Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 CEV
Monday we paused in the shadow of the cross. We looked at how it’s necessary for us to engage fully with the cross before “moving on” to the resurrection. Today I want to expand on this concept but take it in a different direction: I want us to consider how to live meaningfully in the present reality of our lives and our faith.
In recent years the “mindfulness movement” has really taken off; I remember watching a segment about it back when Oprah was still on air, and even trying to read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. Mindfulness is about trying to stay in the present moment in the most literal sense: no doing tasks mindlessly or, more accurately, with your mind a million miles away. Mindfulness encourages the full participation of all your thoughts and senses with whatever task you’re doing, whether that’s the dishes or brushing your teeth.
On the surface of it it’s not a bad practice. The idea is to halt your stream of consciousness entirely; to get your mind to quiet down into the present moment, like it does when you’re engaged with something you truly love doing. No jarring interruptions; none of those “dialogues” we all love to indulge in, or those “what if” scenarios and all the totally unnecessary emotion they tend to evoke.
As Christians, though, we need to go a step further. It isn’t merely enough to center ourselves on ourselves; we need to center ourselves in God. We need to halt our stream of consciousness not just to engage the present moment, but to engage the present moment in the presence of God. Instead, then, of focusing on what we’re doing at any given moment in the day, we need to become aware of the fact that we are in God’s presence every moment, and let that change our ways of doing and being.
It’s not an easy practice. A Carmelite monk living in the seventeenth century became famous for living his life in this way. Sure, we think – how hard is it to keep your mind on God when you’re a monk? But Brother Lawrence’s primary responsibilities included things like cooking and cleaning – hardly the glamorous ascetic life. Yet he did every thing like he was doing it for God himself; he did everything like he was in God’s presence.
Of this commitment he said, “That in order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we do to Him; we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.” So is it easy? No. But is it worth it? I think so. Our lives are like gardens, and we’re out there every day looking to water them with all the wrong things. There’s only one source of sustenance for us, however: God’s presence. The good news is, if we are diligent in shutting down our yippity brains, we have a saturation of God welling up all around us.
But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
I will proclaim your name, for it is good.
Psalm 52:8-9 NRSV
You can download Brother Lawrence’s book here for free.