Several years ago I was roped into trying to read the Bible in ninety days. I say “roped” not because I didn’t want to do it or because I thought it was a bad idea, but because I suspected it would be nearly impossible for a busy mom. But I eventually decided to give it my best shot.
I read fast. Sometimes, while making dinner, I listened to the audio version on my phone. I read far more than I could comprehend, and I need to confess that I skimmed — okay, skipped — some parts too. I hate to admit it, but in some parts I really struggled to see the value or connection of what I read to “real life.”
However, I did love it at first. I was all in as I read the stories of God’s people crying out in their slavery and God graciously hearing their prayers and delivering them from Egypt. It was exciting to read about the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and their venture into the desert in what would become a long walk to the land of promise.
Then I hit chapter twenty-five of Exodus. Then chapters twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine — all the way to chapter forty! For almost fifteen chapters Moses goes on and on describing the tabernacle, God’s tent, the place his presence would dwell while his people journeyed through the wilderness. To me, that seemed like too many chapters to spend on the tabernacle. That’s when I began skimming. Until I hit this verse in the last chapter of Exodus:
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. — Exodus 40:34
What?! Suddenly all the descriptions and instructions made more sense to me. I hadn’t understood why Moses spent so much time describing the tabernacle until I read how God’s presence filled the space when it was all done. Then I got it! It took work and skill to build a space suitable for God to fill. Only after God’s people made room for Him — then and only then — did God fill it with His presence.
This has been an important reminder for me as I struggle to carve out space from my busy life to meet with God. Almost fifteen chapters of Exodus were dedicated to making sure we know God is completely holy and also desires to be with us.
God delights in being with His people. He wants to be close to us and wants to live among us. But He leaves it to us to create the time and space to be with Him.
Yes, it is true that God’s presence is everywhere. In Christ, God’s Spirit dwells within us. He is with us when we’re wrestling with our kids. He is there when we are doing the dishes. God is present around the table as we tell stories about our days. There is no space that God does not fill with His presence. But God knew that the people He had freed from slavery in Egypt needed a tabernacle as they journeyed through the wilderness and learned to become His people.
So there is a sense in which the tabernacle was not built for God, but to be a holy space set aside where God’s people could meet with Him.
Just as the Israelites needed a tabernacle to meet with God, share life in His presence, and discover what it means to become His people, we need a “tabernacle” too. We need space in our lives that is set apart for meeting with God, sharing life with Him, and discovering how to become who God desires us to be. But finding this time and space will not come easy for busy mommas!
We need to make time for God not because He needs it, but because we need it.
I Need Some Alone Time
Sometimes it takes sneaking out of bed early to enjoy a cup of coffee and some alone time with God. Other times we have to carve out space during our lunch hour at work, when the kids are at school, out playing, or down for a nap. Our “tabernacle” may not always look the same. But no matter how full of hurry and hustle our days may be, we need to make room and create space to meet with God.
Even Jesus withdrew from the busyness of life to be alone with his Father. I love Luke’s description:
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for Him and when they came to where He was, they tried to keep Him from leaving them. — Luke 4:42
Jesus, arguably the busiest man on earth, knew the value of solitary places where just He and God could enjoy their relationship together. He, too, had to work to carve out space. He, too, had His alone time invaded by “people looking for Him”! Time alone with God doesn’t always come easily, and it doesn’t always last long. But we need to be diligent in making room for God so that He fills our “space” in order to teach, correct, encourage, and shape us into the image of His Son, Jesus. Just as Israel needed to make a place for a transformational relationship with God, we need to make a place for that same kind of relationship.
Being With God to Become Like Jesus
It would be nice if God would wave a magic wand so we would instantly become the better moms we want to be. But God rarely changes us by “zapping” us. We don’t go from being anxious and fearful moms one minute to being filled with peace and contentment the next. We don’t become better moms — moms who exhibit Christ-like character as we go about our daily lives — by working hard at doing just the right things to “fix” our sin and brokenness. When we recognize our shortcomings and want to become better, our first response should not be, “I’ll try harder.” It should be, “Lord, I need You. I want to spend time with You.”
If we want to become more like Jesus, our first priority should not be what we are doing to be like Him, it should be simply being with Him. We set aside time and space to share a relationship with God because being with Him inevitably makes us more like Him. Think about it for a minute. You probably know people who change you when you spend time with them. Perhaps you have a friend who, no matter how bad a day you are having, leaves you feeling comforted or calmed just because you have spent time with her. Other people may leave different marks — perhaps a sense of peace, courage, or strength. It might sound strange because we don’t often think of it this way, but the same thing is true of our alone time with God.
We don’t start becoming like Jesus by trying to be like Him. Instead, we start by spending time with Him. No matter how hard we try, time alone won’t transform our hearts. Time alone with God will. When we open our Bibles to read, we’re really opening our ears to hear him. When we memorize Scripture, we are soaking in God’s truth and grace. When we pray, fast, or journal, we are opening our hearts to an intimate and transformational relationship with him. Over time, that relationship changes us because God’s Spirit is at work in us. By spending time with God, we take in His love, grace, and truth like little seeds. The water of a relationship over time produces a crop in our lives that is increasingly more like Jesus — full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control.
I love the language Jesus uses in John 15:4 when He says,
Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.
Jesus doesn’t just tell us to obey His commands; Jesus invites us into communion. An abiding and life-transforming relationship that changes us over time.
What is essential in this picture of abiding is relationship. We were made for communion with God. We are not simply following an idea or a set of religious beliefs. God is alive and well! We are in relationship with a real being who is present and powerfully active in our lives. Our growth and maturity, our becoming better, more like Jesus, is a by-product of that relationship.
When we make room for God, He meets us in that sacred space. God meets us and speaks to us through His Word, by His Spirit, and in the company of His people. We open our hearts to hear from God, receiving more and more of His love, truth, and grace. God is not just working on us; He is working with us. A difference that is easy to understand as a parent.
Excerpted with permission from The Better Mom by Ruth Schwenk, copyright Ruth Schwenk.
Have you built a “tabernacle” in your life? How do you go about making space for God in the day-to-day? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!