Doing right brings freedom to honest people, but those who are not trustworthy are trapped by their own desires.
Freedom is not the absence of rules, but the presence of discipline.
For instance, if you train yourself in the discipline of going to God during tough times, during times of upset, during times when you are sinning, you will increase your freedom by expanding your options beyond the monotonous and adventure-less choice of self-loathing and more sin to cope, and into the infinite variety of God’s love and care.
And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.
One of my very favorite books I read last year was Present Perfect by Greg Boyd. In it he asks throughout “Are you awake?”. By this he means, are you aware right now in this moment of the presence of God near you and of His great love enveloping you? He writes that he asks himself this constantly to cultivate the holy habit of practicing the presence of God*. He does this, in one way, through sticky notes strategically placed around his office, car, podium, etc. He needed them even while preaching as he could easily find his mind focusing more on his words or sermon than on God Himself.
This practice I have found to be the most valuable of all to me. It trumps all others in my experience. Constantly thinking about God, conversing with Him, receiving His love has truly done wonders for me. I see everybody and every event much differently than I did years ago.
One simple adjustment you can make is to turn your inner thoughts into conversations with Jesus. This is a game-changer if you ask me…or even if you don’t ask me, now that I think through that last statement. This is what Frank Laubach did, a presence-practicer of the twentieth century in the vein of the 17th century mystics, Brother Lawrence and Jean-Pierre de Caussade.
Staying awake to Christ in all moments is everything because then you will have an awareness of His constant leading-what to read, who to call, where to go… Jesus really is that loving, that involved, that friendly, that helpful. He told me recently, “I will teach you something profound in every situation…if you will listen to Me.”
I’m not always listening, but cultivating the habit over time makes it easier and easier to tune in regularly. It’s a long obedience in the same direction, remember. Everyday cultivate good habits and they will become your new natural and default setting. It can be done.
Spoiler alert. Here’s how Boyd ends his beautiful little book:
In the kingdom there is no waiting. There is now.
The time to be fully awake and fully alive is now.
The time to abide in Christ and to live passionately in love is now.
The time to live in God’s presence and let God be “all in all” is now, in this moment.
And now, in this moment too.
Are you awake?
* Brother Lawrence defines the presence of God as “the concentration of the soul’s attention on God, remembering that He is always present.”
Therefore, the practice of the presence of God is the actual concentrating of your soul’s attention on God, remembering He is always present.