“If you use a rescue inhaler two or more times a week, your asthma is not well-controlled and you should talk to your doctor.”
When I heard the words of this TV commercial as a college student, I laughed. “What are they talking about? I use my inhaler every day and my asthma is totally under control! That’s ridiculous!”
But a few months later, when my doctor started me on the very medication that commercial was advertising, I realized how wrong I was. “The important thing” she said, “is that you take it every day, even if your symptoms aren’t bad – it needs to build up in your system in order to be effective in preventing asthma symptoms.”
And she was right. I can now count on one hand the number of times I use my rescue inhaler every year – and the times I have to use it are only because I’ve been neglecting my daily medicine.
Around that same time, having recently committed my life to Christ, I was spending time every day reading a devotional, journaling, and praying. My relationship with God was growing and I was learning what it meant to do everyday life with Him.
But then one day a friend said to me, “It’s great that you’re doing that, but be careful you don’t get legalistic about it!”
As a student at a Christian college, “legalism” was a four-letter-word. The last thing I wanted was for my relationship with God to become about regiment and rules! I didn’t want anyone to think I was just doing it because that’s what “good Christians” did or to show that I was somehow better than them. I know my friend meant well, but for me this was the beginning of the end.
I started missing days here and there. Then weeks here and there. College life was busy and the homework was endless. Pretty soon I got a boyfriend and an internship. Which turned into a husband and a job and full-time ministry life. Oh yeah, and then we had kids.
During those years, my time with God and His Word came in fits and spurts – when I was working on lessons, doing Bible study homework, or when I knew I needed God’s help. It was my rescue inhaler. I knew the daily dose would be better, but I didn’t really have time and besides, I didn’t want to be legalistic about it. If I wasn’t really feeling it, I didn’t want to force it.
By the summer of 2012, though, I was struggling – gasping for air because the ‘rescue inhaler’ wasn’t working anymore.
That was when my friend Kathleen approached me about joining an online accountability group for women who were committed to spending regular time with God before starting their days.* It sounded crazy (and maybe even legalistic), but I knew it was time for a change, so first I laughed at her (I’m NOT a morning person) and then I signed up.
And it was exactly what the doctor ordered:
“The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8)
It turns out I desperately needed this medicine!
When I started my new daily asthma medication all those years ago, I had trouble remembering to take it, so I made a note and taped it up on my dorm room wall. It may have seemed a little silly for a 22-year-old to need this, but I had to start somewhere! I knew it would eventually become habit, but for now I had to force it.
The funny thing is that once I saw the benefits of the medicine and how much it improved the quality of my days – I didn’t need the reminders anymore! Taking it just became part of my daily life.
No matter how much I didn’t want to force myself to spend regular time with God, I had to start somewhere. So even though I dreaded the thought of getting up early (or even worse – putting aside my to-do list and going to bed early), I set my alarm and just did it.
And once I saw the benefits – how much it improved the quality of my life and my relationship with God – my perspective changed. I still need an alarm (yep, still NOT a morning person), but when I go to bed at night, I actually can’t wait to get up because I look forward to my “Jesus time” so much!
Yes, even if my ‘symptoms’ aren’t bad, I still take my (almost) daily dose. The effects may not be immediate and visible, but I know God’s Word is being built up in my system. It may have started out as a regimen, but now it’s my life. You can call it “legalism” all you want, but it’s my medicine – and I don’t know what I’d do without it!