A young mother recently asked me , “Do you have any advice for how to find time to reflect?” I could guess where she was coming from—a home where reflection is a product of a bygone era, where setting the alarm for an early morning “quiet time” only means the children will wake up earlier, a memory of college life when there was always time for friends, for God, a place that could lead quite easily to quiet desperation.
I offered a few thoughts:
One, start small, with, say, seven minutes a day to pray or journal or read. Make it realistic instead of idealistic.
Two, remember that reflection can involve small children. It doesn’t have to mean alone time. I’ve given up on trying to beat my children in the who-can-wake-up-earliest game, but I’ve also gotten better at sitting at the dining room table for a few minutes in the morning as they either join me or flow around me. Sometimes my reflection time turns into a conversation with one of them, or a prayer, and sometimes it turns into me abandoning the attempt to reflect and instead snuggling with one of them on the couch.
Three, pay for help when needed. It’s tempting to only hire a babysitter for the purpose of getting something “done,” whether that be grocery shopping or a meeting for work. But an hour for a walk in the woods, or a date with a friend or a husband, or to sit in the local public library with Bible and journal in hand can pay off in spades when it comes to spiritual and emotional health and well being for the whole family.
Four, have a “ministry of absence.” Leaving our families for a time—whether it’s an hour or a weekend—doesn’t need to be negative for our kids. It communicates to them the value of time to reflect, to cultivate friendships, to rest. In a world that offers relentless activity or mindless entertainment at all times, intentionally withdrawing for thoughtful restoration provides a model for our children of how to grow in love. I think about how often the gospels mention Jesus withdrawing to pray. His thoughtful, prayerful, intentional absence ministered to his disciples, and they took note.
I came back from a recent weekend retreat reminded of the goodness and glory of God. My children were delighted to see me and to tell me about all the fun things they had been able to do with their dad while I was away. And I was reminded of the importance of taking that time to reflect so that I might love them even more.