I was at a Women’s Retreat once, attended by nearly an hundred of us, and I was sent to relay the message of a time change, while the others were still getting dressed. I went from room to room, greeted at each door by women in various stages of readiness, from those early birds who were coiffed and made up and sipping their coffee, to those who still lay abed with friendly calamity swirling around them.
In one room, and I can see her to this day, one woman was kneeling in prayer beside her bed. In a pink robe and pajamas, with at least four other women calling for hairspray and teasing and munching on contraband donuts, she didn’t look up, she didn’t seem to notice or be at all perturbed by her surroundings, she just continued in prayer. I delivered my message, stayed to chat with the others for a few minutes, and went on. That was more than twenty years ago. I’ve always had her in my heart’s file cabinet under “monastic.”
Maybe she was showing off. I got to know her rather well later on, and knowing her, I don’t think so. Both she and her husband have fixed devotional habits. Over the years I’ve met and talked with many who have a first-thing routine. Some quote a Scripture, some keep their Bibles by their beds and read before they get up, and some do as she did, kneeling in prayer before they go anywhere or do anything else.
Those are handrails. They keep us on the path. How many times in Scripture do we hear of those who commanded their souls, their mouths, as did King David (Psalm 17:3,) their eyes, as did Job (ch. 31:1.) Daniel commanded his day, and at his life’s peril. Grace is given that we may take command and bestowed that we might remain in pursuit of the Lord we love, that in our weakness, we will be strong to run and to finish our course. Grace lets us monitor our own hearts and set our own route, as the Holy Spirit directs, and if desire for God is the wind, grace is the effort by which we hoist sails. It is not possible that the Lord delights to see us settle down in “good enough.” He ever leads us onward, but not with a nose ring. We are unspeakably privileged to obey our own determinations.
First, however, we must make them.
Women praying at the Western Wall, closest physical point to the Holy of Holies
David Shankbone, widipedia