Last Sunday in my evening Sunday school class I heard about a guy named Frank Laubach. He was a missionary in the Philippines in the first half of the 20th century, witnessing to very hostile Muslim people. He was also a Christian mystic (though it seems to me that "Frank" is not a grand enough name for a mystic...). The thing that intrigued me about him is the way he transformed his life into an experiment. Here's a quote by him:
"We can keep two things in mind at once. Indeed we cannot keep one thing in mind more than half a second. Mind is a flowing something. It oscillates. Concentration is merely the continuous return to the same problem from a million angles. So my problem is this: Can I bring God back in my mind-flow every few seconds so that God shall always be in my mind as an after image, shall always be one of the elements in every concept and precept? I choose to make the rest of my life an experiment in answering this question."
So basically, every minute of his life he wanted to think of God. He wanted to keep his conversation with God going throughout the day, so as to be fully submitted to God and controlled by God. He wanted to remind himself moment by moment that God was with him and that every second of his life mattered to God. Frank said in some of his letters that this effort to talk to God every minute was extremely difficult at first. Sometimes he'd forget about God for half the day. But as the years went on, it became more of a habit. He started to feel as though he had lost something very precious whenever God slipped out of his mind. He found every minute of his life infused with new meaning and joy in God's presence. He said that once he mastered this effort of concentration, everything else in his life started to flow naturally out of it: "My part is to live in this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will. To make this hour gloriously rich. This seems to be all I need to think about."
Before reading up about Frank Laubach, I thought this was impossible. I mean, it's probably exactly how Jesus lived, constantly talking to his Father and receiving instructions from him, but I'm not Jesus. Frank gives me hope that with effort, I might be able to achieve this too. For me, the picture in my mind is musical - letting God communicate with me as a pianist's fingers press the keys, letting his music play through me. Always feeling the fingers touching the keys. (That sounds rather corny now that I read it to myself). But I think this is a challenge worth taking, and the sooner I start practicing God's presence, the sooner I will experience the kind of release and joy Frank felt. God help me. It's much easier for me to think about Him when I'm alone, or just listening to a lecture or walking by myself in a crowd. When I'm actually interacting with other people, it becomes very difficult to keep God in mind. I think it will take a lot more prayer. But this seems to be the key to maturing in my faith right now, to taking it to the next step, deepening my relationship with God. I'll keep you guys updated on how I'm doing with this ...
One more quote from Frank:
"You will object to this intense introspection. Do not try it, unless you feel unsatisfied with your own relationship with God, but at least allow me to realize all the leadership of God I can. I am disgusted with the pettiness and futility of my unled self. If the way out is not more perfect slavery to God, then what is the way out? I am trying to be utterly free from everybody, free from my own self, but completely enslaved to the will of God every moment of this day."