Disciplining a Wandering Heart: Caitlin Whitfield
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it”
“Prone to leave the God I love.”
As a new school year begins to take off, I once again find my heart confessing these words found in the beautiful hymn “Come Thou Fount”. How easy it is for my heart to wander, especially when life is busy.
Frustrated and puzzled on how this can be the case, again, I wonder why my heart is so willing to leave the very thing I seek to love the most. Keeping my wandering heart focused on God requires discipline. I must bind my wandering heart to God each day through spiritual discipline. Have I mastered the disciplines? Absolutely not. Nor can I offer a definite list of spiritual disciplines, but here are a few things I strive to do each day as I seek God above all else.
1. Bible Study
Now, I will be the first to admit and my students would agree: I am not an outstanding reader. Listening to Scripture has helped me better understand some difficult passages, especially Old Testament passages, that I really struggle to comprehend. This forces me to slow down instead of simply reading to check a box off my list.
For example, today, I listened to Ezra 1-3. In this passage, God’s faithfulness is on full display as the Israelites are released after 70 years of exile. I found myself rejoicing as I hear how God’s power, steadfast love, and sovereignty are displayed in this beautiful historical story. Listening and reading Scripture resets my perspective as I learn more and more about God’s redemptive plan.
During my Bible Study, I always incorporate prayer. Praying Scripture leads to more focused and God-centered prayers. One big idea I learned from My Life Matter, an after school elementary ministry, is that prayer is a conversation with God. When this simple yet powerful truth finally took root in my own heart, it changed my prayer life. Prayer is something I should actively pursue throughout the entire day.
For some reason, I have always had the idea that prayer should be in our “quiet time”. Though I should schedule time each day to spend alone with God, praying throughout the day reminds me to rely fully on God. Whether it is driving to work praying over the events of the day, stopping and praying for the student or coworker that is struggling, praising God for His provision, or adoring Him in the middle of my day, communicating with God hourly helps me maintain my a Gospel-centered focus.
This is one I have failed at over and over again. The best way I have found to journal is be brief, and invest in a journaling Bible. I have an auditory learning style, so my sermon notes are usually a few brief sentences, and I write small one sentence prayers in the side of my journal Bible at the end of my personal devotion. Though these small steps have helped me consistently journal through prayer and Bible study, the biggest reward from this spiritual discipline has been reflection. As I reflect on my previous prayers, I am able to see the many ways God has been faithful to answer these prayers.
At the end of my personal devotion, I chose to take a few minutes to sit in silence and reflect on God and what He has taught me during my time with Him. Similar to the way we build reading stamina, I slowly increase the amount of time I spend practicing this discipline, which has allowed me to simply reflect on what I have learned in Scripture and God’s faithfulness throughout my day.
When practicing the spiritual disciplines, I try to fall the 1-1-1 rule. I read about this on a blog by Jefferson Bethke several months ago, and it has definitely freed up more time to practice spiritual disciplines. One hour a day I turn my phone off, which is usually during my hour of personal devotion. One day a week, my phone is turned off, which is usual on Sunday. One week out of the year, my phone is put away, which is usually when I am serving overseas. This allows me to intentional invest in my relationship with God by eliminating one of my biggest distractions.
“Tune my heart to sing thy grace”
“Bind my wandering heart to thee”
This is my prayer as the semester continues, that God will bind my wandering heart to His as I seek to grow in my relationship with Him through Bible study, prayer, journaling, and meditation.