"How do I become a living memory of God; how do I accept and
connect; how do I lift up the individual story into the
divine history?"

These questions are temptations insofar as they avoid the more basic question: "Who am I as a living memory of God?" The main question indeed is not a question of doing, but a question of being. When we speak about being a living reminder of God, we are not speaking about a technical speciality which can be mastered through the acquisition of specific tools, techniques, and skills, but about a way of being which embraces the totality of life: working and resting, eating and drinking, praying and playing, acting and waiting. Before any professional skill, we need a spirituality, a way of living in the spirit by which all we are and all we do becomes a form of reminding.

One way to express this is to say that in order to be a living reminder of the Lord, we must walk in his presence as Abraham did. To walk in the presence of the Lord means to move forward in life in such a way that all our desires, thoughts, and actions are constantly guided by him. When we walk in the Lord's presence, everything we see, hear, touch, or taste reminds us of him. This is what is meant by a prayerful life. It is not a life in which we say many prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence. This is powerfully expressed by the nineteenth-century Russian Orthodox staretz, Theophan the Recluse:

Into every duty a God-fearing heart must be put, a heart constantly permeated by the thought of God; and this will be the door through which the soul will enter into active life. ...The essence is to be established in the remembrance of God, and to walk in his presence.

Thus Theophan the Recluse stresses that our mind and heart should be exclusively directed to the Lord and that we should see and understand the world in and through him. This is the challenge of the Christian. It is the challenge to break through our most basic alienation and live a life of total connectedness.

The strategy of the principalities and powers is to disconnect us, to cut us off from the memory of God. It is hard to see how many of our busy actions and restless concerns seem to be disconnected, reminding us of nothing more than the disorder of our own orientation and commitment. When we no longer walk in the presence of the Lord, we cannot be living reminders of his divine presence in our lives. We then quickly become strangers in an alien land who have forgotten where we come from and where we are going. Then we are no longer the way to experience of God, but rather in the way of the experience of God. Then, instead of walking in God's presence we start walking in a vicious circle, and pulling others into it.

At first sight this may seem rather pious and unrealistic, but not for long. We may have been led to put too much confidence in our abilities, skills, techniques, projects and programs. In so doing, we have lost touch with that reality with which we are called to connect, not so much by what we do, but by who we are.

In recent years I have become more and more aware of my own tendency to think that the value of my presence depends on what I say or do. And yet it is becoming clearer to me every day that this pre-occupation with performing in fact prevents me from letting God speak through me in any way he wants, and so keeps me from making connections prior to any special word or deed.

We need to establish a way of life in which we are primarily concerned, not to be with people but to be with God, not to walk in the presence of anyone who asks for our attention but to walk in the presence of God - a spirituality, in short, which helps us to distinguish service from our need to be liked, praised or respected.

Over the years we have developed the idea that being present to people in all their needs is our greatest and primary vocation. The Bible does not seem to support this. Jesus' primary concern was to be obedient to his Father, to live constantly in his presence. Only then did it become clear to him what his task was in his relationships with people. This also is the way he proposes for his apostles: "It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit and then you will be my disciples" (John 15: 8). Perhaps we must continually remind ourselves that the first commandment requiring us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind is indeed the first. I wonder if we really believe this. It seems that in fact we live as if we should give as much of our heart, soul and mind as possible to our fellow human beings, while trying hard not to forget God. At least we feel that our attention should be divided evenly between God and our neighbour. But Jesus' claim is much more radical. He asks for a single-minded commitment to God and God alone. God wants all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul. It is this unconditional and unreserved love for God that leads to the care for our neighbour, not as an activity which distracts us from God or competes with our attention to God, but as an expression of our love for God who reveals himself to us as the God of all people.

[Taken from: "The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ" by Henri J.M. Nouwen.]