Apparently the word on the street, (some street, somewhere) is that buying into a conviction of living by grace, over a period of time, will cause God followers to pray or read their Bible less. The argument can sound like this: "You have to keep folks on a pretty strict regimen of quiet times and prescribed Bible readings. If you just let people alone with what they'd choose, they'll end up reading only Facebook and cereal boxes."
While its probably true that a young, new God truster probably needs to know there is a Bible and that God likes to be talked to, this seems to be one of areas where the less we meddle, the better.
Let me try to explain myself.
I love water. I'm not sure there is anyone in the free world who has loved water as much as I do. Sometimes I'll get on a plane flight and suddenly feel an overwhelming, desperate panic for water. In those twenty-five minutes it takes the flight attendants to come by with their thimbles of beverage, I'm rifling through my briefcase, looking for toothpaste I might suck some moisture out of.
Watching me throw back a glass of water when I'm thirsty is not unlike observing a pride of lions going after a baby llama. (I apologize)
My point is, nobody has to tell me to drink. I just get thirsty and then I inhale enough water for a family of musk oxen to comfortably bathe in. Sometimes I'll get busy and I won't drink enough water for awhile. But there has never been a time in my entire life, where at some point, my body didn't remind me I should drink some water. Lots of water. Cold water. Refreshing water.
...Then somebody awhile back came out with a guideline requirement of how much water all of us should drink each day. I can't remember the number. Something like 10-12, large glasses, every day.
I tried it for awhile. To be a responsible and faithful water drinker. According to someone's sense of how much I should have. ...And a strange thing happened. I began to almost resent water. It felt like an impossible request. I'd lose count and always felt like I was falling behind on water intake. I started sneaking sodas and V8s just to buck the system a bit.
...Welcome to the fruit of the Law.
Look, every single one of us has a built in desire for water.
Every single new creature has a built in desire for the presence of God. It's part of our new wiring, our DNA, our being fused together with Him. The author of Psalm 42 knew this. And that author lived before believers were given the new nature of Christ in them, full of the Holy Spirit's indwelling!
"As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."
When I first became a believer I couldn't get enough of His Word. I'd read it 12-15 hours a day over that first Christmas break. Then, eventually, I stopped reading it as much. I don't know why.
But even before I could get dry and thirsty, there they were. The Bible "guideline requirement" folk. They were standing nearby, excited to give me a stratagem to get back into the Word "enough."
We never gave me a chance to get thirsty. I traded thirst for the fear I'd never get thirsty again. I traded trust of who I was for the lie that left to my own devices I would never want to read His Word again. I traded that sense of desire and its following cold refreshment for an imposed rubric giving me spoonfuls of tepid appeasement.
I actually think I drank much more water and enjoyed it much more before the water police entered my world, telling me I should drink more water!
Now, don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with a plan to help myself do what I want to do. For water is great even when I'm not dying of thirst. I often keep water by my bedside and Stacey and I take bottles of it in bike holders when we ride during the summer in Phoenix.
And I know some people need more water. And its good for someone to tell them that, I guess.
Its just that the pursuit of the water guideline can make us lose some of the unrehearsed magic of drinking water simply because its the best drink on the planet. And I don't want to look at drinking water as something I must religiously do or be shamed for not keeping up with others, who clearly are drinking more than the rest of us.
When it comes to God, this is a huge deal. For one approach will always eventually draw me thirsty to Him and being wonderfully satisfied by Him. The other will make me a great manager of how much God I must have to fill a requirement. And that will never satisfy me.
If it gets me to water, its really a good thing to get thirsty and to pant after missing God and His revealed Word. It's truly a wonderful experience. Far better than drinking on the hour, when you have no thirst at all.