Eternity in the Ordinary

15764039_s[box] This post is a reflection from You and Me Forever, chapter 1. [/box] If what I see determines what I do, and if, as we have been reading in chapter 1, we are to have an eternal perspective, then how does one cultivate that viewpoint? In the conversations I’ve had with others, I think we don’t realize how we have absorbed the worldview of the world around us. Try as I might, I would probably have to say that I have “conformed” more than I have been “transformed.” (Romans 12:2). How then do we begin to retrain our focus so that eternity becomes our new reality and our new modus operandi?

There are some hints. In the Bible we read Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing. What’s that look like? Does that mean I am constantly on my knees? Obviously, as a mom, that is not going to be either practical or safe! If that was what God expected, then I’m not doing so well. I tend to pray only when I’m in trouble or need to.

Then there’s Jesus’ exhortation to abide in the vine (John 15:4-5). Those who do not are unable to do anything eternally fruitful. We are cut off from the life-giving source and will eventually shrivel. Then David talks about dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of his life as being the one thing he wants to do (Psalm 27:4). What’s up with all these people? Did this mean that believers just pray and stare at God all day? How does one do this and still live in this world?

My husband has often compared spiritual disciplines to basketball (or other sports) drills. Sometimes they don’t seem like they are very practical. The repetition gets boring or dull. They seem to last forever. But, as he reminds me, their value is most apparent when you are playing the game. During a game, we don’t have time to try to remember what position our elbows should be in and how to aim at the basket. Sometimes we need to make a quick decision in a split second. If we have practiced our drills faithfully, those things become second nature. We then don’t have to waste precious moments during the game to stop and think about it. And we respond in a way that helps us to (hopefully) win!

Learning to practice the presence of God is one of those spiritual disciplines that trains us to live with an eternal perspective. When we train ourselves to practice His presence, we begin to live that sense of eternity as if it were second nature. Little by little through practice, we can then start to look at life through His lens and viewpoint. When the “big” moments and decisions come, we are then better able to respond in a way that is consistent with eternal values.

I like Thomas Kelly’s description best. He writes:

 “There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.”— A Testament of Devotion

So you wanna start developing this ability? Here are a few ideas adapted from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook to help you get started:

  • Before your feet hit the ground to start the day, make it a habit to dedicate it to God. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) and your body as instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:13).
  • Before you begin a task or while you are performing it, even if it is a routine one, dedicate yourself to God. Ask God to guide you while you compose an email, give you insight when you need to discipline a child, find joy when you wash the dishes. Or you can place a visual reminder or set an alarm at various points of the day to “check in” with God. Pray that you will give him glory in whatever you do, whether we eat or drink. (Col. 3:17, 23)
  • If interruptions plague you (as they do for most parents), learn to view them as God’s way of trying to break through to us. Samuel learned to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9) If we are irritated with interruptions, it may be because we look at them as obstacles to our own personal goals or comfort. But if we allow them to be a reminder to view them from God’s perspective, we may be less irritated and instead respond to them in a way that is more consistent with His heart and values.

This discipline is a practice or a drill in our spiritual lives that attunes as more closely to the reality of God in the ordinary. I hope you’ll give it a try. I'll admit that I'm still in process. May it allow you to abide in the vine in an attitude of prayer even as you live, move, work, serve, and act so that you may begin to experience the joy of being in His presence even now here on earth.