When you need rest and alone time with God, is it hard or easy? What holds you back?
When Hubby asked me out on our first date, it wasn’t what I expected.
I had a strong, but unsubstantiated suspicion he was interested in me as more than a friend. So, I daydreamed for weeks about our first date. A romantic night out in the city? Maybe tickets to a play or live music somehow?
Nope. He wanted to take me to the movies. In the afternoon. I was used to going out late at night.
Shouldn’t we have dinner before the show? We finished dinner early. A little past nine.
As I slipped into the passenger seat while Hubby held the door, I thought, Maybe he’ll take us on a leisurely stroll.
Nope. He said he had a great time and began to steer the conversation in the same direction our car was driving.
It was goodnight.
Standing in the elevator going up to my second floor apartment, I had to confront the possibility.
Maybe he doesn’t like me as much as I like him.
This was the conclusion I drew, based on the stipulations I put on what constituted a “romantic” evening.
We often do the same thing when it comes to enjoying spiritual whitespace — spending 1-1 time with God.
We make up rules on what it means to have “quiet time” with Jesus.
I’d like to help rewrite some of those rules.
Here is a list of stipulations that hold us back from whitespace — inspired by some conversation with friends at a party.
See if you recognize any.
The Five Whitespace Killers
1. Time Minimum. I must spend X minutes with God in order for it to count.
2. Procrastination Disqualifier. If I’ve procrastinated x number of hours (days or weeks), God is already disappointed. I’m already in the whitespace doghouse.
3. White Glove Test. My house (or fill in the blank) needs to be cleaner and neater. How can I get spiritually in tune with God when my room is a mess.
4. Goal-Oriented Perfectionism. I must stick with “the plan” to prove my devotion to God. (fill in whatever Bible reading/prayer program to complete X timeframe)
5. Nostalgia. I’ve always done whitespace “this way”. To tailor time with God to meet my current life circumstances would not be beautiful or soul-changing.
When we put rules on how God can connect with us, we forget we are in a relationship with a God who woos and desires us.
And we miss out on the opportunities to steal moments of intimacy and refreshment with Jesus — during the times we need it most.
Our hearts were created for relationship. When we are vulnerable, our souls exhale.
Whitespace. We were created to enjoy it with God.
When we carry ourselves — as is — into His embrace, we find that Jesus simply welcomes us to come. He’ll take care of the rest.
The Five Whitespace Creators
Jesus wants to unshackle us from the rules that keep us from whitespace. Jesus offers these Five Whitespace Creators, freely so we can enjoy time with Him.
One is called Grace.
Two is Love.
Three is God’s Favor.
Number four are twins Hope and Joy.
Which leaves us with number five.
You guessed it. Though small as a sesame seed, it might be missed. Jesus sees.
Number five is Faith.
I was so worried whether Hubby was attracted and really enjoying time with me — I focused on the wrong indicators.
I discounted how we lost track of time and how our cheeks must have ached from all the smiling and laughing.
We talked as two old friends reunited, filling in the pieces the other had missed throughout the years. We could sit and be quiet. Sip our coffee, without pressure to fill the space.
Conversation. That’s why Hubby planned the theaters for the afternoon, not the evening. He wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee together before the flick, to get to know me better.
Considerate. His thinking behind setting dinner up early. We could enjoy each other’s company without the pressure to have it go late into the night.
Gracious. He didn’t want to be pushy after taking so much of my day. He was afraid I’d say yes, because I was too polite to say no.
So, you see, I got it all wrong. He didn’t just tolerate spending time with me.
He was crazy about me.
Do you find it easy or difficult to enjoy whitespace — alone time with God?
What do you like to do to get spiritual whitespace?
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Today’s Topic 9/1: Whitespace topic: Share anything you’d like about your alone time with God.
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I was intrigued by this post! I could immediately relate to all the reasons why “not.” I will have to take some time today to think about my own situation.
Really: always a good brew over here!
Thanks you, PJ! 🙂 Happy whitespace!
I really like how you told this through that first date with your husband. For me, observing a sabbath for nine years has allowed God to surprise me with His care. It’s never the same. It’s never perfect. It’s essential.
Megan, what a beautiful relationship “never the same… never perfect… essential”. How God-bathed sweet your heart must be!
I agree with Megan: I like the way you drew a parallel to your first date with your husband. So often our expectations keep us from receiving the blessings that God wants to give us!
You and I are on the same page with this week’s Jam. I’d been thinking about my post since I read your reminder email, but I didn’t finish writing it until this morning. When I popped over to grab the badge, I saw that we wrote about some of the same ideas.
Can’t wait to taste your personal brew, Melissa. Thank you, friend! 🙂
Great topic. As life gets busier, we tend to chip away at the important things, squeezing them from our lives. That’s why kids and spouses and yes, even God, get the short shrift. I love how you keep us away from legalism and push us toward freedom to building in a white space for God. I am one who likes rules and boundaries, but that’s just ‘fencing God in” and does nothing for our relationship, except assuaging my guilt.
Wise words here, David. Assuaging guilt vs. enjoying freedom & spiritual romance.
loved seeing the parallels with the first date…i so often do this with God because i am such a list maker and achiever that i like things a certain way and when they change or my schedule changes it’s hard. there’s such lovely freedom though when you throw the rules out the window!
*crash* the sound of those rules breaking! 🙂 LOL. Love ya’ katy!
My hubby and I had that same reaction to each other…we could talk for hours, lose track of time, or simply enjoy each other’s company without the pressure of filling it with words. It’s still that way today. :o)
Aw… I love it when I hear sweet married mushy stuff like that! Who says the honeymoon has to end?
I, for one, know how to kill whitespace. I become tripped up by putting to many stipulations on that time. But I’ve been learning to come to Him how ever I can that day and let Him meet me there. Talking with all of you guys at the party challenged how I view whitespace…I love the list of whitespace creators. Those things welcome vunerability!
I was so inspired by all the chatty convo on whitespace. So real and faith-caffeinating! Thanks for being a part of all that wonderfulness, Jennifer!
Glad to join! 🙂
Whitespace doghouse. That one made me smile!
Yeah, those killers. The best whitespace creator for me is knowing the incredible fact that God longs for me. He wants me to be with Him. Which is quite a motivator. 🙂
How romantic, Monica! *swoon*
I remember at that FB party when you compared whitespace to dating and needed variety. It made me laugh to compare time with God to dating, but it is so true. Not that I’d really know anything about dating which may be why I struggle with spending time with God.
Okay, girl… You just inspired me to write a post about *dating*! 😉 Yes, I was single for over 3 decades and for sure, my whitespace has been shaped by dating God (and Him dating me!).
Kristine, I’m with you…Bonnie, that would be awesome! I’ve been single two decades + 4 years. I love reading your love story sprinkled throughout various blog posts.
Me three. I’d love to hear about dating. It’s been forever for me even tho I have guy friends.
I also wanted to say that it’s so good not to have too much structure in the whitespace. It doesn’t have to be every morning at 5:30 am. Or no radio, only quiet. Everyone is different and every day is different. The Psalms says “sing to the Lord a new song.”. Right now i’m pretty structured and I’m going to lighten up a little. Thanks Bonnie
BEAUTIFUL post!!!! So true! All of it tugged at my heart!
You’re beautiful, Jamie! 🙂
My white space is simply going outside, and just breathing in God’s goodness and grace. Seeing everything He’s made just moves me so much. Plus it helps that my house faces the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and our little town. It’s my alone time with the Lord.
I don’t do it as often as I should, and some days it leaves me feeling sad.
Hope Easter!! What a beautiful name, friend! Aw… such a beautiful comment you’ve left us too. Blue ridge mountains… always there, just like God is for us. May His beauty touch your soul today.
Hope, I am the exact same way! Fresh air just opens my heart right up! 🙂
Bonnie, what a wonderful insight! God does excell in doing what we least expect, doesn’t he? And better than we had imagined. I love that you wrote about going to movies in the afternoon and I’m just reading about Dolphin Tale over at Sally Clarkson’s blog, where they’re trying to inspire 150,000 people to go on opening day. I’ll go!
Thanks for sharing this, Beth!
Wow–this is just the issue I’ve been dealing with this year, especially over the summer.
What I have time to do during my quiet time has been shifting, and I feel guilty of letting go of the old things but it’s the only way I can make room for new things that God is wanting to do with me. But it’s all good if it’s all God.
You’re spot-on again, Bonnie! Thanks for the dose of encouragement.
Same here, Lisa… seasons change and so does our life rhythms. Jesus is faithfully in love with us, never withholding, so humbly longing and never calculating as we fear.
Thanks Bonnie for the great illustration! I love, Love, LOVE spending time with God! I remember being a young wife and mom…keeping my Bible on the back of the toilet, as it seemed to be the only place I could find a moment of piece and quiet! I remember too, comparing myself to others..for better and worse. I’d often think “wow…she’s so spiritual! She gets up before her kids to have time alone with God!” or, ” I read a proverb today…way more than SHE did!”. Truth is, we always need to spend time with Him, and need to be more dependent on Him as our source.
I see this turning into a blog post…so I’d better take it over there…
Thanks again for the inspiration!
Marina! You make me LAUGH! Let it never be said you didn’t carry the Word with you *everywhere*. 😉
Thank you, Bonnie, this was so good. I loved this, “So, you see, I got it all wrong. He didn’t just tolerate spending time with me. He was crazy about me.” That is exactly how it is with God – He loves time with us, for He is crazy about us. Thanks for this very clear reminder.
Crazy in love. Yes, Jesus is. Oh, how that changes everything. So grateful for your heart, Cherry – always ushering God’s soothing presence with your words.
I avoid Whitespace for fear of disappointment. I have been told that time with God is listening to his voice as well as talking to him. Many times in the past I show up and sit in the quiet and wait for something to happen but nothing does. I don’t hear anything. I worry that I need to do something to make Him speak up. Am I bored with being a believer for so long a time? Is He disappointed with me and witholding His voice? Have I not grown enough for the length of time I have known Him? Is it enough to just “BE” with Him?
Perhaps that is what He telling me with out words, that like long time friends in a well proven relationship, just sitting together in silence IS a form of communication. It says that we are comfortable together, we communicate love and trust by just being together, looking out onto life and the future in silent companionship.
Sharon, there is much to share about the times we encounter silence during whitespace. But, you’ve expressed God’s heart at the end of your comment here. There is a deep mystery and romance when we pursue and spend time with God in silence. There are many doors to our soul… and sometimes, during silence — we end up asking the questions we avoid facing. And through wrestling those hard thoughts, you will suddenly find God’s overwhelming Presence sweep into those conversations. And His words to you will be indelible and unmistakable. Don’t give into words of condemnation. You are loved. You are cherished by Jesus – the One who loves you COMPLETELY.
I have been struggling with this issue for quite some time. Your post couldn’t have been more timely. I am a perfectionist at times and right now in my life I need that quiet time with God more than ever. But boy do I let my perfection get in the way. I think there has to be a right way. God is slowly showing me that does not need to be the case and allowing me to see that He just wants me.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, even when it comes to shedding the influence of perfectionism, friend. Jesus knows even this and still completely loves being with you.
Oh, yes, I hear you. Those challenges do affect my whitespace time (almost all five of them), and yet even this offer of whitespace, time with Him, is based on His grace given freely to us. How beautiful!
We’re all on the same journey here. 😉
Bonnie, I loved your post! What sweeter, more precious relationship is there than with our Beloved Bridegroom! If sitting in His presence, in total silence, does not thrill our souls, then something is interfering. Your *killers* and *creators* were spot-on! Excellent post, Bonnie! Blessings to you!
Thank you, Lynn! It made me happy to see you here! I hope everything is well with you!
I am a very routine person. As long as I am on routine I find it easy to spend time with God. When my routine is off it is a disaster. This is something that I am trying to work on.
Hooray! Now that summer is over, I am writing again. It was sooooo good to spend time with my girls. 🙂
Loved this. So many times I have caused myself emotional torment because I misread or tried to control the situation. And I do this in my quite time … or lack of quiet time as well. I even *gasp* do this when it comes to reading scripture. Sometimes I will completely skip over scripture written in a book or blog post as if I am subconsciously thinking “I’m not reading the Bible now, I’ll grab that truth later.” I cannot believe I just admitted that.
My family knows my hand signal. I never used the talk to the hand signal until I started following Jesus. I thought it was rude. Now if someone walks in whatever room I am in they know what I am doing by my hand signal. It is not really talk to the hand. It is more like me saying, “Sweet Jesus, give me just a minute or you may not like Mom anymore.” I am always running for whitespace so don’t give me a moment or that is where I am headed.
Hmm…. seems I remember something from the FB party about giving yourself persmission! 🙂
God speaks through so many ways to so many different people! I love hearing about everyone’s whitespace!
And that is exactly what I linked in with today – giving persmission! It is an older post, not written today, but it so fits with the topic!
I have been reading, enjoying, and contemplating your blog for a while now and tonight I wrote my own response blog to your Thursday JAM. Yeah!! So, everyone is welcome to click over to my newish blog and read my musings. Blessings of joy, Michelle
Hi Michelle! So EXCITED to have you join the jam — Yay! Here is how to share your link in the jam, so we can visit you: Submit your link (url of your post) by scrolling up and clicking a blue button that says “Add Your Link” (you’ll see a “frog” on the button). After you add your link to the collection, we will all see a thumbnail (picture) of your blog and we can all visit you! 🙂
Thanks for helping with how to link :o)
[…] Devotional Today I am linking up with Bonnie for the Faith Barista JAM. We are sharing what God is revealing to us in our “White Space” (our personal time […]
My white space is ever changing and evolving. Sometimes I write my prayers, sometimes walk them…I’ve even been known to sing them. Same thing with His word. I think creative people can get bored easily. I want my time with God to be fresh, vibrant and exciting! Your post urges me forward!
I’m always blessed by your posts but your ‘whitespace’ ones hit home. I’m the kind of person who craves alone time… both with myself, and with God. Outward silence allows me to hear the inner voice. Our home is rural and the back deck is a quiet place overlooked by towering evergreens. With a mug of Chai tea I often sit out there and submerge myself, recognizing God’s presence in the solitude. But the place isn’t as important as the moment of communication, and that can and should happen anywhere, anytime.
For me, my time spent with God is always worth it…I want to because i feel at ease with Him…
I used to wake up early in the morning for my time with God, but it seems that since I moved, I just can’t get back to that place. I am longing for that time, but there is a road block. Thank you for helping me to realize that I have only been making excuses.
Your term, “white space doghouse,” made me laugh!
I like to think of the times with God as “hanging out” or “being lazy together,” which don’t require any preparation but can be grabbed as moments of opportunity. It’s amazing where and when these moments of opportunity can spring up — even between phone calls at work. I believe that every moment that we make available to God, no matter how long or short, God willingly takes. The hard part for me is to bring an end to the moment; I usually don’t want to return to daily life, but we must do that, mustn’t we? We have been given lives to live — while sharing them with God is a beautiful thing, we cannot share them unless we live them.
Wow, I’ve just discovered your blog (well I’ve peeped in once ages ago) and this post just hit the nail on the head for me. The first four points that you mentioned are my whitespace killers. And I feel guilty ALL the time! My hubby always tells me off for being so assuming and thinking I’m in thedoghouse with everyone, not just God.
Lately I’ve been having chats with God at the kitchen sink…it’s working out ok…
[…] loved Faith Barista Bonnie Gray’s blog today on “Five White Space Killers, What Hold You Back From Spending Time With God” . It got me thinking about being a young wife and mom, and my attitudes and opinions that […]