I heard someone say this statement in a sermon. Super simple, and while, it was a quick statement, I was struck by the addendum to a common phrase. We often remind people, or remind ourselves to “Go to Jesus” (Maybe we say “Pray about it.) but we rarely remember to add, “and stay there long enough…” Stay long enough to hear, to learn, to sense, to see.
Let me ask, how long do you stay?
Looking at Jesus’ example we see a habit of retreating to pray:
Mark 6:46: And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
Luke 6:12: In these days he went into the hills to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God.
Luke 9:18: Now it happened that as he was praying alone…
Luke 9:28: He went up on the mountain to pray.
Luke 11:1: He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased…
In the Garden of Gethsemane—Matthew 26:36-45; Mark 14:32-41; Luke 22:39-46.
Luke 5:16 Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
I think we know to pray. We get that. Many of us even carve out time to pray, or write our prayers out. What I’m wondering is how well we are doing with the “stay there long enough” part.
My kids are in the social/running all over the place phase of teen life. I am amused (sometimes irritated) at how often they do this fly-by announcement of their plans as they are already half-way out the door. I feel like I am constantly revisiting the idea of an actual conversation with them. (Literally, as I’m typing this, Kyle comes by my office to ask for something as he was clearly leaving to go somewhere but had neglected to consider letting me know where he was headed.) But perhaps I’m not all that different in my time with God.
I believe, often, transformation comes from the staying.
And not staying some particular amount of time, or in some particular kind of way. That’s a personal thing, but just the practice of staying in any form.
A question that often comes up in Spiritual Direction sessions is “How can I learn to recognize God’s voice?” How can I hear? Well, a decent starting point may be to make sure you are staying long enough to listen. I’m not saying you need to extend your daily quiet time by x number of minutes, although I’m sure that wouldn’t hurt. Maybe you just need equal emphasis on the “go” as the “stay.” Or maybe, for you, it’ more about pausing to reflect as you read through that book you bought to help you grow. Even just reading a little less hurried might be helpful.
TERRIBLE ANALOGY WARNING:
I’ve been killing plants again. I swear, I can’t keep a cactus alive. But I realized a few of my plants were being unintentionally drowned. I was over-watering. I wasn’t giving them any time to “stay there” long enough. We can line up podcast after podcast, have a stack of books ready to go, but if we aren’t making space to stay…
I’m not saying you are going to die like my cactus, I’m just saying that you may not be actually getting the nourishment you need cause you are neglecting the soaking up part.
Go to Jesus. Go to Jesus with everything. For everything. But stay. Stay long enough too. Stay long enough to hear. Stay long enough to learn.
This week, try to stay just a little while longer. See what grows.