By Karen Swank
Handwritten in the front of my Bible is the following:
I commit myself to build the Kingdom through reliance upon You as manifested through a life of prayer. I will turn down opportunity when I have too little time for prayer. I ask for grace to fulfill my covenant to believe You for the fullness of grace and never to settle for a nominal life in God.
I wrote it there early in 2004. I was working the In-School Suspension room, supervising kids who had earned time in a room without windows. They had watched, indignant as I pulled out my House of Prayer manuals and my Bible, preparing for three long days of silence in a small space. I still smile when I remember how incredulous their voices were: You brought your BIBLE to SCHOOL?! I laughed and promised not to read it to them against their will, and proceeded with my studies while they commenced napping and/or seeing how much mischief they could get away with.
Those beautiful lines above were not my original work. I found them in a House of Prayer manual, and they undid me instantly. I had to grab them, to hold them, to make them mine. I wrote them in ink without hesitation.
Later a friend would happen across them and stare at me over his glasses, admonishing me to be careful what I promised. But you know, I am aware of what covenant is. I’m not sorry for entering into this one.
What I want to be is forever crazy in love with Jesus. What I want to do is serve His purposes and nothing else. What I want to see, to hear, is the world around me from His perspective. What I want to feel is His all-consuming passion. I want to spit out anything that even hints at a nominal life in God, to shake its dust off my feet and leave it far behind. I want to burn so brightly that no one ever has to ask whether I know Christ…so warmly that everyone in the circle of my influence is drawn ever more to Him.
The conversation with God that began well before I wrote inside my Bible stretches on, deepening but never changing in its basic elements. It’s sprinkled throughout my life, populating my bookshelves and music files and leaving me highly disinterested in anything I deem not to be part of the covenant.
I am learning that pursuing that promise drives me to simplicity. More and more, I turn away from opportunities to do many good and worthwhile things as I guard my quiet time with increasing jealousy. From committees to projects to concerts to parties…more and more the no thanks is settled deep within me.
Solitude, rest and re-centering time grow ever more important. Where I used to accept every offer and volunteer at every need, today I measure the cost. This week, that meant surrendering my Saturday to housework, re-creating an ordered and peaceful home after a sustained run of crazy that had let everything fall into chaos.
It cost: I turned down an invitation from my daughter for an event I’d have loved to attend, I missed my son’s marching band performance, I offered my regrets when a friend was looking for a pinch hitter, and I didn’t even consider helping with our local “Make A Difference Day.”
What I knew was that this list of chores wasn’t only about making a good impression or even being a good steward of the space He has provided me; it was an important element in preserving the covenant. I was so desperately hungry for that secret place found only in prayer that I couldn’t let one more thing – no matter how worthy that thing was – interfere with getting there.
And so I cleaned house, filled with longing and anticipation and absolute certainty that I was where I was supposed to be. May you, too, find yourselves exactly where you belong… even if it’s cleaning house.
If you liked this, check out: Awake at 3am: Musings in the morning
Karen is from Aledo, IL. She went to Monmouth College and studied Latin and English. She is a biological mom of two children and surrogate mom/friend/advocate for a whole host of children. She would like to meet every wounded soul that I’ve she’s ever known… as a child, before the “damage was done” so she could tell them how much they are loved.