Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths,
you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle
on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
I’d like to suggest a motto for Christian family life: “God is in the room.”
While God is always there, so often we act and think and behave and speak as if he were not. We fight, we argue, we laugh, we play games, watch movies, make love and do just about everything without even thinking about the implications that God is in the room.
Even though we pray before our meals, it amazes me how quickly I can slip back into thinking and acting as if the word “amen” is a kind of curtain that I pull down in front of heaven. I’ve said my obligatory prayer, and now I carry on as if God has passed over us rather than taken up residence among us.
Think of how your marriage might change if you argued with the awareness that you are carrying on while God—your spouse’s heavenly father—is in the room. If you could see Him, would you use the same words? Would you carry the same tone?
Think of how differently we might treat our children in those frustrating moments if we responded to them with the knowledge that God is in the room. Might we be a little more patient, a little more understanding?
Think of the times we imagine ourselves as alone, with the family gone, forgetting that we are never truly alone—God is in the room. Our casual compliance with sin is often a forgetfulness of God as it is rebellion against God.
It’s such a simple notion, but it can be so revolutionary. God is in the room!
This is the straightforward message of a seventeenth century monk named Brother Lawrence. In the midst of a busy life, Brother Lawrence re-evaluated his priorities and decided that, more than anything else in the world, he wanted to practice the presence of God. At first, he found it a difficult thing to do—he kept forgetting!—but with practice, he found that God’s love made it possible. When he realized it had been awhile since he had thought of God he didn’t freak out or obsess over it; he simply acknowledged the lapse to God and “returned to Him with even more confidence for having suffered such misery in forgetting Him so.”
Over time, “he was more united to God in his ordinary activities than when he devoted himself to religious activities.” Indeed, he found that “the best way of reaching God was by doing ordinary tasks…entirely for the love of God.” In Brother Lawrence’s mind, prayer was not quantifiably different than peeling potatoes: “It was a great delusion to think that time set aside for prayer should be different from other times.”
Such an attitude takes an ordinary, routine moment and makes it worshipful: “we should not weary of doing little things for the love of God who looks not at the grandeur of these actions but rather at the love with which they are performed.” Imagine how such an attitude could transform doing the dishes, driving the daily commute to work, taking care of the laundry, putting up with a boring or stressful job, or sitting through yet another soccer tournament.
Brother Lawrence’s goal in life was brilliantly simple: to become the most perfect adorer (and, I might add, rememberer) of God that he could. But once again, he found it more a matter of delight than obligation: “We are to be pitied for our willingness to be satisfied with so little. God has infinite treasures to give us and still we are satisfied with brief passing moments of piety.” Brother Lawrence discovered that “there is no mode of life in the world more pleasing and more full of delight than continual conversations with God.” He became such an enthusiastic practitioner of God’s presence that he said, “If I were a preacher, I would preach nothing else but the practice of the presence of God.”
Remind yourself, every morning, every noontime, every evening: God is in the room.
Tell it to each other, every time you’re tempted to yell, or criticize, or ridicule, or even ignore each other: God is in the room.
Tell it to your children, throughout the day: God is in the room.
Let’s keep telling it to ourselves and to each other until we practice it and live it, until we live and breathe with the blessed remembrance: God is in the room.
God is in the room.
(This post is excerpted and adapted from my book Devotions for Sacred Parenting