Flipping through my copy of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived in the 1600s, I saw a couple of sentences I highlighted several years ago when I read the book: She seems to me full of good will, but she would go faster than grace. One does not become holy all at once.
I wonder what Brother Lawrence would have to say about our instant, disposable, microwave culture that doesn’t have time for even a five-year plan. It seems to me that the Church of western culture has jumped on the runaway train of instantaneousness of everything we do. When I talk to church folk in various locations and denominations, I hear the lament of declining numbers, fear of irrelevance, and I see efforts at one-upping activities “competing” for the attention of church members.
We seem to want to go faster than grace, to find the magic pill that grants instant holiness. We forget the gifts we offer souls: the importance of consistency in an inconstant world, of stability in a transient society, of quiet in a world of noise. Heck, we don’t even build churches with sanctuaries anymore; we have “worship spaces” instead.
Maybe we need a sanctuary, a place to find roots and rest, a place that wraps us in healing embrace and asks, in return, that we go and do likewise with one another. A place to slow down and abide is a place of grace, a place where we are given permission to grow gradually, a place where life is about a long obedience rather than a quick fix.
One of the lessons I’ve learned from the labyrinth is that if I am distracted or try to go too fast, I lose sight of the path. Walking a labyrinth is not about efficiency or speed or results. Rather, the labyrinth invites one to move at a slower pace, to pay attention only to the next step, and to simply be present. The labyrinth reminds me that the journey takes time and is filled with changes in direction, but if I stay on the path, I will never go faster than grace. I’ll never be out of the reach of God’s love and goodness.
Brother Lawrence’s observation reminds me that distractions that pull us away from rootedness in God have existed forever. We haven’t changed that much throughout time. The hunger for God can only be filled by God, and we cannot devour it all at once, and declare ourselves done. We become holy over time, with discipline and stability and sanctuary. May we learn to walk with the pace of grace.