I’m struggling in my work these days. It’s so many details, so much prep work that could be done by a trained monkey. Last week I spent 3 hours cutting out paper Moses’ and taping clues around the church for a scavenger hunt. It’s evidence of my sinfulness that this kind of work makes me resentful. I have a master’s degree, darn it, my inner voice says, someone else should be doing this kind of stuff!
And while that’s true in one way, and I’m working on giving these jobs away, it’s not going to happen for several weeks yet. So, how can my spirit be sustained until the new year? Can I find a way to minimize the resentment and stay centered amidst the busy work?
Maybe. But it’s going to take some practice. My friend Emily wrote this very good column earlier this week about practice, and it reminded me of a favorite devotional book, Practicing the Presence of God. I’m pretty sure her column was a Holy Spirit nudge, so I opened the book on my kindle this morning.
If you haven’t read it (you should), here’s the gist. Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite monk who lived in France the 17th century. A Cardinal of the church went to him for spiritual direction and marveled at his ability to maintain a sense of God’s presence in every moment of every day. So the Cardinal asked Brother Lawrence to teach him to do the same. The book is the Cardinal’s account of their conversation, including some letters.
In short, Brother Lawrence’s answer to the priest’s request of help was this: practice. Try to focus on God every moment of every day, in your dishwashing, in your food preparation, as you wash your face, in your labor. He writes, “I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it…without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind wandered involuntarily.” Even as an old man, after doing this for years, he hasn’t perfected his focus, but claims to have found “great advantages” in this practice.
So, what if all the Sunday school preparations, all the set-up and clean-up, all the laundry and dishwashing and baths and meals, are opportunities for me to practice being in the presence of God? What if the moments I hate most in each day are possibilities for God to draw me closer to my center in Her? What if I let go of that building resentment just for a moment and ask what God is doing in the midst of the mundane?
It all sounds kind of Pollyanna, I know. But at this point, I’ve got nothing to lose, except maybe the bad feelings I’m looking to get rid of anyway. So I’m going to practice. And hope. And fail. And practice some more. Because this:
“When we are faithful to keep ourselves in God’s holy Presence, and set God always before us…[it] begets in us a holy freedom, and if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of.”