As Close as I’ve Ever Come
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Every year for the past several years I have read a little book called “Practicing His Presence.” It is a really short book written in two parts. The first part chronicles the Christian walk of a man named Frank Laubach. At 45 years old, he endeavored to walk continuously in the presence of God, keeping Him in the forefront of his mind all day long. Frank died in 1970, but left behind some seriously practical advice on how we can do what he did.
The next story is a guy from the 1600’s called Brother Lawrence. He basically went into a monastery in an attempt to completely reject this world. He found that with practice, over time, he could keep a constant sense of God’s Presence. Every time I read this book, I am so highly motivated to do the same. I’m not quite finished with the book this time around because I’ve resolved to read one section a day, and then apply what I’ve read to that day. Here is what I read today (It was a letter written to a lady inquiring how she could keep God’s Presence):
Dear sister, this very instant, make a resolution, a firm and holy resolution to never again willfully stray from Him. Stop now and agree with the Lord to live the rest of your days in His sacred presence. Then, out of love for Him, surrender all other pleasures.
Is this possible? Of course, if you believe it is. Set yourself to this heartily. If you perform this adventure as you should, you will soon see the effects. (Practicing His Presence: pg. 67)
Keep in mind here: I had about as easy a day at work as I could possibly have. This was kind of like playing a video game on “easy” mode. I drove a field trip for us to see the movie “Wonder,” so I didn’t actually have to teach my regular classes. Here is my adventure written in the style of Practicing His Presence:
November 27, 2017
I woke up at 5 am and resolved to focus my mind on Him alone. When I felt like I could focus on Him, and not all that I had to do that day, I got up. I have been reading one story each day out of a book called “I Am N.” It tells stories of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. It always reminds me that if they can do what they do, living where they live, and being treated the way they are being treated, then surely I can live out Christianity here. However, this day, with God right there with me, I felt like He asked me to go straight to Practicing His Presence. So, I did. I read until I got to the paragraph above.
After that, I read John 18. Peter denies Jesus three times. I can so seriously relate to Him. I’ve denied God more times than I can count. I doubted for a moment that I could “practice His presence.” Then, I thought of how Peter eventually figured it out. He got to a place of walking in the continuous presence of God. I prayed, resolved that I would do my best.
On the drive to work, I worshipped. It was wonderful.
On the walk out to my school bus, the air was so cold, but I enjoyed it. He was right there with me . . . I wondered if we would even feel cold in Heaven.
As I drove to my first stop, I prayed for the kids I would pick up. I was seriously fighting back tears. I thanked Him for really staying with me this long. I picked everyone up, and headed back to school. I loved it all, especially the walk from the bus to the school. It was just the two of us.
I did our normal check-in procedures with students. I have to admit; here is where I lost Him a bit. I talked football and other generalities. But, right after that, as we were walking to “morning meeting,” I just got zapped with His Presence again. Then, the weirdest thing happened, we were given this imaginary scenario about walking in the woods. The first question was, “Who are you walking with?” Of course I was walking with God. It turns out that whomever you were walking with is the most important person in your life. On one hand, that made me feel really good. On the other hand, I was conversing with Him and wondering why if He was so important to me, why it was so easy to let Him slip from my mind.
I walked to get the bus. I noticed that the air was a little warmer . . . He was right there.
As I drove the bus, I was able to pray. I prayed for everything I could possibly remember as well as everyone on that bus. It was kind of glorious.
In the movie theater, I asked God, “Will you watch this movie with me?” I pictured Him in the seat next to me. It was crazy. I was an emotional wreck during that movie fighting back tears because there were glimpses of God all in that thing.
I walked out with Him. I honestly couldn’t believe I had held on to Him as long as I had. Driving back to the school, He was right there. I don’t think I even said anything to Him. It was like riding with Tonya right next to me on one of those stretches of road where you don’t really have to say anything. You just enjoy being with each other.
I let the kids off, parked the bus, and walked back. The air was even warmer. I wondered if I ever in my life had noticed something like subtle changes in air temperature before. I asked Him to stay with me as I finished the rest of the day at school. He more than answered my request. We had a great Q&A afterwards about the movie. I took some kids to the gym and got to do some coaching to help a student shoot correctly. I had a very real sense that because Jesus was right there with me, He was calming these kids and keeping them very subdued.
As I walked to the bus, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t lost Him all day. I thanked Him. I had a great talk with the last kid I took home about doing right and getting his life on track. On the drive back to the school . . . just Him and me.
I joined a meeting as soon as I returned. I certainly didn’t mind. I prayed for the students we were meeting about. I don’t know if I actually prayed, or if because God was right there on me, I was simply aware that He was taking this information in as well.
I came home to a wonderful meal and time with my family. I thanked Him for our time together. My little chick had volleyball practice, so I drove her to that and had a great conversation about God. After that, I got to go to the hospital and meet up with one of my members. We talked. We prayed. I left. I wasn’t aware of the temperature, but I was aware that it was dark. I drove back to the gym amazed that I had almost gone the whole day and His presence still remained so real. Is this what Frank Laubach experienced for 41 years? Was he really able to keep it to the degree that I had just done? Or, was I just scratching the surface of how it could be?
I don’t know.
But, I sure want to find out.
I’m sure I will find it much more difficult tomorrow. But, if I can just take everything I have to do one chunk at a time, remembering Him, bringing Him to mind . . .
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is possible.