Keeping Our Eyes Fixed on God

The Frank Friar reflects about keeping our eyes on God as discussed by Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection:

For Br. Lawrence, our treasure is God.  All actions we say or do, must be pointed to this treasure.

It’s a topic I’m very fond of; it’s related to the instruction to “pray always”. The really interesting question is how to do this? One approach (which is a good one) sounds like this:

For him even the most mundane task  can be blessed by God and offered up for the Divine Glory… Thus, as we journey through our day, I believe Br. Lawrence would ask us to take minute, then during that minute to actively think about whatever it is that we are doing.  When we understand, what it is we are doing, then we can begin to see if we are eye keeping our eyes fixed on God.

There is a another—related—way to look at this, which I’m not sure how to describe, but is something to the effect of fully considering what we’re doing. It is probably not the intention, but when I hear language about offering up our tasks for divine glory (which is common language), it sounds to me as if there is somehow a way in which the task is not involved in the divine glory but can be made so. Now of course no one would say, if it was put this way, that there is anything which does not serve God’s good purposes, but even so, there seems to me to be a tension between doing things well and always thinking about God; one can’t put one’s full attention in two different places at once.

And I think the key to resolving this tension is that one does not need to put one’s attention away from creation to put it on God. This is because all things in creation point to God. There is nothing in creation which, if seriously considered, is not fundamentally about God. Clouds and ships and chairs and dust all point to the one who makes them in every instance of their existence; each thing, insofar as it is good, is a reflection of God. It seems to me, then, that the most effective way of turning a task into a prayer is to take the effort to truly be present in the task; to really focus on the task as it is in itself, which is to say to focus on it as it is part of God’s creation. All of creation exists relationally; truly it is not good for man to be alone. And neither man nor dust is alone; God has put us together.

The problem comes in when we think of our tasks only as a means to an end, because that means we consider our tasks not in themselves but in ourself; when we focus on our goals we think only of things as they relate to us and our purposes. We may wash the dishes worse if we fold our hands in prayer while washing them—with what would we wipe the dish if not our hands?—but we will not wash the dishes worse for considering the dish we’re washing instead of absent-mindedly thinking of something else. The dishes want to tell us of God, if only we’ll listen. Perhaps the most effective way to be always praying, while we do the dishes, is to pray with the dishes instead of ignoring them.

Atheists often want to concentrate on the secular, because they think this is a common ground with believers where they don’t have to hear about our faerie-stories. They are, in this, gravely mistaken. The secular world all shouts about the glory of God, if only we’ll stop talking inside our heads about what we want, and listen to it.

There is a sense—a very limited sense—in which holy places are the enemy of sanctity, for holy means “set aside”. In this fallen world it is good that there are places we set aside to do nothing but think of God; still, I think it’s a worthwhile goal to figure out how to make that unnecessary because there is no place where God is forgotten.

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