There is a beautiful little book titled, The Practice of the Presence of God, authored by Brother Lawrence. The title alone reminds me of my life’s purpose. As we enter a new program year, I invite you to pause for a moment and examine how you practice the presence of God.
The tendency that I hear, see and experience is that people, (myself included), look for God “somewhere out there.” Brother Lawrence reminds us that God is nearer than we might think. Psalm 139 expresses this reality well when the psalmist asks,
“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10)
There is a saying, “Wherever you go…there, you are.” Brother Lawrence’s point is that not only are you there, but so is God. What do we do with this knowledge? If God indeed resides within each of us, how do we access this wonderful and awesome reality? The answer is simple to verbalize and much more difficult to realize…Practice. The practice of the presence of God requires dedication, discipline, and persistence and like many life-long practices of health such as exercise and nutritional eating it may require returning to the practice when our efforts have waned. Recently, I have heard in various arenas of my life a complaint about life being “too hard.” Without dismissing the struggle of life and making compassion passé, my response to these voices is to remind them that the meaningful aspects of life require effort and that most of the truly wonderful life discoveries demand hard work. My question to us is, “Why would our relationship with God require anything less than our best effort?”
What does this “work” look like? Tending our relationship with God and tending our soul are one in the same. I am becoming more aware that the tending of relationships has less to do with filling space and more to do with clearing or creating space, no matter whether that relationship is with my spouse, children, friends or God. How do you create space in your life for simple reflection? Do you spend time regularly writing your thoughts and feelings? Do you spend time in silence at least once a day? (pausing for a breath during conversations doesn’t count.) Do you have a friend or counselor that you can share your deepest wonderings with without worrying about being judged? These practices are the surface of a very deep body of practices that can open to us a “way of being” that is truly a gift.
You may be asking, “Why do all this? It sounds like a lot of work.” The fruit of this practice, the fruit of this effort is…Joy. I remember a conversation with a wise friend about how much of my time, energy and money I could afford to give to my practice of tending my relationship with God. His response has equally encouraged and haunted me ever since. His response was, “Well Rob, how much you can afford to give to God is answered by deciding how much Joy you can stand!” It is so important to remember that the Practice of the Presence of God is for us. It provides joy for our journey and is worth the effort.
Faithfully, your Rector,