I love my son. I can't take him shopping for a birthday card without finding every singing card in the store and dancing to it. It's awesome. At least until he opened one with a song about beer and I got some dirty looks. But we danced anyway because that's what we do.
Some mornings I wake up with a delicious feeling of peace, and I stretch in bed like a lazy cat and praise God for new mercies, looking forward with joy to the day ahead. Other mornings, I wake up feeling like I've been punched in the gut and I put my head under the covers and inform God that now would be a good time to bring me home because I'm pretty sure I can no longer face the world outside my bed. I sure wish I could bottle some secret formula that would guarantee me those good mornings, or maybe write a 12-step book or develop the perfect diet plan that will allow me to leap out of bed like a saucy spanish dancer each morning and take the world by storm.
I finished up a sweet little book by Brother Lawrence recently called Practicing the Presence of God. These collections of his letters to various people contained numerous exhortations to concentrate the soul's attention on God. His descriptions are understandably vague since we relate to God as unique individual. Nevertheless, the vagueness was also extremely frustrating. By happy accident I followed that book with Thomas Kelly's A Testament of Devotion, where he conveniently opens the book with a long discussion of simultaneity, in other words, practicing the presence of God. He describes the process thusly:
At first the practice of inward prayer is a process of alternation of attention between outer things and the Inner Light. Preoccupation with either brings the loss of the other. Yet what is sought is not alteration, but simultaneity, worship undergirding every moment, living prayer, the continuous current and background of all moments of life. Long practice indeed is needed before alternation yields to concurrent immersion in both levels at once. The "plateaus in the learning curve" are so long, and many falter and give up, assenting to alternation as the best they can do....But the hunger of the committed one is for unbroken communion and adoration, and we may be sure He longs for us to find it and supplements our weakness. For our quest is of His initiation, and is carried forward in His tender power and completed by His grace.
When I write a post about loneliness or grief or any of the myriad forms of heaviness my spirit experiences, I wonder if people don't quite get the right idea, only I haven't really had the words to express it until now. In James 1, he says "perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything," and then he goes on to say that "blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."
Now I really don't know what those mean completely, but I'm beginning to realize that it is not the particular trial, but the act of persevering that brings a deeper awareness of the Spirit's presence and leads me further into the simultaneity that Kelly describes. Not that I've perfected this by any means. I've got a whole closet full of crazy that comes out when I'm not persevering in the Spirit and I get all kinds of sinful. But there are moments, sometimes even rare hours or days, when I'm able to taste this concurrent immersion where worship undergirds every moment. And I finally realize why it's so freaking hard to explain.
Because while I feel the bone-crushing weariness and the overwhelming loneliness and the painful brokenness, another part of me feels like Quinn in the greeting card aisle, dancing this ridiculously awesome-ly awkward dance with the Spirit of God inside me. It's hard to explain how broken and dry and just plain done I feel and yet also communicate how content I am to be exactly here. Because exactly here is where the Spirit of God has carried me, teaching me how to live this life of simultaneity, which I suspect has something to do with the crown of life James talks about.