Practicing the Presence of God

Don Postema has written a delicate, artful, and worship-inducing book called Space for God that has been walking me through meditations and exercises in my quiet time.  Today’s question called for an honest journaling session.

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Q: “Is it easy or hard for you to find time to pray, to make space for God in your life?  Write down some things that keep you from prayer or from pursuing your spiritual life.  Are there thoughts, ideas, attitudes, feelings that might keep you from spending time with God?  Are there any ideas that could be reexamined, any attitudes that could be changed, any activities that could be shifted, any priorities that could be rearranged so you would be able to make some time and space for God each day?”

A:

In general, I do sense a growing warmth and ease, I guess you could say, toward the idea of spending time with God.  Once I am sitting down to meditate on Him, there are sometimes layers of distraction He has to chip away at, but I am getting used to desiring that necessary rawness of being in the contact with the living God, communing with the Spirit.

The difficulty for me, I think, comes in circumstance — being short on quiet time and sleep simultaneously.  Wanting to claim the morning for time with God but being flooded by the family’s demands usually means the family wins out.  It is, I think, impossible to convince a 14-month-old to go back to sleep when he’s determined to nurse from 6 to 7 a.m.  By the time afternoon quiet time comes around, I am usually desperate for “just me” time, when I can be at leisure to work or entertain myself.  And that’s when I realize that time with God — contemplation, if you will — still has the label of “duty” on it.

Sometimes the only thing I can do to combat all the odds is to breathe a grace-acknowledging prayer to the God who gave us the gospel.  “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.  I want to desire You but I don’t!”

I say all this to my shame because I never ought to wish away time with my precious, constantly changing children, who are the very reason I cite for not having space for God.  Sometimes in my daily tasks I see as much of the Father as in the rarer quiet times alone.  And regarding the quiet times and “if” they can happen for me, I can’t help but get the gist that it all depends on how much I desire them.  If Jesus, thronged by people wanting to hear from Him and be healed, could find blessed quiet time away (if only in the middle of the night), then I see how it must be a priority for me as well.  The time-requiring tasks of my family stewardship are dwarfed, too, by those of mothers who have come before me, mothers who didn’t have the ease of running water, refrigeration, automatic central heat.  God and the necessity for time and space with Him remain in spite of the hardest of circumstances.  I believe He has redeemed all of us, in all of our days.

On the other hand, I must make note that time with God need not be merely quiet time.  John Calvin’s promotion of constant prayer, as well as the rhythms of corporate worship at the abbey — these things remind me that the sacred always inhabits the quotidian routines of the day.  And so that’s when Don Postema’s question regarding attitudes really hits me hard, because it is the boys’ misbehaviors that I often allow to snatch me from communion with God and give in, rather, to the enemy through harsh, unloving, impatient words and actions.

We take sacred, quiet pauses to keep the remembrance of worship, the reality of God’s constant presence right before our eyes.  When praise is so readily available that any circumstance can send it spilling from our lips, then we have grasped what it is to “pray without ceasing.”  Then we know what it is to constantly be in the presence of God.  Then we know He has not merely rented a room or two in our heart, but He has bought the whole house and He’s moved right in.

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