I have always struggled with regular quiet time. I know it matters, but it is so intangible that I find myself drawn to concrete tasks to feel like I spent my time well. You shouldn't judge my spiritual health by the cleanliness of my house; it's more likely an inverse relationship that means I spent too much time as Martha and not enough as Mary.
I am also a homebody who has lived in 5 different cities since high school, and in 10 different homes since being married. Needless to say, I have gotten good at settling in and staking my claim on a new home, because I am not okay keeping any home at arm's length. I actually thrive a little on the challenge of setting us up (yet again) with a new layout, redefining the way we function and having a chance to reevaluate.
And every time we move, I imagine that I will somehow carve out a special corner to be sacred - maybe a chair in a quiet nook (doesn't exist in this family!) or comfy pillows just waiting on the bed or a table with a view toward the mountains - that when I find myself there, I will instantly be transported to a spiritual focus and times of study, prayer and reflection will come naturally. I dream that the newness of the home will provide a clean slate so that I can redefine my attitude within it.
Because surely I can find the magic setup to make it just happen, right?
Guess who the common denominator is in all these years of struggle to focus. Yep, me.
The times I have actually been able to experience a lifting of the spirit upon entering a space have nothing to do with anything being new or sacred. They are cultivated by sheer acts of will, that at some point every day I walk into a room and shut the door, then purposely focus on connecting with Jesus. Then finally, after many, many times, the simple act of walking into the room and shutting the door serves to shift my mind and heart into that mode, because it is familiar. It's much like how walking into your childhood home or sitting under a beautiful tree or entering a favorite restaurant can affect you deeply, changing more than just your location, giving you a sense of things being right in the world.
It's the same with our faith in general. When it is new, it feels vibrant and unstoppable. When it begins to become familiar, it can feel stale and repetitive and uninteresting and we start to worry that we lost something that we really needed to keep. But it is in the familiar that we can find a strength that lasts. It is in the plodding ebb and flow of everyday life, the small choice to focus yesterday, and again today, and again tomorrow that we can develop something that feeds our soul, regularly getting what we need to deal with what lies before us.
"You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
- Psalm 16:11