A line from an old hymn came to me this morning as I was taking this photo: “Early in the morning, my song shall rise to Thee.”
But I can’t sing that honestly. Because early in the morning, I struggle to discipline myself enough to sit down and journal, or pray, or meditate — let alone sing (trying to focus on the words and not be distracted by my own warbly voice). Early in the morning, I tend to get distracted by the tasks for the day, or the fun easy thing I’d rather do. Early in the morning, I want to go my own way.
I’ve tried various approaches to this morning time. I’m always trying new tactics to keep things fresh, or to “be more disciplined,” or to address a specific weakness I see in myself. I’ve tried using prompts, and I’ve tried studying with different methods. I’ve also tried just sitting and being with God, in a receptive attitude. If I only ever approach it from a study tactic, I tend to live and write too much from my head and get focused on productivity. If I just sit and abide, I tend to lose focus on His word, and leave too much room for my fickle feelings.
For the longest time, I’ve seen that struggle for consistency to be failure. But I think I have a fresh angle this morning.
I will probably always struggle with this. I will probably always struggle with finding a way to keep my meeting-with-God time happening, meaningful, and balanced — and you know what? That’s okay! Doing it imperfectly and unevenly is a normal part of being human, and it’s part of my weakness I need to acknowledge and embrace in order to be receptive to His strength.
As long as I keep up the illusion that I’m can fix this on my own, what need do I have for God’s power?
Also, in one sense, the struggle is the success. Success at not giving up. Success at continuing to recognize that — much as I prefer to think otherwise — I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have life nailed down.
Struggling is proof that I’m perservering.
So I need to give myself some of that grace I’m always telling others they need to give themselves! Yes, I’m only sporadically successful at the visible markers. But as long as I keep showing up and keep struggling to yield, persist at letting go of my “strength” and turning toward His, maybe that’s the real success.
This doesn’t just work with Bible study and prayer. It works with how we care for our body, too. In that area, a struggle I think I’ll always have is late night munchies. Wanting to eat a li’l sumthin’ sumthin’, not because I’m physically hungry, but because of some other hunger at work: boredom, restlessness, the blues. The later I’m up, the stronger their call. My sleeping schedule has been out of whack lately, and that sets me up for more “failure.”
Or… it sets me up to be more dependent on God.
In Psalm 90:14, Moses says, “Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” The word “satisfy” implies that there was first a hunger, an emptiness. And notice — God doesn’t say, “Don’t be hungry;” He says, “Be satisfied; be filled.”
So the challenge for me — and probably you — is to recognize our hunger, our emptiness, or our sense of failure for what it is: something that points us to our legitimate need to be filled. (Did you know you have four different kinds of hunger? I’ve written about that here: Your four hungers. And why you should stop feeling guilty for every craving.)
So early in the morning, and late at night, I’ll [try to] respond to my struggles and hungers and “failures” not with beating myself up or doubling my effort or giving in to the easy way, but with remembering to say, “Yes, Lord: this is who I am without you. I need You. Fill me, strengthen me, satisfy me with You.”
That’s how to fail — and succeed at the same time.
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Read Emily Freeman’s post in a similar vein: How Power Plays.