encouraged to learn about our own but more importantly our partner’s love language to ensure a happy relationship. Unfortunately my love languages of instant noodles and James Taylor songs have not made the official cut. Quality time however has! It is one of the five.
Quality time has become a phrase that is often used these days.
On the one hand that may be due to a natural, human need for relational depth and times of undivided attention to the other – the sort of time where friendships are born, grown or even resurrected.
One the other hand I think people talk about quality time because it is caught up in a battle these days. Our society and our city with its pace of life have become antagonistic towards quality time – maybe unwillingly so. Like a cactus trying to hug a balloon we often see that the two do not go well together (and guess which one goes ‘pop’). We are constantly over-stimulated by anti-social media, noise, business and yet the irony is that we often are surrounded by people we either like, find interesting or at least could learn a great deal from.
Do you remember the last time where quality time with a friend just ‘happened’? In my own experience this is rare and one has to be very intentional about this.
What am I trying to say?
As Christians it is our testimony that God, from the beginning of time has shown that intentionality towards us. The thread that runs through the whole bible is that God seeks relationship with us.
The garden Eden, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Incarnation, Pentecost, the new creation – they all point us to the mediated or unmediated presence of God with his people. Besides words of affirmation and obedience, quality time is certainly one of God’s love languages.
But are we speaking it? Are we present with him?
In the Gospel of Luke (chapter 10:38-42) we find a short account of Jesus visiting the home of a women called Martha. After Jesus arrives, Martha is busy making preparation whilst her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to him. Martha complains about Mary’s seeming inefficiency and tries to get Jesus on her side who replies: ‘Martha, Martha, […] you are worried about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ (Lk 10:41-42)
Mary chose what was better: quality time with Jesus.
For me this is one of those stories that we may have heard many times but its significance makes it worth reading again and again. It is a simple story about slowing down and being fully present with Jesus.
I wonder what Martha was thinking as she was busy making preparations. I reckon she had clear priorities: ‘Everything has to be ready and perfect’ rather than simply ‘Jesus!’.
What are our priorities?
We can get so caught up in what we do for God that we skip being present with him. This story however shows that Jesus wants us to value presence over performance.
Let us cultivate times in which we can simply ‘be still and know’ that he is God and we are not (see Ps 46:10).
Here are some thoughts on what this could actually look like:
Presence over performance
Our discipleship is most authentic when it comes out of a real relationship with Jesus. Unless we are personally convinced of this and make it a real priority, we may simply try to squeeze ‘quality time’ into a legalistic mold which is not the point. What are our priorities? Have we adopted a wrong perspective on discipleship?
Turn off the noise
What is keeping us from regular quality time with God?
What do we worry about (see verse 42)? What is keeping us occupied? There can be internal or external distractions. It is obviously difficult to create a complete vacuum for distraction-free time with God. Often all we can do is to choose to ‘sit at Jesus’ feet’ (figuratively speaking) rather than somewhere else, to focus all our attention on him. Once there, surrender what is still in the way. It can be helpful to name and identify things crawling around in the back of our minds.
We are very used to praying to God but are we letting him speak as well? In verse 39 we read that Mary was listening to Jesus.
Equally we may have a very clear structure that we follow in our personal quiet times. Do these structures allow for relational intimacy or are we holding business meetings with God?
Let us remind ourselves that we can come before God with all our pain, confusion, doubts as well as our praise, faith and thankfulness. (There are plenty of examples of Lament in the Psalms!)
In this summer season, what specific steps could you take towards regular quality time with God?
Written by Timo Scharnowski