I came of age in my Christian faith during the 1980s. I grew up with faith, but in college and beyond I made it personal and active. And formulaic. Like the way everyone wore “Miami Vice” colors in the 1980s, every Christian college-age kid was encouraged to join a bible study, a church, learn how to do “friendship evangelism” and — this is the big one — have a “quiet time.”
“Quiet time” sounds kinda Quakerish, which has a hipster-antediluvian appeal, like beards and home-brewed beer and mason jars.
If only it were so.
I’m not trashing the idea itself. Having a time to be quiet is a great thing, especially when Twitter and Facebook clamor at us from our first waking moment. Just about every religious tradition has some form of getting the mind to shut the h-e-doubletoothpicks up and focus on the Almighty. Muslims kneel on their prayer mats. Hindus and yogis chant “om.” Buddhists do their (what sounds like) om-nom-nom rom-com Seiko.
Settling down is such a great idea. It truly is. Now, I was given a form to follow. Not a bad thing when you’re first starting out; you need guidance. Whatever guidance I was given, I took it and ran it into the end zone: Do the PRAY acronym: Praise, Repent, Ask Yield. Read a portion of scripture and ask what God is saying to you. Pray for the lost souls in China, Russia and New York City. I also got into the habit of journaling.
It was all good. But after a few years, I started to resent it—not only because the form became a burden, but also because all those problems of living in an imperfect world were not being solved. As young adults, we think we are going to conquer the world, solve every problem, achieve our dreams, marry our dream spouse, etc.
Problems don’t go away; they get worse. Our careers falter, we get dumped. The problems we thought faith would solve remain unsolved. So what happens if our faith is linked to those insoluble problems? We might think it was all a lie. Baby with the bathwater.
The truth I learned much later, was that the Bible is full of tragedy and insoluble problems. God did not intend us to wrap everything up with a bow, but rather dig deeper into a greater depth and reality that sings, “Even so, it is well with my soul.”
Nevertheless, one of the casualties of that hard-won realization (aside from hating to journal) was that I came to dread the Quiet Time. I had so clearly associated it with old formulas and busted expectations. How easy, then, to rush to Facebook, twitter or Buzzfeed first thing in the morning. The terrorists won.
A year ago, authors Cathleen Falsani and Jennifer Grant told me they were putting together a book called “Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, The Faithful, and a Few Soundrels.”
They wanted anti-quiet time essays, something that wouldn’t go into a typical devotional. Would I like to contribute? I said, “H-E-Doubletoothpicks yeah!”
Being a comedienne, I always looked for humor in things. I hadn’t found humor in the bible until very recently. So the essay I contributed to the book is called “The Bible: Full of Sound, Fury, Sarcasm and Poop Jokes.” It was a lot of fun to uncover all the sarcasm and irony spoken by the Lord’s anointed.
The book is packed with intriguing essays. Here are a selection I can’t wait to read: A High Tolerance For Ambiguity, Scriptural Cherry-Picking, SLUT!, Apocalypse Later, and Why Isn’t the Link to the Divine Salvific Download Working? Contributors include Grant and Falsani of course; also Brian McLaren, Margot Starbuck, Karen Swallow Prior, Anna Broadway, Gareth Higgins, and one of my favorite humans, Steve Brown.
If you have been disquieted by the task of having a quiet time; if you’ve been disillusioned by the failure of formulas you were fed in your earlier years, guess what? You’re not alone. You’re not wrong. God didn’t intend for you to settle for the shallows. You’re invited to go deeper, find terrible and wonderful gifts, and come to that place where you can say, “even so it is well with my soul.”
Not to brag, but Disquiet Time may help you get there.
The book is available in stores, online at Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and yeah, even Amazon (Amazon is in a very public war with DQ’s publisher, Hachette, so I say fooey to Amazon). And visit the DQ website to learn more about the faithful, skeptical and scoundrel contributors.