Deep roots take time to grow, and the consistent habits of Bible reading and prayer simply don’t happen overnight. But no matter how dried up we may feel in our current season, Jesus can deepen our roots and bring us—and our love for spending time with him—back to life.
By Naomi Vacaro, excerpted from the book Quiet: Creating Grace-Based Rhythms for Spending Time with Jesus
In late 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through our city in Florida. I’ll never forget that night. My husband, Matt, and I, along with my siblings and their spouses, gathered at my parents’ home and slept on the living room floor as the wind howled outside and nearby branches groaned and then cracked like shots in the dark. When we emerged the following morning, the world looked like a war zone. The streets were so littered with debris that you could hardly see the pavement. Lines were down, electricity was out, and an eerie quiet had settled over the neighborhood.
But what I remember most were the felled trees. Trees that had stood four stories high the day before now lay vertical, their entire root systems torn up and exposed. These downed monsters were now blocking roads, upturning sidewalks, and crushing houses. However, not every tree had fallen. Many of the trees in our neighborhood remained standing, including the giant oak just outside our front door.
Shortly after the hurricane, my older sister, Emily, wrote a blog post explaining the difference between the felled trees and the trees that remained standing:
There are two types of oak trees [in Central Florida]: live oaks and water oaks. They both grow to about eighty feet tall, host a variety of birds and animals in their sturdy branches, and provide more than enough shade with their leafy limbs. On the surface it’s hard to tell the difference, until a hurricane comes along.Water oaks like the sun and take the rain for granted. Why grow deep roots when water is plentiful? They shoot up quickly and stand alone, tall and magnificent. Live oaks grow slower and focus their energy on sending their roots deep into the ground.
The depth of their roots had made the difference between life and death for these trees, and after Hurricane Irma, it became clear which had shallow roots and which had roots that were secure enough to weather the storm.
These water oaks and live oaks, with their shallow or deep roots, reflect the life of our Christian faith. If we’re water-oak Christians, then we are planted in the shallow soil of cultural Christianity. We may look like we’re flourishing on the outside, but time and testing eventually reveal that the soil beneath us is nothing but the shifting sands of worldly trends. A water-oak Christian seeks nourishment in things that will never satisfy, like success, popularity, outward appearance, or momentary pleasure. We might go through the motions of faith, but ultimately we lack a genuine and transformative relationship with the person of Jesus. When the winds of persecution or the seductive breeze of temptation blow, we become uprooted, just like the water oaks did.
In contrast, when we are living as live-oak Christians, we sink our roots into the bedrock of Jesus Christ. We grow slowly and steadily, and we build our lives on the foundation of God’s Word. We are quietly committed to following Jesus Christ no matter what. When persecution arrives, we only grow stronger in the faith. When temptation knocks, we refuse to be uprooted by lies and misguided loves.
These deeply rooted followers of Jesus can be found all across the globe. They have different personalities, backgrounds, cultures, ages, life stages, and experiences. But there’s one thing they all have in common: they read the Bible and pray.
I would venture to say that there is no mature believer in Christ who does not read their Bible and pray on a regular basis. While a relationship with Jesus is definitely more than a daily quiet time, it is certainly not less.
The primary way we become rooted, live-oak Christians is by spending time with Jesus. We can’t grow in our understanding of and love for God without reading the Bible, and we can’t develop a genuine closeness with Christ if we don’t communicate with him in prayer. Without the regular habit of a quiet time, we will become spiritually malnourished and eventually starve. Just as trees need soil and water to grow, we need spiritual nutrients for our faith to mature and deepen.
The truth is, we have all been shallow-rooted, water-oak Christians at some point in our lives. Deep roots take time to grow, and the consistent habits of Bible reading and prayer simply don’t happen overnight. But no matter how dried up we may feel in our current season, Jesus can deepen our roots and bring us—and our love for spending time with him—back to life.
I know it’s true, because I’ve lived it.
Having a daily quiet time is something I’ve struggled with all my life. Growing up in a Christian home taught me why it was important to read the Bible and pray, but for some reason, I just couldn’t form the regular habit. I saw my lack of consistency as spiritual disobedience, and as a result, guilt gnawed at my soul for years.
Things got better in college when my quiet time became more consistent. Reading the Bible and praying every day became a routine I genuinely enjoyed and even looked forward to. The habit survived my transition into married life a couple of years after graduation. With a flexible schedule and lots of free time on my hands, it was easier than ever to read the Bible and pray.
Then I became a mother.
Once I had a baby in my arms, my habit of Bible reading and prayer completely fell apart. Instead of reading three chapters a day, I barely opened my Bible once a week. Instead of hour-long conversations with Jesus, my prayer time consisted of impromptu breakdowns as I bounced a crying baby on my hip. At first I found this alarming. Where had all my hard-earned consistency disappeared to? I was tempted to despair, but the Lord was teaching me yet another profound lesson about grace.
Even before I became a mother, I was starting to realize I’d been treating my relationship with God like a performance. Deep down, I’d been viewing Bible reading and prayer as a way to earn God’s approval instead of a way to nourish my own soul. Instead of leading me closer to Jesus, my guilt was making it harder for me to come to the Lord. By the time I became a mother and my quiet time had to be completely restructured, I was ready to silence the voice of shame in my soul and embrace the quiet waters of grace.
I was ready to have a grace-based quiet time.
Having a quiet time that’s built on grace means your Bible will still be available to read tomorrow morning even if you don’t get to read it today. It means you don’t have to play catch-up in order to get back on track with your quiet time. It means God doesn’t keep a tally of all the days, weeks, and months you’ve failed to spend time with him. It means there will be seasons when coming to Jesus is more difficult—and he delights in you anyway. It means that yesterday’s failure does not diminish today’s opportunity to know and enjoy Jesus.
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Quiet by Naomi Vacaro
So many of us struggle to create space in our daily routines for time with God. We deeply desire to feel close to Him, but we are constantly asking,
– How do I create a quiet space with God in my busy, chaotic schedule?
– Why does having a quiet time require so much effort?
– Am I the only one who feels this way?
We know that setting aside quiet moments with God is important, but for one reason or another, meeting with him on a regular basis just feels hard. In Quiet, Naomi Vacaro, creator of the online community Wholehearted and the Quiet Time Companion journal, offers hope and a unique solution for creating (and maintaining) a quiet-time habit. Naomi will show readers that having daily time with God is simple, attractive, and achievable no matter what season of life they are in.
About the Author
Naomi Vacaro is first and foremost a wholehearted follower of Jesus. She grew up as a daughter to missionaries in Outer Mongolia and then moved to Florida at the age of 18 to pursue a college degree. After graduating with a degree in graphic design, she worked as a wedding photographer and soon after felt led to create a journal called the Quiet Time Companion, along with an online ministry that would help Christians develop a daily habit of seeking Jesus. She now spends her time running the Wholehearted community and being a stay-at-home mom. She and her husband live in Florida with their son. Visit her online at wholeheartedquiettime.com.