Practice. Never been one of my favorite words.
It conjures up images of 5:30 AM basketball practices when I was a sophomore in high school. It reminds me of double-days for college football in the muggy Minnesota heat. It puts me right back on the piano bench as a grade-schooler, struggling to learn songs that my older sister had long since mastered.
Yet once again I find my life circling back to this word. I have been reading through the book, "Your God is Too Safe" with a group of guys, and we recently went through a chapter on being aware of God's presence in your life. The author, Mark Buchanan, made it clear that becoming readily aware of God in our life requires...you guessed it...practice. He even references one of my all-time favorite (and least favorite) books, "The PRACTICE of the Presence of God" Written by a simple monk, this books encourages the reader to know and relate to God even while peeling the potatoes. (Seriously- check it out.)
In regards to "practicing" God's presence, Buchanan writes,
"We need to practice the presence of God: not just to acknowledge in some philosophical way that God is present, but to rehearse, to repeat, to work and rework our knowledge that even though we don't see Him and sometimes don't feel him, he is there. He is here. When we practice the presence of God, we train ourselves to desire His presence..."
I certainly want to desire His presence. But with all this talk of practice, I can't help but reflect on my experience of learning to play the piano. For me, that kind of practice was a constant ebb and flow in my life. I would go through seasons of intense desire where I really wanted to get good. But inevitably, before I would reach a true level of competence, I would become content with my current ability. As soon as that happened (and it always did), my desire to practice immediately went away. Sometimes it would be weeks, even months, before I would return to practice again. The net effect of this pattern is that to this day, I have likely spent more hours at a piano than anyone in the history of the earth who is still unable to truly play. Why? Because I got tired of the practice.
I guess today I don't have a real "motivational" thought, but instead I want to wrestle with this idea. I want to express a very real fear and a worry of my own heart that I will do the same with God. I will seek and desire His presence to a point, but when I sense a certain closeness with Him, my practice will end. And over and over, rather than walking in true friendship with God by continued practice, I will go through this cycle of unlearning and relearning.
How do we break from this cycle? I am not sure I know. Perhaps it has to do with focus, or commitment, or perseverance, or any other number of words that could be thrown out in a cliche fashion. Or maybe it's something more. Maybe the "answer" is in finding a certain level of contentment with this pattern I have, believing that even in the ebb and flow of my heart, and the on-again, off-again nature of my practicing His presence, that God is doing more in me than I know.
May you know, and practice, His presence on your journey today,