Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Sacrament of the Present Moment: Spiritual Formation in Real Time
God reveals himself to us in the present moment. It is through the challenges and responsibilities of the each passing moment that the Almighty makes his plans known.
This is the message of Jean Pierre de Caussade’s classic, Sacrament of the Present Moment. Therefore, according to de Caussade, spiritual growth comes primarily from accepting the responsibilities that God places in front of us—especially the ones we don’t enjoy that much. Embracing our daily circumstances—especially the challenging ones—is the Lord’s primary way of shaping us into Christ’s image and directing our lives.
The Present Moment
In our day we have so many discipleship programs and seminars and gimmicks, thinking that a given technique is what we need to help us grow. De Caussade points out, however, that when we read the Bible we find no discipleship plans, much less methods and tactic. The fathers and mothers of the faith grew from simple obedience to the Lord in whatever situation they encountered in life. “All they knew was the each moment brought its new task, faithfully to be accomplished,” states de Caussade. “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.”
The present moment is sacramental in two ways. First, God is present with us but hidden from view. In our daily circumstances God is very present, but we seldom see it. We simply “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Second, the Lord uses the present moment—especially our trials—as means to work in our lives. Such suffering “produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4).
Full Surrender—When We Don’t Understand Why
Therefore, our basic task in spiritual formation is to abandon ourselves to God’s divine providence. He knows what is best for our growth. He provides challenges that will stretch us. He offers opportunities for sacrifice and service. He calls us to unreserved obedience.
Often we do not see what God is up to in our lives. We seldom understand what he is forming inside us. That is okay—we do not need to understand at the moment. Like a young athlete whose coach has told him or her to run sprints–or like a music student told to practice scales—we may not see the value in what we have been assigned. Instead we see a lot of hard work and discomfort. If we follow through in obedience, however, the purpose of the practice becomes clear.
So it is in our lives. Seldom do we understand the import of the moment or the impact of our immediate obedience. Our lives are like a beautiful tapestry that the Lord is creating, says de Caussade. While it is in progress, it doesn’t look like much. As God works in our lives, however, “neither the stitches nor the needle are visible, but, one by one, those stitches make a magnificent pattern that only becomes apparent when the work is completed and the right side exposed to the light of day; although while it is in progress there is no sign of its beauty and wonder.”
My prayer is that more and more I would learn to embrace the sacrament of the present moment. God is good, and whatever he is up to in my life is for my best. Trusting that fact, I can indeed abandon myself in full surrender to whatever the Lord is doing in my life today!
 Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, trans. Kitty Muggeridge (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), p. 1.
 Ibid., pp. 53-54.
© 2012 Glenn E. Myers