The Birth of Presence

My daughter is a little bit crazy.

At 16 months, she has figured out how to run. And fall. And stick her head into any pool of standing water at least an inch deep. Just tonight she figured out that her princess hair brush makes a nice weapon against Mommy’s head, Daddy’s shin, or even the wall if it’s giving her a funny look.

She just never. stops. moving.

And it turns out you, gotta be with her the whole time. There’s no leaving her on her own, not even for a minute, lest she, hypothetically speaking of course, try scaling the stone fireplace when you turn to put the dishes in the dishwasher or put your spiritual reading in the toilet while you put her toys back in the drawer.

Needless to stay, we spend a lot of time together. And despite what my tone thus far might convey, it brings me nearly constant joy. Just watching her learn and laugh and dance, even, or perhaps especially, when she forgets I’m there, fills my heart with a burning I’ve never felt before. It’s a new love, a growing love, a love filled with joyous innocence that I lost somewhere long ago in the fogs of adolescence. It is wonderful.

But the best moments are those few times when she comes to sit with me, even if just for a minute. Sometimes she will pick up a book and walk over to me, backing up into my lap for story time. Or if my wife turns on the vacuum and she gets scared, she runs over to me and lays her head on my shoulder, snuggling me in a way her metabolism usually doesn’t let her.

It brings me a happiness I can’t describe.

But that’s not why she does it. She isn’t trying to make me happy. She probably likes the way my body feels against her or the way my voice sounds when I read to her. Or when she’s scared or hurt, she comes to me to feel safe and comforted.

It pleases me, but that is a byproduct of her action, not the intent.

When she’s older, maybe she’ll come snuggle me just to make me happy. But she’s not capable of that yet.

I am, though. Sometimes when I visit home and I’m sitting around my parent’s house watching the Cardinals or reading a book, I will go rest my head on my mom’s shoulder or lay against her on their overstuffed couch. I don’t do this because I need to feel comforted or because I need to be reassured of her love. I’m content at home. I’m confident in her love.

I do it because I know if makes her happy.

She’s my Momma, and she misses her boy, and I think it does her heart good to have her little-boy-turned-grown-man just rest with her.

It does bring me comfort and loved, but that is a byproduct of my action, not the intent.

This, I think, is the goal of what Brother Lawrence calls “practicing the presence of God”. If we remember that God our Father is ever-present, watching over us with the patience and peace only a loving parent could show, we first learn that we can go and rest in His arms when we are hurt or scared or when we need to feel comforted.

But if we persevere in our filial relationship with God, we learn true love. We learn to put ourselves in His arms just because it makes Him happy. Because it pleases Him. Sure, we may gain consolation when we rest in His presence, but if we learn to do it for no other reason than our desire to do His will, that’s when we are spiritual grown-ups. That’s when we walk upright in the presence of our Father, when we take pleasure in our accomplishments and growth only because a Father always smiles on His children when they do what makes them, and Him, happy.

I’m learning, slowly, to remind myself of God’s presence. I’m learning to consistently rest in His lap, not only when I think I need Him, but every day, just because I think it would make Him happy. It’s taking time, but I feel like this is the next step I must take to mature, to move out of my spiritual adolescence and into a genuine manhood that lives fully into the potential of a life lived in and with the Divine Spirit.

There are growing pains, but those are pains worth bearing.

Christ, may I persevere as Brother Lawrence did, so that you may revel in me as I’m sure you have in him.

(P.S. As always, my thoughts are at least in part shamelessly stolen from C.S. Lewis. Here’s a quote from Mere Christianity:

“And yet – this is the other and equally important side of it – this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty… Every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in grown-up son. In the same way, he [George MacDonald] said, ‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.'” )

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