Mobility is the hallmark of a commuter. But any time my morning devotions get cramped by my snooze button and breakfast frenzy, I feel the limitations of an off-campus life at Corban. While other students struggle to find the corner of a dorm room or even a lobby, I play hide-and-seek with friends as I try to find a quiet corner to talk to God. Over the past year, I have learned powerful lessons in the oddest locations.
Morning hours are not my favorite. But I have found that the best way to begin my day is with a reality chat with God. The challenge begins when errant alarm clocks scramble my schedule. This means our conversations happen in those awkward breaks between classes.
There is a distinct shortage of quiet corners around the Corban campus. Prompted by Jesus’ admonition not to flaunt my prayers, I gravitated towards dark, closed spaces. I began in the library stacks, quickly passing the stairway door to slide around the furthest shady corner. Praying next to the door of a secret tunnel will do wonders for your faith. But so will approaching footsteps. I knelt to help me focus, but felt exposed in my covert ceremony. My head snapped up every time footsteps clomped too far past the stairway door.
“Yes, I am praying back here: private wrestling match, intervention counseling, and procrastinator’s anonymous meeting in session. Go away!” I mentally barked.
I was shocked the first time I found someone else in my corner. An iPod. A lunch bag. I sighed, and sought another dead end buried under asbestos pipes. Dedicated researchers clogged the corners. I would have to roam further afield. Ninja senses alert, I tripped upstairs and chose a deserted library room. A window provided the luxury of light. I perched on the stepstool and hoped no fellow English majors were researching poetry. The hair on the back of my neck twitched in time to footsteps. I would have to go somewhere else tomorrow.
“Decisive battles are often fought in cold conditions,” I remembered as I bundled myself outside to a metal bench, the perfect January vantage point to launch some prayers halfway around the world. I aimed for missionaries, friends, and believers in Middle Eastern deserts, thankful God’s tracking system worked no matter my hasty generalities.
“Is this even effective?” I wondered as I shivered back into the library. But even my own sanity benefited from a focus outside assignments and electric bills. My little drills were intercessions before the Grand Battlemaster.
Still, my prayers were sticking in my mouth. I prayed to understand the heart of theology, not just to parrot Sunday School lessons. I felt I had lost genuine love for the gospel, so I prayed about it. I prayed sitting next to a friend studying statistics. I prayed in the coffee shop. I scribbled notes in chapel having nothing to do with the speaker. I was facing a cliff just past the little signpost marking the prescribed sixteen years of school. And I came to the end of words.
Loathing another dash into the library, I crunched along the gravel path to the Prayer Chapel. The stubborn door yielded to a small room with pillows for my knees. I opened a book of prayers and began to find good words again. My heartrate slowed.
But no single spot was sacred to my seclusion. A few days later I found someone else in the prayer chapel. I went back to the library. Then sunshine led to a sunny bench by blooming trees exploding with life. Another nice day prompted a long walk behind campus, with blackberry bushes and robins keeping me company.
Over this past year my personal devotions captured ten minutes of spiritual cardio hidden beside US History hardbacks, prayer cards tacked on a wall, and a numbing bench near murky waters. I’ve covertly closed my eyes surrounded by the smell of coffee, asbestos, old books, and pine needles. Every time friends shared their own exasperation over devotions, I rolled my eyes with them. We had a common quest for quiet time. It became the Holy Grail of my campus life at a Christian college. This past year, God got snippets of a conversation over life on the run. And I know He understands. No matter how long my to-do list became, my heart revived after playing hide and speak.