It’s 3:00 PM and all you can think about is the two hours that must pass by before heading home. Been there? If practicing His presence is going to be a constant and complete pursuit, one must learn to finish the day well. For me, afternoons can drag on endlessly as I fight to stay awake. These times, however, are often where attitude and mindset battles are fought. Thus, practice of His presence must be something I have learned to actively pursue.
If you’ll remember, in Part 1, I talked about the importance of meeting with God before you step foot in a classroom or workspace. Part 2 and Part 2a outlined the need for practicing an ongoing conversation with God during the day. This last post deals with the three essential ingredients to a strong finish: reflection, repentance, and remaining.
Another Lesson From a Brother
Throughout this series of posts, we’ve learned from the master himself, a 17th century Carmelite monk by the name of Brother Lawrence. Lawrence’s example on the art of finishing the day strong will serve us well:
When he was finished, he examined how he had performed his duty. If he found well, he returned thanks to God. If not, he asked pardon and, without being discouraged, he set his mind right again. He then continued his exercise of the presence of God as if he had never deviated from it. “Thus,” said he, “by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I have come to a state where it would be as difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to accustom myself to the habit of thinking of Him.”
The first thing Lawrence would do upon finishing kitchen duties is reflect on “how he performed that day.” Lawrence would cycle through tasks, conversations he had, orders he gave, and more. If we are to develop a lifestyle of abiding in God, we must learn to reflect on how we performed during a given day. One cannot live the same way every day and expect life transformation. It doesn’t have to be long, but it has to happen. We must quickly run through our meetings, conversations, and assignments. Examine your heart and ask God to reveal any weaknesses.
Lawrence’s second response after the day was finished was to repent. After Lawrence would examine his heart to see how he performed, he would ask for God’s forgiveness when he had not performed well. He would think back to tense conversations and repent for shortisghtedness. He would plead for mercy for times he did not deal in integrity or treat others with abounding love. Repentance is a necessary step in learning to practice abidining in Him. In repenting, we acknowledge our sinful actions in light of God’s goodness and desire a new way of living.
The final move Lawrence exemplifies for us is remaining. Lawrence was not discouraged by his disobedience, but repented and moved on with his pursuit of God. Lawrence was not held back by his sin, but was absolved by the grace of God to remain in Him. He didn’t allow his thoughts to linger on his shortcomings, but appealed to the immense mercy of God and moved forward. Learning to remain after repenting is the final step that encourages and reinvisions us for pursuing Him again. In this stage, it’s helpful to remind one’s self that in His presence is the fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
The cycle of relfecting, repenting, and remaining was more than mere healing for Lawrence, it allowed him to develop a lifestyle of actively pursuing God’s presence to the point where he didn’t have to think about it. Pursuing God’s presence, for Lawrence, was just as natural as breathing. May it be so for us.