Jesus lived a patterned life that serves as a good example for our own spiritual disciplines.
By Kandi Gallaty
Like Jesus: Pursuing a Patterned Life
The beach is my absolute favorite place on the planet. Every year during our family vacation, I love to sit on the balcony of the place we’re staying, watch the waves, see the clouds roll in off the ocean, be amazed as schools of dolphins jump and swim by and wonder at the expanse of stars above us that become visible in the absence of city lights. I sit and marvel at the awesomeness of God. It is therapy for my soul, and so refreshing. It is pure bliss to me.
But I couldn’t live at the beach. It is fine as a place of extended escape and retreat, but that is not where my home is. Yet that doesn’t mean I have to wait a whole year before I can escape, find rest and be renewed in my amazement at the grandness of our Creator. I need a place I can go in my home too—a regular place of retreat.
In our house, we have a sitting room where I can be found every morning with a cup of coffee and my Bible. There isn’t a day that goes by that my boys don’t come down the stairs to find me in that spot, spending time with the Lord and being recharged spiritually after a night of being recharged physically.
Like me, you may have a favorite vacation spot that makes you feel refreshed, but do you have that same spot in your home? You may like to escape to the mountains to get alone with God, but do you have a corner in your living room where you can do that too? It doesn’t have to be fancy—it can just be a favorite chair where you spend a few minutes alone before everyone else in your house wakes up. I make it a habit to visit this place every morning because consistency and predictability in the Christian life is crucial to running the race set before us.
Predictability is not always a bad thing. For instance, I tend to use my favorite phrases, talk about my favorite subjects and bring up my go-to suggestions—to the point that my husband likes to think he can read my mind by saying what I’m about to say before I say it. He thinks he is a great student of people. I think I am just very predictable. The same is probably true for you when it comes to the things that keep showing up in your speech. Our mouths are always on replay in some form or fashion when it comes to the things that work for us or make us feel good. This kind of predictability is good, and it can work out well for us when spiritual disciplines become as expected in our day as our favorite topic.
Of course, while it’s helpful that I’m a predictable person, that’s not why I practice spiritual disciplines. I practice spiritual disciplines because they were modeled for us by Jesus. He lived purposely. He held to a pattern in his life, frequented similar places and was accompanied by the same people. Let’s look at a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry that illustrates just how committed he was to following a predictable pattern of living.
The last night of Jesus’ life was filled with beauty and memorable moments. He washed his disciples’ feet. He foretold his death. He exposed a betrayer in their midst. He told Peter he’d deny him. But at the climax of this historic night, Jesus did something remarkable, which John 18:1–2 details for us:
“After Jesus had said these things, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples.”
Get this: Jesus’ disciples knew the rhythms of Jesus’ life and whereabouts so well that Judas knew exactly where to seek him out in order to betray him. Jesus knew it was coming, but found it important to not alter the regularities he’d instilled in his disciples (and also to fulfill his own prophecy about Judas). The verses make it clear: Judas knew where to find Jesus because Jesus had done this very thing many times before. Luke 22:39 tells us that Jesus “went out and made his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.”
Luke points out details like this for us all over the place. Look at the following passages and note the actions Jesus habitually did and the people he routinely surrounded himself with.
Luke 21:37: “During the day, he was teaching in the temple, but in the evening he would go out and spend the night on what is called the Mount of Olives.”
Luke 11:1: “He was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.’”
Luke 9:28: “About eight days after this conversation, he took along Peter, John and James and went up on the mountain to pray” (the Transfiguration account).
Luke 9:18: “While he was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’”
Luke 6:12–13: “During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. When daylight came, he summoned his disciples, and he chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles.”
Luke 5:16: “Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.”
Even Mark, in all of his Gospel’s conciseness, points out details like this for us:
Mark 1:35–36: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying. Simon and his companions searched for him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’”
Over and over again, the disciples knew exactly where to look to find Christ.
The most prominent pattern we see in verses like these is that Jesus “went out”—often very early or while it was still dark, either at the beginning or the end of the day, depending on what the day demanded of him.
My mom and sister jokingly call me the Time Warden, because I function best on a schedule. I asked my mom one day, “What exactly is it that I do that makes me the time warden?” She said I always give her a time limit when we go shopping or run errands. I didn’t even realize I did that until she told me. Then I found myself laughing because it hit me—I totally do that all the time! The way I see it, you either manage your time or your time manages you.
I remember really understanding this principle when my boys were babies. I found myself having to go to bed early if I wanted to safeguard my quiet time in the morning. It took some planning and sacrifice, but I found that if I could be asleep by ten, waking up at six was not impossible. The boys would fuss during the night and unexpected obstacles would keep me from getting rest, but in general, sticking to a plan was helpful. It instilled a pattern in me like muscle memory. If I was going to be serious about spending time with God, I was going to have to make it happen. And with all the demands of being a pastor’s wife and a mother, living a patterned life is crucial and, in the end, helpful. Structure helps you manage a demanding life.
Yes, we should pursue a patterned life that has structure and routine to it, especially when it comes to spending time with God, because it’s useful and effective and keeps us sane. On top of that, though, there’s a better reason we must live out these rhythms, as seen in the Gospel accounts: Jesus did the same.
Excerpted from Disciple Her by Kandi Gallaty. B&H Publishing Group. Copyright 2019. Used by permission.