When I was a teenager, my youth pastors were insistent that to be a leader in our youth group I had to be spending time growing my faith. Pretty much on a yearly basis, they would pull out the “TAWG” talk. Don’t know what the “TAWG” is? It’s an acronym for Time Alone With God. Honestly, I hated the talk. I hated it because TAWG Time sounds goofy (still does) but even more because I knew, even as 13 year old, that spending time with God was important for not just my soul but for my everything. I think another reason TAWG bothered me was because it sounds so simple – take time every day and be with God. My problem was that it was never as simple as it sounded. I struggled to make the time and then I struggled to feel like the time meant anything – like I was going through motions. I knew it mattered because even on my worst days, I could feel the lingering effects of connection with God (even when I didn’t feel the connection during my TAWG time). I can remember searching for devotional books or trying my hand at journaling or stepping out into the “read the bible in a year plan” only to be frustrated when the devo was dry, or my writing seemed blocked, or when I got to Leviticus.
Now that I’m nearing 40, I still often have to force myself into times of TAWG. I can find the excuses – usually it’s the warmth of my bed on a cold morning – and I still struggle with devotionals or reading plans from my Bible App. But I also understand how much more important this time is – how needed it is – how much I actually crave it when I do oversleep. I don’t hear the audible voice as I sit and read and think and pray. I don’t have warm fuzzy feelings every morning. But I do know that the day has really begun once I drink that last sip of coffee and say amen.
I’ve learned something since those yearly “TAWG” talks. My youth pastors probably even said this, but I was hung up on the duties and the tools more than the point. Spending time with God isn’t solely about what I do – it’s about who I do it with. I can read scripture and it can be like plodding through a muddy field. I can listen to worship music in my car and have all kinds of good vibes, but I can also do that with artists like Queen and Norah Jones. I can use the “Lord’s Prayer” or the ACTS model as a guide to prayer and say nothing more than words. But TAWG is more than doing some things – it’s about being with my Abba.
Henri Nouwen has said that the most important message we need to re-learn as a creation is that we are the “beloved children of God.” This God is not distant and unengaged. This God instead has chosen to enter into our story and make sure we can actually know him. I know the male-pronoun bugs a lot of people, but that’s getting hung up on small things. God has revealed himself as ABBA – as daddy. That’s not about male or female – it’s about intimacy and closeness. God wants you and I, his sons and daughters, to be with Him.
Any parent knows that when a child calls out daddy or mommy, things are different. There is something about that closeness – that raw depth that just melts away all the other junk. “Hey DAD” sounds a whole lot different than “hey daddy.” This is what I’m learning my TAWG needs to be – it’s an opportunity to say “hey daddy – good morning, I’m so glad your my abba.” I don’t need another devotional book (I have plenty). I don’t need another reading plan (even though I use them every day). What I need is to remember that the God of the universe – the God of the seas and storms – the God of the ups and downs – the God who has blessed us with the gift of coffee – has set apart this time to be with me. It is my time with my daddy – the one who loves me beyond words. It is a time for more than something I could do – as if one more book could seal the deal – and instead a time to be.
PS – one of the most recent distractions from being with my daddy has been the political insanity in the US right now. The noise is deafening. Calls for justice and mercy are as much a part of my heart as the blood that pumps through my veins. I abhor the thought of people seeking asylum and help being left out due to our fear. But I equally hate the rhetoric of both sides that is being used by good people. As I cringed at my social media feed this morning, I felt the nudge of the holy – “hey Jim, instead of being mad or irritated, how about pray for those involved? How about pray for the President – I mean really pray that his heart would be soft? How about turn off the noise and pray?” I think it’s time for some TAWG or maybe better yet Time With My Abba.