Today’s reading: Psalms 9-16.
There are circles in life – the cycle of the seasons, the circle of water from sea to cloud and back – but when it comes to people I think God much prefers the line to the circle. Our lives have a path, a direction, a trajectory, a beginning and end. God believes in new beginnings where grace enters through humility and forgiveness to set us back on the right path, but it is the same path. There are no Groundhog Day do-overs and no reincarnations. Time is moving without fail from the beginning of creation to the final day when God judges us all and brings time to an end. This is the only life, the only path, we have.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure… You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:7-9, 11
The good news is that God has given us guides for our trek down that path. The entire Bible is a guide, and Psalm 16 is a good summary. Here are some of its tips to keep you on the trail:
- put your trust in God rather than riches, persons, or any other earthly thing
- count all other things of no value in comparison to God’s great value
- spend time with “the saints in the land,” godly men and women who can lead you by their example and from whom you can learn wisdom
- avoid “other gods” such as materialism, selfishness, pleasure-seeking, addictions, excessive work
- keep the LORD “always before” you, practicing the presence of God; that is, making a point to think about God’s will for you each hour of the day
“We should establish ourselves in God’s presence by continually talking with him.” This is not as easy as it seems. It requires a certain discipline of mind whereby we put away idle thoughts, flights of imagination that take us away from reality, and train our minds to attend to the greatest of all realities: God among us. A real key to success in this matter is to be found in the second admonition: “We should feed our souls with lofty thoughts of God, and so find great joy in being with him.” This is an approach that must not be taken lightly. Without this second admonition the first will be very difficult. Since we cannot see God, the image we form of Him in our mind can make it so much easier to believe in His love for us and it is this belief that generates our response. This high notion of God, of His power, His mercy, His love also helps with the next rule: to enliven our faith, or as an older translation says, to quicken our faith. This is a matter of reminding ourselves of the reality of the invisible things we do not see and can know only by faith. To bring to mind that God is always with us, to picture Him beside us, walking in front of us or behind, waiting for us at the end of a path, but always present, this is to enliven our faith.
Fr. Jerome Lantry, OCD, writing about Brother Lawrence
Image by Trey Ratcliff on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0