Practicing is probably one of the most misunderstood bits of advice I have ever offered or been offered, but is, in my experience, the most successful advice when understood as being truly habitualized.
Habitualized? Is that a word? Yep. Practice, train, habituate, teach, program, make used to. The urban dictionary is, on this word, attuned with Brother Andrew, a lay-brother among the monks in the 1600s!
Our country is greatly habitualized – commercials, television, social media, sermons, Ted Talks, politicians —good and bad— all aim to habitualize us. Children are habitualized to watch television, teens to watch movies; young adults to drink coffee. Adults (especially in America) are habitualized to overwork, and overconsume.
Jesus’ example – stepping beyond personal will and comfort – Matthew 26:39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
Paul’s advice – Philippians. 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you
Peter’s painfully learned wisdom – 2Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.
Fake it till you make it? Is that what I am saying? That is what a young woman with marital discord thought she heard – “pretend” until I start to believe it, and hopefully it becomes real. No. Pretending will only increase bitterness, even if it is the best we, in our flesh, have to offer.
Habituation is discipline – the discipline of deference. If I am practicing the presence of Christ, as Brother Andrew teaches, I am deferring my (bouncing and boinging super-ball of) emotions and (selfish, resistant to pain) will to God.
That takes discipline. Not, an “I will start when” attitude. Not an “I am going to… after” attitude. Discipline is a now decision – a though-I-don’t-understand decision, and a scared-silly but I-am willing decision – to trust, accept and rest in the presence of Christ over, and over, and over, and over.
Brother Andrew defined practicing the presence as discipline of constant prayer (turning our attention toward God) and praise (responding to God’s attention and promises toward us). He considered it his honor and his duty. To him, this habituation is the art of “practicing the presence of God in one single act that does not end.”
Does not end.
Never leaving. Omnipresent. Faithful. Constant. Never tiring. All character qualities of God – not what he is like – but who He IS.
Jesus said, I am with (together in place or purpose; committed to supporting and completing) you. Jesus said, I will never leave you. He is always available.
The question is: are we, am I, available to His presence? Am I constantly and consistently acknowledging, turning to, practicing His presence? Allowing Him to be “with me.”
The more I practice His presence, the more I recognize it. The more I recognize His presence, the more I crave it. And the more I crave it the more I welcome it. The more I welcome and experience it, the more satisfying and completing I find it. And, like a soldier in battle, the more I practice this discipline, the more I realize my survival depends on it.
Habitualize the presence of Christ. Start today.