Despite our best plans, there are times when life gets chaotic. Before the birth of my kids, I found that practicing the spiritual discipline of sitting at the Lord’s feet was simply a matter of time management and will power. I was even a bit judgmental towards those who didn’t “make it happen.”
Then the kids came.
My first son had trouble gaining weight, and I had to adopt a wearying, around-the-clock feeding schedule. When he was four-months-old, we discovered we were expecting our second son – thirteen months after the first. My husband was a charter pilot at the time, working hard to build his hours, and was gone a lot. I was exhausted, and I quickly found out that no amount of time management or will power would allow my devotional life to look the way it did before.
Two Bible Stories
There are two stories that come to mind when I think about the idea of “sitting at the feet of Jesus.” The first is probably the most common association: the story of Martha and her sister Mary found in Luke 10. Martha invites Jesus into her home, but she is “distracted with much serving.” In contrast, Mary sits at the Lord’s feet, listens to his teaching, and is told that she has “chosen the good portion.” There were days as a young mom when this story haunted me. I wanted to cry out, “Lord, I want to sit at your feet and learn from you, but I can’t get a break from the serving!” Mary’s freedom to put aside the housework and sit and learn from Jesus seemed to me like an unattainable luxury.
But there is another story. I found comfort in knowing that Jesus’ followers faced a similar dilemma. When the disciples were with Jesus in his ministry around Galilee, we read in Mark 6:31 how “many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” How relieved they must have felt when Jesus says to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Time away alone with Jesus? Away from these needy crowds? Yes, Lord! Let’s leave now!
When Plans Change
But things didn’t work out that way. They went away in the boat to the desolate place, only to find it swarming with five thousand men with women and children. So instead of quiet rest, they had another day of ministry. I can just hear the exasperation in their voices as they ask Jesus at the end of the day to “send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (Mark 6:37). That same exasperation can be heard in my voice: “Okay, Lord, the kids are all in bed, the dishwasher is loaded, I’m ready to spend time with you…just us.” Then someone throws up, or a friend calls in a crisis, or the dishwasher floods the kitchen. No rest now. There’s more work to do.
After serving the crowds their food, Jesus “made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd” (Mark 6:45). I can only imagine the disappointment in the disciples faces. What happened to the quiet rest? The precious one-on-one time they were hungering for?
Looking back, they got something better. They heard his teaching (Mark 6:34). They prayed with him (Mark 6:41). They got to serve alongside Jesus as he performed one of the greatest miracles of his earthly ministry (Mark 6:42). And they sat with Jesus and with the people who Jesus loved (Mark 6:39). They ate with Jesus, and they walked away with a personal basket full of broken pieces of bread and fish (Mark 6:43). After he sent them off in the boat, dismissed the crowd, and went up to the mountain to pray, he displayed his glory as he walked out on the water toward them (Mark 6:48).
That long day, over two-thousand years ago, was hectic and tiring and, by all appearances, did not go as planned, but the disciples sat with Jesus, broke bread, were witnesses to his glory, and were changed forever.
12 Ways to Sit at Jesus’ Feet
Yes, Mary chose the good portion, and when I have a choice, quiet time with the Lord is a priority to me. But when that is not possible, I’ve learned that “sitting with Jesus” is still his desire for me, it can happen when there is no time to sit, and when there are too many voices interrupting the quiet.
The key, for me, has been fostering an attitude of discipleship in the midst of the chaos, and an eye to search out the community of believers who can help me. If my heart is teachable, if my ears are open to hear truth, I can learn from Jesus in many different scenarios—as can you, weary disciple!
Here are 12 ways to sit at the feet of Jesus, none of which require a designated “quiet time”:
1. Go to church.
It may sound simplistic, but worshiping with a community of believers that have committed themselves to the Lord and to each other has been the most instrumental means of encountering Christ I have experienced. When I’m tired and stressed, I need to go to church.
2. Learn from good friends.
I often ask my good friends what God is teaching them through his Word. A heart eager to sit at the Lord’s feet asks, “How is the Lord guiding and instructing my brothers and sisters? Could what they are learning apply to me as well?”
3. Attend Bible study in any state of preparation.
I can think of no better place for the weary servant than in the company of believers, with the Bible open on our laps, learning together from the Lord. I’ve learned to humble myself and admit that I don’t always have it all together, which frees me to receive the benefits of study from those who have come prepared.
4. Pray in community.
I’ve learned to take full advantage of the prayer time I do have, at meals, before school, and during my kids’ bedtime. My children often tease me that I pray longer for dinner than anyone they know, but there is no rule that routine prayers have to be short and formulaic. I’ve also enjoyed a regular meeting with other moms from my children’s school. We pray, often interrupted, while the little ones play, but I leave refreshed, knowing I have just spent time in the presence of the Almighty.
5. Pray Scripture.
While we should be cautious about praying with vain repetition, I have found great comfort in short prayers in Scripture (“Lord, save me!” from Matthew 14:30; “Repent and believe in the gospel” from Mark 1:15; “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” from Luke 18:13) and long prayers (Psalm 119; Ephesians 1:15-23; Colossians 1:9-14).
6. Worship as a family.
I often use a Bible reading plan written by Robert Murray M’Cheyne, which has daily readings for both “secret” and “family.” The ideal day would contain both. The un-ideal day may include just one. I’ve grown to love reading the Bible with my family, as there is great joy in “sitting at the Lord’s feet together.
7. Commune through the Lord’s Supper.
There is a reason this ordinance is called communion. In the most chaotic seasons of my life, I’ve grown to cherish it deeply. There is something so tangible and real and gospel-centering about the wine and the bread. I’ve let the congregation “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” for my benefit, and listened and learned from Jesus through it.
8. Create a plan for the little time available.
I’ve learned it is helpful to be accountable to some kind of plan for sitting at the Lord’s feet, especially when time is limited. For me, this has included Bible reading plans, weekly homework from a community Bible study, small group prep work. I don’t use idle time well, so it is best not to leave my devotions open-ended. Likewise, when I am afforded more time, I’ve found it helpful to memorize longer passages of Scripture to “stock the shelves” of my mind for moments when I can’t read it myself.
9. Read or listen to the Bible wherever possible.
With the benefits of a smartphone, it is possible to read God’s Word while waiting for the dentist, to listen while driving, or to do both while in the bathroom. The hungry need to look for food where they can find it.
10. Meditate on one verse at a time.
I’ve found that mindless activities like folding laundry, walking the dog, washing the dishes, or exercising are perfect moments to ponder and reflect on verses I know by heart. Prayerfully asking the Lord for understanding, I’ve found some of my most memorable spiritual “ah-ha” moments to be in very unorthodox settings.
11. Listen to expository sermons.
Sermons that seek to draw meaning and application directly from the scriptures have been a huge means of God’s grace in my life, and, with the gift of technology, we don’t have to limit our weekly sermon intake to Sunday mornings. Like the difference between a salad and a smoothie, I know it’s good for me to chew and swallow the deep things in God’s Word on my own, but when I can’t, I’m grateful for those who have put it all in a glass for me.
12. Sing Scripture, especially the Psalms.
One of the benefits of having young children is the exposure I’ve had to the wonderful Scripture-based music that is available now. From Sunday school and VBS songs to the Seeds Family Worship CDs, it’s easier than ever to soak in truth and lift praises unto the Lord wherever you are.
Ten years after the birth of my first child, I’ve learned there are days when the concepts of “quiet” and “time” are nowhere to be found. I’ve also learned that, no matter what the day holds, the promise of James 4:8 remains: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” When the desire of my heart is to “choose the good portion” and learn from my Lord, he is faithful to teach me in many capacities.