The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
God has been encouraging me lately to appreciate the spiritual discipline of simply remaining in His love—how this one practice is sufficient for all His objectives within me. The Lord is also helping me recognize the many ways I so easily allow myself to be drawn away from His presence, especially during my prayer time. And I am coming to accept more and more that it is I who am the principal cause of my straying—that it is ultimately my own free choice that determines whether I remain with Jesus or not.
My spiritual director often reminds me of this—that to remain in God’s presence requires that I simply choose not to leave. The opposite is also true—that the act of leaving God is the result of my own free choice to depart from His presence. All that is necessary for me to enjoy a sustained spiritual life is that I choose to remain in Christ’s love. Could it be any simpler? And yet the conversion of will that this implies means that I must first acknowledge the many things I seem to prefer instead of being with Christ.
Prayer forces me to accept the disturbing fact of my own concupiscence. When it comes to that which should be most precious to me, I am increasingly dismayed by the frivolous things I allow to distract me from God.
To remain in God’s presence during prayer is an invitation to choose the Lord above all the other considerations of my heart And a large part of my spiritual growth—of God establishing Himself as the increasingly precious pearl of my life—must include the recognition and confession that He is not so at present. To this confession I must add the genuine desire that it be otherwise. And then I must submit to the Holy Spirit for the purification of my desires.
Like all of us, I long to be more rooted in Christ, not only in my prayer time but also in my day, and throughout my whole life. I am learning to accept, more and more, the radical conversion of my will that this will necessitate. As Jesus plainly taught, before I can claim this pearl of great price I must first get rid of all I otherwise possess. And until I do, the preciousness of my love for God will remain hidden, buried in the ground of my own preferred distractions.
I stretch up to You in desire, my attention on You alone
I cannot grasp You, explain You, describe You.
I can only cast myself into the depths of Your mystery
I can only let Your love pierce the cloud of my unknowing.
Let me forget all but You
You are what I long for, You are my chief good
You are my eager hope, You are my all
I glimpse Your eternity, Your unconditional freedom
Your unfailing wisdom, Your perfect love
I am humble and worshiping
Warming to love and hope
Waiting and available
For Your will
by George Appleton
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
(written for Jan. 19th, 2012)
For Group Discussion:
1. How might the practice of remaining in Christ’s love be sufficient for advancing all of God’s objectives within us? How might we increasingly recognize the precious nature of God’s love, and value this passive posture as being foundational to our transformation?
2. Why is the simplicity of “remaining” such a challenge for us? What impulses, distractions and other factors can we identify that subvert this blessed practice?
3. In specific terms, how might we move toward and participate in the “radical conversion” of our wills in order to become habituated to the practice of remaining in Christ’s love?
The “Prayer” above by George Appleton is a humble celebration of the preciousness of God and his love. It is also an explicit surrender of one’s will to God. This week, spend time entering into this prayer or specific phrases in it that express your thankfulness for all that God is, and the desire of your heart for a more devoted and singular love for him.