Practicing His Presence

At Collide, we believe that God uses ordinary women to do amazing things. He meets us exactly where we’re at – in our mess, our pain, our joy, and our stories. We’ve been amazed at how He redeems our brokenness and empowers women in our community and beyond to walk in the confidence of their identity as beloved daughters.

We’d love to introduce you to one of those women, Sue Likkel, who we’ve asked to contribute her voice, her story and her wisdom to the Collide blog.

Of all the wonderful aspects of life, I think luxuriating in bed lies near the top of the list. Family, faith, health, and… a good bed? Yeah, I can get behind that. We redecorated our bedroom a few years ago and now it’s cozier than ever. Plush bedspread, soft lighting, and a just-right mattress. Add a sleeping husband, snuggly pup, a pile of bedside books and I rest deeply in contentment.

Over the years, I’ve found that I talk to God most frequently when I’m in bed – most likely because it’s when the world has quieted and so then, can my mind. My jotted to-do’s set aside for tomorrow, my eyes too tired to read anymore… it’s then I feel the pull to talk to my Father. Suddenly it’s 3 AM and honestly, I wish I were sleeping, but God knows that this is when I can more clearly hear His voice. In quiet and calm, I turn my mind’s eye towards Him.

In desiring a more constant closeness with Jesus, I read the classic Practicing His Presence. In it, Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach share their experience in practicing bringing their minds into Christ’s presence, focusing on Him, and speaking with Him. Their goal was to experience His nearness every minute – but spoiler – it’s not possible. Life hurls many distractions at us all, but they carried on through those distractions. Inspired and undeterred by inevitable failures, I’ve been attempting the same.

Pulling inspiration from the example of these two men, I reflect on how Brother Lawrence would pray while doing his work – washing dishes and pots in a 1600’s convent. Imagine the difficulty of that work with no conveniences! Tasked with fetching water, heating it, and scrubbing dried porridge out of the bottom, he asked God to be in his hands, his arms, and his legs. He offered his work to God – everything – even cleaning a dirty pot. I think about that while loading the dishwasher and all the other luxuries that allow me to do my work without the pains of the 17th century.

Frank Laubach tells of his efforts to do as Brother Lawrence did – to bring his mind in line with Christ. He asks God to be in his eyes, his words, his thoughts. He asks for a Christ-like sensitivity in interacting with people, a tenderness that couldn’t spring from his own heart. In doing so, both men found their lives transformed by a Christ experience they didn’t feel before.

Wanting the same, I began imitating these men’s actions and words. Though I am a novice in this endeavor, I’m persevering in this practice. And you know what I’ve noticed? Everything goes better when we focus on Him. During a time of meditation, I sit quietly with Him. When I’m going about my day, I try to remember to ask Him to direct my path, choose my words, convey His care for another through me, and use my hands to help someone. Nothing need be grandiose. What a relief, right?

“For God does not regard the greatness of the work but the love with which it is performed.“ -Brother Lawrence.

All that we do, think, and say – when green-lighted and led by Him – becomes holy. It took me a while to accept that. Could a sinful me perform acts of holiness? Yes. When we follow through on kindness, obedience, and nudging from Jesus, it’s holy, especially when we see someone’s value through Christ’s eyes.

Lest you’re thinking, “It’s not possible! My mind is a mess.” I know, usually, my brain acts more like a pinball machine. Thoughts bounce off all kinds of distractions, pushing the ball of thought to another bumper and another until lights are flashing, and bells are ringing… what was I thinking again?

We all have troubled and messy minds. Brother Lawrence says, “Our useless thoughts spoil everything. They are where mischief begins.” True! But they don’t leave us without advice: reject those thoughts and return your focus to God. Recalibrate, sister. Laubach advises that when we wrestle with our inner thoughts, instead of talking to ourselves, we should talk to God. Tell Him these thoughts of yours are intrusive and ask Him to refocus you. Even say, “Lord, you do the thinking.”

Back to my cozy bed. In my dark, quiet room, I fight the tendency to calculate the next day’s moves. Don’t think about the grocery list or the phone calls, I tell myself. Picture His throne room. Enter in quiet and awe. Say, “Lord, I am here.” Focus on Jesus. His beauty. His love. Sit in stillness as long as you can. You’ll lose focus, but bring it back. Tell Him you love Him. Refresh your commitment to being His servant. Joy increases with this habit, I can assure you. I felt it just last week when I felt apprehension creep up like an oily friend. A mental intruder, I called him out and asked my Guard to deal with it. Once dispatched, I felt a strong, “I will take care of you.” Yes, of course, You will, because You always have.

The coziness of our beds can distract us, but it can also be a reminder of the comfort and safety of our God. Let the blankets remind you of His wings under which you hide. Let the mattress remind you of His right hand in which He holds you. Imagine Him tucking you in safely. Even when they’re closed, keep your eyes on the One who has you in His sights always. Stumble you will, but keep going forward. Invent any way you can to bring your mind back to Him, and you will find your joy multiplied, simply by being in His presence.

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