Invitation to Rest

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Living a Simultaneous Life

Is it possible to be in two places at one time? At first glance, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! What are you talking about, you may ask?  I can only be in one place at a time. But what if I suggested to you that it is possible to be in two places at the same time and that living this way leads to life and peace?

Two Worlds / Two Kingdoms

If you are reading this you are alive and living in the kingdom of this world.  This world is a mixture of goodness and evil, joy and pain. Sometimes the evil and pain can be difficult and we look at various ways to deal with it all.  If you are a Christian, you are also living in another world, the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven as Matthew would say). This world is our true home, where we experience an intimate love relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

So the question is; can we be in two places at the same time? How can we experience the life and peace of the kingdom of God while we live in this present world?  Thomas Kelly in his book, Testament of Devotion, offers some interesting insights into living in both worlds. Kelly uses the term “simultaneity” to describe this concept of living both worlds at the same time. He says this:

"What is sought is not alternation, but simultaneity, worship undergirding every moment, living prayer, the continuous current and background of all moments of life"

But this is not easy. Kelly discusses our normal routine of alternation between the two levels , where for a few moments we may be in prayer or devotion, but then we set our minds and efforts on dealing with affairs of the secular world. We can feel discouraged that we struggle to make time for God because of all of our worldly obligations and activities.  Have you experienced this alternation?  I know I have.

Actually even when I am trying be in the moment with God in prayer or quiet time, the world seems to invade that space and all of sudden my mind is back on secular level! Or even if I have had a good quiet time in the morning, I notice that after that I jump back into the secular level and hours can go by as I work to accomplish the task before me. Sometimes by the end of a day I can be stressed out and notice this undercurrent of restlessness and I realize in the moment I have given all of my effort and attention toward one level of existence at the expense of living fully in the kingdom of God.

Living at Two Levels

Living life alternating between the two levels is suboptimal at best. We resign ourselves in a way to momentary glimpses of God amidst another level filled with brokenness and pain. But what are the possibilities if we really pursue a life of simultanaeity? Kelly paints a beautiful picture of walking in the Kingdom of God while also attending to the affairs of the world:

“The basic response of the soul to the Light is internal adoration and joy, thanksgiving and worship, self-surrender and listening. The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop. They become a holy sanctuary of adoration and of self-oblation, where we are kept in perfect peace, if our minds be stayed on Him who has found us in the inward springs of our life.”

Now that is a lofty goal worthy of pursuing rather than “settling” for moments of time with God. I love that picture of the heart becoming a holy sanctuary instead of a noisy workshop. Our natural instincts are to run after the noisy workshop.  In that place we are duped into thinking we are productive and significant but at the end the day we some how leave that workshop restless.  We want to begin to train our mind, heart, and soul so that those automatic responses are challenged, and we begin to move toward that place of life and peace. Kelly puts it this way:

“What is here urged are internal practices and habits of the mind,… ways of conducting our inward life so that we are perpetually bowed in worship, while we are also very busy in the world of daily affairs… On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all of the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness in divine breathings.”

How to Begin

A good place to start is think of a phrase, a verse, or a word that is meaningful to you in drawing your attention to God and begin to voice it as often as you can throughout the day. Written in the late 1930’s Kelly offers a suggestion of “Thine only. Thine only” or “so panteth my soul after thee, O God”. Today we might simply say “ I am yours” or “my soul thirsts for you O God” or just “Jesus”.  There will be many times in the early days as you try this that you will find your attention on the world. That’s ok.  Simply notice and say those words to draw your attention back home.  Though the goal is simultaneity, more realistically it will be a long time of moving back and forth between the levels.  Kelly explains it beautifully:

“Between the levels is fruitful interplay. For the religious man is forever bringing all affairs of the first level down into the Light, holding them there in the Presence, reseeing them and the whole of the world of men in a new and overturning way, and responding to them in spontaneous, incisive, and simple ways of love and faith.”

As you practice this over time, you may find your heart beginning to naturally return back to God.  I have found that at times while am busy about my day my heart is also moving toward God.  In those moments, I am feeling such love of God and at the same time can view my work with gratitude for exercising my God-given talents vs it just being a chore or burden.  He helps me to experience my life from a whole different perspective.

As a sidenote, this practice has really been helpful for me at night.  Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep?  Maybe your thoughts return to the events of the past day or may some kind of fear of the future creeps in.  Things always seem worse at night! When this happens to me, I notice it and begin drawing my attention to Jesus and I say something simple like “ Jesus, I leave _____ with you.”  Its not always easy, but I also have found my heart, mind, and soul can settle by taking all of it back to God.

Practice

What would it be like for you to be fully engaged with God and at the same time dealing with the cares and concerns of the world?  What word, phrase, or verse could you use as gentle reminder to return your attention back to the Kingdom of God, where you are a His beloved child? 

Give this a try this week and see how God might bring you a sense of joy and peace in whatever place you find yourself while you are living in this physical, secular world.

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