Making Space

The most productive spiritual time of my week comes at 8pm on a Friday night.

In the tub.

Like my mother before me, I am famous for my baths.  As far as I was concerned, the main feature of the home my husband and I purchased several years ago was that it had an honest-to-goodness soaking tub, something I had longed for over a near-decade of apartment living.

Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy Tub Things.  Bath bubbles and salts and oils and bombs.  Bath pillows.  Bath melts.  I found a pile of terry cloth head-wraps for a ridiculously cheap price so I can feel like I am at a spa.  I keep the water near-boiling, I kick the cats out, and at the end of the week the tub is the reward.

I used to read in there, or poke around on the Internet on my phone, or sometimes doze.  Of late, though, I have gotten into a habit that gives me no end of pleasure: I listen to 15-20 minutes of a fluffy little podcast (nothing serious or that demands much thought) and then I pray.  Although I pray throughout the day much more spontaneously (personal, confessional, and intercessory prayers), in the tub on Friday I follow the structure of the Daily Office.  I read a Psalm and the relevant reading for the day.  I take time to listen to God.   And I always come out feeling like I’ve just left church.

Lately I’ve been trying to pinpoint why that is.  Why is the Friday bath time so spiritually productive?  I have prayed the office at other times, but never with such a consistently positive result.  I have prayed at other times when I was feeling unstressed and calm, but it’s never quite as profound an experience.  I have a daily quiet time but it’s never like this.  What is it about Fridays in particular, and Fridays in the tub?

And I realized it’s simple: on Fridays, in the tub, I make space: mental, emotional, and physical space.

When Friday evening hits, I make a point to forget about work.  It’s not going to come haunt me on Saturday and nothing needs to be done until Monday for my job, so I let go.  I don’t check my work email or answer notifications.  I take some time away from what needs to be done around the house or for my husband.  I give myself permission to crawl away from everything I might be feeling all my feelings about.  I abandon all obligations for an hour and in that hour, I suddenly have the time and space I need to order my mind properly to do the full, focused time with God I want to do.

I will state for the record that I think it’s always better to have some prayer than no prayer, and some time with God than no time with God.  But I think culturally we’ve started approaching our time with God as something we can multitask – an Instagram Bible verse, a two-second devotional in the car before we run in to grab the groceries, listening to a preacher while the kids argue in the backseat – and we’re losing something important in the process.  We can’t give God our full attention and time.  We’re forgetting how.

I suspect this is tied in with God’s desire for us to have Sabbath as well: a time to cease working and put everything down and simply experience His presence.  But who among us really does this, even on God’s day?

That kind of boundaried time is honestly even harder to come by during the week.  My job comes creeping in to my mind at all hours during weekdays.  There’s always a task to do or a next thing to think about – and I’m a college professor, so you better believe work never actually ends during working hours.  Still, we have to learn to re-prioritize our spiritual time with God in the same way that Mary did while Martha rushed around making dinner and cleaning the kitchen.  We have to carve it out.

For me from here on out, that means cutting off everything I want to be doing a half hour before bed so I can try to get some of that “bath time” vibe going the rest of the week.  For you, maybe it means waiting an extra day to do the laundry.  Or putting your phone or work laptop away.  Or giving up your Netflix habit.  Some sacrifices will feel big, others small.  But the payoff is huge.

The truth is, God will fill the space we allow Him to fill.  It’s not like He won’t show up if we set the time aside.  It’s not like He isn’t eager to be there, or waiting, or putting something else on His calendar.  It’s all on us to make the space for Him – and once we have, He’ll inhabit it.

What will you do to make that boundaried, Sabbath-style space for God throughout the week?