Practicing the Presence of God

I think I’ve mentioned before that God took six years to teach me how to trust him. For the last two years he’s been teaching me about hope and joy. I’m a slow learner. Honestly, I wish that I wasn’t. I think that a lot of my life would be easier if I were less stubborn, less prideful, and more teachable. At the same time, I am confident that God made me a slow learner for a reason. I can definitely say that I value the lessons that I learn deeply, though I’ve certainly still got a long way to go.

I’ve been reading Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, which is an excellent little book. I wrote yesterday about where I’ve been the past few days, and this is true of today as well. I’m pretty much struggling at the moment. Massive doses of rejection will do that to a person. That being said, as I’ve just told a friend of mine, when I put Brother Lawrence’s idea into practice, when I keep my mind focused on God instead of on anything else, then I find that I’m doing really well. I’m upbeat, happy, encouraged and encouraging, and focused on whatever it is that I’m doing.

Whenever I let my focus slip from God to… pretty much anything else right now, then I tumble into a pit of self-pity, rejection, despair, and worthlessness.  It’s not easy, though seeing as how he’s kind of my only bright spot right now it was pretty easy today… respectively speaking. However, I still find myself struggling with questions of why no woman wants me.

I like to figure out which character on a television show I identify with, and I’ve been watching Desperate Housewives recently which, despite being poorly titled, is a show that deals very well with a wide variety of sticky moral and relational issues. The show, unlike some would lead one to believe, doesn’t really present it’s characters as moral or good in any reasonable way. In fact, the vast majority of the characters do very questionable things, but it does present them as real people individually… well, most of them (though not as a real group of people). The individual struggles of each character are definitely real issues. You have the perfectionist who’s legalism destroys her family. The struggling mother trying to keep up with crazy kids, the single mom looking for love, and the cheating wife. Then you have their sex obsessed but caring, hark-working, cheating, and money obsessed husbands/ex-husbands. Again all present real issues that people deal with, but magnified to make them more easily visible. The farther you get into the show, the more real each character becomes. None of the character’s is purely good or purely evil. All of them have high points and low points, just like real people.

Then there’s Ray. Ray is an attractive, but romantically hopeless man who is quite possibly a sociopath. He replaces the medication of Rex (perfectionist’s husband) with potassium pills, which leads to his death, because Ray has convinced himself that he’s in love with the man’s wife. He then goes on to court her, assault her psychotherapist, manipulate her into an engagement, and finally, when she breaks off the engagement, tries to manipulate her into staying with him by attempting suicide. Ray assumes that she’ll save him… she doesn’t. The thing is, I kind of get Ray. He does some terrible things, but he’s also desperate. He’s desperate for someone to love him, and for someone to want him (honestly, a better title for the show might be Desperate People), and I know how that feels. I identify strongly with the backstory that they give to Ray, and that scares me a little bit.

However, I also know myself. I can see the differences between myself and Ray. I think Ray (or worse) is what I might have become if God hadn’t drawn me into a relationship with him. That still scares me a little bit, but not as much as it might. The thing is, like Ray, I don’t understand why I am consistently being rejected. However, unlike Ray, I’m not really sure that I need to. God is drawing me to himself, ever closer, and if this is what that looks like, then it is good. As I just told my friend, the past few days have been good, but rough. Filled with self-doubt and more than a little pain and frustration, but also filled with a longing for God.

Brother Lawrence claims that he found daily joy simply by focusing on God in all things. By always keeping in mind that God was with him, and focusing his thoughts on that God. Even he admitted that this was difficult for him at first, but I think it will get easier with time. If I can keep my focus on God, then I can find everything I need in him, and that’s where I want to be.