Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)
His delight is in the law of the Lord, says the Psalmist. He doesn’t follow The Rules out of a stern sense of moral duty; he doesn’t set aside the law of the Lord as an outmoded and irrelevant way of living; he delights in it. What does that delight look like? How can we bring it into our own lives?
Brother Lawrence was a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in the seventeenth century. By all rights, he should have lived his life in absolute obscurity—he did nothing of note in politics, art, or science, and indeed rarely left his monastery. He was uneducated, and spent most of his time working in the kitchen. And yet he left a powerful impression on all who knew him—powerful enough that his letters and conversations were gathered into a book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence was so extraordinary because he devoted every moment of his day to basking in God’s presence. If he lost sight of God for a moment, he would set aside the distracting thought without guilt, and go back to adoring God. He continued this during his set times for prayer and his daily tasks alike, until, like the blessed man of Psalm 1, he had devoted day and night to meditation on God. He didn’t feel the need to be complicated in this practice; he described it as “simple attention, and a general passionate regard to God”. Such a simple thing, this clear-eyed contemplation; and yet it gave Brother Lawrence a peace and joy too great for words.
Even as I write this I’m coming up with all sorts of objections: that sort of adoration is impossible for me. God simply isn’t close enough that I can feel his presence. My attention span is about ten minutes long, tops; how am I supposed to think about one thing for the rest of my life? If basking in the presence of God is as easy as Brother Lawrence says it is, then why aren’t there lots of Christians walking around, visibly filled with a peace deeper than human understanding? But I know that these are all bad excuses, and I expect that you (who no doubt have several bad excuses of your own) know this too. Because God is delightful—he is the fount of all joy, the wellspring of all content. We are already in his presence always, but we cut ourselves off from him by our own sin, distraction, and fear. Brother Lawrence has shown that it’s possible to stop divorcing ourselves from the peace and joy that God constantly showers down on us—so let’s stop. From now on, let us take true delight in the law of the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:3)