contemplation

The Easiest (and Hardest) Spiritual Discipline

The glory of God surrounds you every second of every day. What a profound truth! But most of the time—like a dark cloud blocking the sun—the mental chatter about the past and the future keeps us from seeing it. We are absorbed in the past—with all the regrets and pain—or the future—shaped by both hopes and fears—and this causes us to miss the wonder of the present.

The present is all that is real.

The past is gone. The future is not yet. We remember the past and anticipate the future, but we always do so in the present. Reality is now. And the single most important aspect of reality is that God is present every moment.

Now.

Now.

And now.

To forget that God is present in any given moment is to forget the most important aspect of that moment.

God is the God of the living, not the God of the already-past or the not-yet-present. He’s the great “I am,” not the great “I was” or the great “I will be.” He’s been present in every moment in the past, for which we can be thankful, and he’ll be present at every moment in the future, which gives us great hope. But he’s only alive and active now, in the present.

Whatever else is going on in your life, the ultimate goal is to “seek first the kingdom of God,” as Jesus commanded … moment by moment. This can only be done now, and when we do this, we transform ordinary moments into sacred moments, and our lives become a living sacrament.

Traditionally, the discipline of waking up to the reality of God’s presence in the now is called “practicing the presence.” My book Present Perfect introduces this practice, based on the writings of Brother Lawrence, J.-P. de Caussade and Frank Laubach, writers who claim that the single most important task of the Christian life is to live in the awareness of God’s presence in the now.

No spiritual disciple, I believe, is easier or more accessible to everyone than this one, for waking up to God’s presence requires nothing more than remembering God’s presence each moment. Right now, as you read this sentence, remind yourself that you are submerged in God’s love. That is the practice of the presence of God. It’s not hard at all.

At the same time, no spiritual discipline could be more challenging. The challenge is not in doing the discipline: It’s in remembering the discipline.

Whatever task occupies you at any given moment, you’ll tend to do it better if you include God. Remaining aware of God’s presence doesn’t compete with our attention to other things. It augments it.

God is present in the now. Are you awake to it?

—Adapted from Present Perfect, pages 14-22

Image by Jeremy Cai via Unsplash

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