FOCUS – Each day a sacrament
It was a typical night nearly a year ago. I had finished my evening chores, done my devotions, watched a little bit of David Letterman, and gone to bed. But once my head hit the pillow, a strange feeling ran through me. I had the sense that I had behaved in a manner quite mundane–while in the air, depth and meaning and importance hovered about me.
I’d had my devotions, but they had been more perfunctory than meaningful. My kitchen was clean, which usually brings me peace, but even that great accomplishment was not enough. Suddenly, I was acutely aware of the significance of the closing of this day. It was supposed to have been dedicated to the cause of Christ. Every day carries that kind of weight. Somehow, Letterman’s monologue seemed inadequate material for closing a whole day. I needed reflection.
So I went downstairs to think, and the next half hour changed my life. I began a ritual which I call “shedding the day.” I sat perfectly still in God’s presence. I communed with him in a way that was new for me: there was no awareness of hours or place. I was simply with God. (Remember how, on the TV show “Mork and Mindy,” Mork from Ork used to meet with Orson by closing his eyes and going inside his own head? It was something like that.)
After spending some time just enjoying God’s presence and his being, I began to review my day with him. I prayed about my failures and about my successes. I talked about my intense desire to serve him. And then I physically wiped the day off of my skin. “Goodbye, today,” I said. “I will not grieve over the errors of this day, and I will not waste time reveling in the small victories. Today has been lived. I now look forward to what I may accomplish for my Lord tomorrow.” Then I went to bed.
Living with a new degree of reflection has revolutionized my approach to life, and I want to share it–because I can’t believe I am the only person who has just plodded through many days on this earth. I had always wanted to live in a Christ-honoring way each day. And I had days of great spiritual serendipity as well as days of joy. But many days were not being lived in true sacrament to God.
It is easy just to tick off the days on the calendar, going about our nine-to-five business, hoping for a little relaxation in the evenings, rolling into bed without thinking much about God’s appraisal of our individual days. I do not mean to imply God expects dramatic victories every day. But there is never a day that he deems unimportant. Perhaps there is never even a moment he deems unimportant.
Ponder the words of Jean-Pierre De Caussade in his classic book The Sacrament of the Present Moment:
“All [our spiritual forefathers] knew was that each moment brought its appointed task, faithfully to be accomplished. This was enough for the spiritually-minded of those days. All their attention was focused on the present, minute by minute…Constantly prompted by divine impulsion, they found themselves imperceptibly turned toward the next task that God had ready for them at each hour of the day.”
Should this quote seem daunting, let us remember that it is regularly appointed by God that we should rest, laugh and play, not only that we should strive. The point is that every moment is lived as God would have it lived. Then, when it is gone, it is gone. If need be, we repent for ill-spent time, then we gear ourselves up for the next moment, hour and day. Residual guilt for wasted time serves no purpose.
When I taught elementary school, I knew that children did not learn from their completed homework assignments and tests unless I walked through their mistakes with them. Once they understood where they had gone wrong, they were equipped to get it right the next time. Our spiritual lives are the same. I’m thoroughly convinced that the Holy Spirit wishes to walk through our completed days with us. This gives him opportunity to point out where we have erred, and use the Scripture for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16). We thwart his effort when we do not pause and give him time to accomplish this work.
In meditating on the day and learning from it, one is simultaneously preparing for the next day. I have found that “shedding the day” at night has made it easier to “seize the day” the next morning. I feel a tad wiser and, because the day has been shed, I no longer let myself feel shackled by forgiven sin and carelessness. When I wake up in the morning, all is completely new. My slate is clean.
It would be silly of me to assume that everyone ought to shed the day in the same way I do. But I believe that Christians who understand the importance of each day, and are careful to evaluate how time was spent, what sins and mistakes were committed, and what acts were pleasing to the Lord, are well on their way to a more victorious Christian life. They are making a holy sacrament of each day.