4 Steps to Being a Panda Again (Practising God's Presence)
Created for His Presence
Brother Lawrence’s book, The Practice of the Presence of God, centres around the main theme of a constant awareness that God is around, in, and with us, in every moment, no matter where we go. It’s about living life from a revelation of ‘Emmanuel’; ‘God with us’. It’s intentionally engaging with the Holy Spirit; not just being aware of His presence, but attuning one’s attention toward His voice, His heart. Some of our choices would be very different when made in His presence or apart from it.
Yes, maybe it sounds hard. It’s not easy to say ‘no’ to certain things, and make choices that align with His heart. We trudge through the thick mud of life’s worries and stresses, striving to find acceptance in the wrong places, putting on fronts to accommodate societal expectations, and being politically correct so as to not tarnish our pristine reputations, all the while our souls are silently dying.
But why, why would our souls be dying? That’s because we weren’t designed to do all that. We weren’t designed to pander to the demands of the world, follow the herd because ‘everyone is doing it’, or take the knife out of our backs only to stab someone else’s with it.
Instead, we were designed to be in His presence.
Time to Be a Panda Again
In Kung Fu Panda 3 - one of my favourite animated franchises of all time - protagonist panda Po, having been raised by his adoptive father (a goose) all his life, bumped into his biological father, from whom he had been separated since infancy. Having thought he was the only panda left in existence, Po was taken by his father to the mountains, where he discovered a secret village of pandas.
He spent a long time there, learning the ways of the panda. It was like everything he knew was turned upside down! They ate with their hands instead of chopsticks. They didn’t walk down hills - they rolled, literally. He had to learn a whole new way of life. And not only was he enjoying his newfound panda-ness, he was perfectly equipped to do everything the pandas did. Why? Because he was a panda! He was designed to be panda-like! To do panda things the panda way.
How many of us are like Po, having lived one way all our life, only to realise along the way how tired, disillusioned, stressed, and unhappy we are? If that’s you, I’d like to suggest that you have not been living life the way you were designed to.
From the days of Eden, we were created to walk with our Father, to be in His presence, to draw life from Him, to commune with Him - not just in church or when we need it, but moment by moment (that’s another way of saying ‘without ceasing’ [1 Thess 5:17]). It is only in this state that we can experience true, lasting freedom. And it ought to be our default state.
It’s in His presence where we are transformed (2 Cor 3:18). No wonder David described it as the ‘one thing’ he desired and sought after (Ps 27:4). One thing! Of all possible things, he desired this one. If that doesn’t say ‘utmost priority’, nothing will.
That’s because David, described as a prophet, understood 2 Cor 3:18 way before Paul taught it. In his walk with the Lord, he realised there was something so precious, so vital, so wonderful about being in his Beloved’s presence. It’s time we took these words seriously.
David and Paul understood the weight of attuning our senses toward Him above all. So did Moses (Ex 33:15). So did Mary (Lk 10:38-42). Even Jesus taught about it (Matt 6:33). It would be arrogant and stupid to think we know better than them.
But how? How shall we practise the presence of God when the world, our flesh, and the enemy are perpetually against us? How can we live like a panda again?
4 Simple Steps to Practise God’s Presence
Stop and take a (figurative) knee. You might be calm or flustered; rested or fatigued. No matter the situation / state you’re in, there is no better time to start entering (back) into His presence than right now.
This step is about assessing and acknowledging where you’re at (emotionally and spiritually), and zooming out to see your situation through heaven’s eyes.
Reflect and Repent of any unrepented sin. This is important because sin is a separator, a barrier between us and God. Remaining in sin is like saying, “I need to be one with You, but I want to do certain things my way, not Yours.” Not gonna happen, because that’s not how a relationship with God works! He’s either the Lord of all, or not Lord at all. Even a tiny spot of black ink spoils an entire bucket of milk.
You want to remove any possible hindrance that’s within your control, and repentance for your sin is something that no one else can do for you.
“If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” (1 John 1:9)
This is a two-part step, as they’re done simultaneously:
Meditate on the truth that God is right there with you at that very moment. There might be some lies trying to sway or influence you. Recite it aloud to yourself until you receive it in your spirit: “God, thank you for being with me, right here, right now.”
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Ps 139:7)
Enter in. This may sound abstract and lofty, but really, things are very simple with God. To enter into His presence requires only a choice to do so. It’s the heart posture of: “God, I choose to enter into Your presence right now. I put away every hindrance. You have me, fully.”
Why do we ‘enter’ in, and not invite God in instead? Simple - look back at point 2a - God is everywhere; He’s already where you are. Any separation from His presence is a result of our choices, never His.
“Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
Wait on Him, listen, then act (if necessary). This might sound similar to point 1, but it really isn’t. It’s one thing to cease an activity; it’s quite another to approach God, turn your spiritual ears and heart toward Him, and actively reach out in attentiveness to Him.
Remember, hearing His voice is no longer an external voice speaking in, as it was for the pre-Christ prophets. Since Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit has now entered the world and is in us - thus, His voice is an internal one speaking out.
He may speak through a thought, an emotion, an impression, or literally anything at all. If He does, listen and do as He says. If there is only silence, then enjoy it. Silence in His presence highly, highly underrated.
Being in His presence is by design. That’s what we were created for. We have largely forgotten or neglected this. In a fallen world, it’s near impossible to be aware of His presence 100% of the time; but it’s not about getting it perfect - it’s about whether or not His presence is our wholehearted pursuit.
Now, Po, will you seek to be the panda you were created to be?