“In the secret of His presence how my soul delights to hide!”
I want that to be true of me. I want it to be, but it’s so not.
Perhaps a more accurate statement would be:
“In the secret of a Netflix binge how my soul delights to hide!”
“In the secret of a mindless novel how my soul delights to hide!”
That doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
I’m going through Tim Keller’s book, Prayer, with a lovely group of women. A couple of weeks ago we read a chapter about Luther, Calvin, and Augustine on the topic of prayer. I’ve been thinking about something that Augustine wrote to a woman named Anicia Faltonia Proba, who asked him how she should be praying and what she should be praying for. He replied, “Pray for a happy life.” He quotes Psalm 27:4 as a guide: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”
I confessed to our group that dwelling in the house of the Lord and gazing upon his beauty…doesn’t really sound all that great to me. I can’t say that I’m passionate about that. I can’t say that I’m really passionate about God.
I’ve been belaboring the topic of passion, hobby, and how to spend my time for over a year now. In all honesty, I’m tired of hearing myself talk about it. But, like so many before me, I’ve lost a sense of myself in my role as stay-at-home-mom. Everything is so clearly defined for me that it can easily become an identity.
After reading Augustine and David’s words, I asked myself:
“What if I decided I wanted to be passionate about God? What if I prayed David’s prayer? What if I asked God to change my heart and help me to desire him, and his beauty?”
What would a person like that even look like?
What would I look like?
If I decided my passion would be ballet, I would find a class. I would practice. I would attempt to stifle my laughter at the sight of myself in a leotard. If it were painting, I would shadow Erin Shaw. I would go to museums. I would buy some canvasses and some paint.
If I want to be passionate about God, I will read his word. I will pray. I will attempt to dismantle the false ideas I have created over my lifetime and actually study who Jesus was, and what God says about himself. I will “practice the presence of God,” as Brother Lawrence says. Brennan Manning speaks so eloquently of the person who lives for God, stating that, “On the surface we can think, dialogue, plan, and be fully present to the demands of the daily routine. Simultaneously, and deeply within, we can be in prayer, adoration, thanksgiving, and attentiveness to the Spirit. The secret places of the heart become a sanctuary of praise in the noisy playpen of the marketplace.” I will practice that.
In his commentary, Calvin says of Psalm 27:4 that David acknowledges that many may have this desire and feel passionate about it at first, but in asking to dwell there all the days of his life, David prays for “steadiness of purpose.”
“Many may be seen spurring on with great impetuosity at first, whose ardor, in process of time, not only languishes, but is almost immediately extinguished. By declaring, therefore, that he would persevere in this wish during his whole life, he thereby distinguishes between himself and hypocrites.”
As you’ve read here before, “never stop starting.”
Never stop starting to pray that prayer.
Never stop starting to passionately pursue God.
Never stop starting to study God’s word.
“Would you like to know the sweetness of the secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow: this shall then be your reward;
And whene’er you leave the silence of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image of the Master in your face.”