New Year Meets Ancient Reality: ‘Coram Deo’

Where did 2015 go? Somewhere, hidden away in an as-yet-unsettled portion of my soul, I still “feel like” it ought to be June and my family should be planning its next pool party. I don’t know exactly why 2015 seemed to slip past much faster than previous years, but whatever the reason, I simply cannot dismiss the reality that 2016 will be upon us by the end of this week.

Of course, it’s entirely natural at this time of year to look back on the previous 12 months and attempt to analyze what we did right, where we got “off into the weeds,” and (significantly) what, if anything, we have learned. More to the point, what will we hope to do differently in the coming year?

Coram DeoSpeaking only for myself, when I begin to total up the various areas of my life that “need improvement,” I can quickly get overwhelmed. Mentally parsing all of my unfinished business on Earth into cheerful categories such as “Missed Marks,” “Chronic Disappointments,” “Lifelong Unhelpful Habits” and “Surely My Wife Hates Me By Now” can cause my head to spin such that no chalkboard or pad of paper in the world seems big enough to help me tackle all the way in which I could improve.

I have to think I’m not alone in my ability to find multiple areas for improvement in my life.

However, years ago I began to see that I do my best work when I hold closely to the belief that God already accepts me in Christ, whatever temporal failures accrue to my account. The net effect was what felt like a huge release of pressure on the valve in my soul. In simple terms, it finally dawned on me in a tangible manner that when I come face-to-face with my Creator King, it’s not likely that He will ask me whether or not I finally managed to get the tool room in my basement sorted out. I rather think that He will be far more concerned with how I interacted with the various people that He sovereignly placed in my life.

I’m not saying that Jesus does not care about a well-maintained basement – He most assuredly does care, even about the tiniest and most “insignificant” parts of our lives (Luke 12:7). What I am saying is that there is tremendous freedom to be found in asking for an increased awareness of “Coram Deo.”

To live Coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the active presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze…to live all of life Coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God.
What Does “Coram Deo” Mean? by R.C. Sproul

The past ten years of my life have been pretty hectic, and a lot of things that should have been done long ago remain unfinished. If, in theory, I were ever to think that I finally “had my act together,” all it would take is a walk around the outside of our home or a quick tour through the neglected areas in our basement for me to repent of that false thinking. There are for sure days when I think I may well perish before that light switch gets properly fixed or the back closet gets emptied out.

But as tempting as it may be to run around my house with a clipboard and toss together a list of tangible performance benchmarks, my 2016 resolution is to continuously ask God to grant me a heightened awareness of His presence, in every arena of life and in every relationship. My failure of belief is perhaps far more serious than my procrastination at home or work, but I suspect that God is so over-the-top gracious to everyone in His creation – including me – that simply asking to draw nearer to Him on a daily basis will undoubtedly have an impact on “everything else” that requires attention.

2 Kings 6:15-17 (ESV)
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Psalm 139:7-12
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

Lord, in the coming year, my request is simply that you open my eyes, much as you did for Gehazi at Dothan. Increase my faith such that I more fully understand that my entire life is lived before You. The sin in my heart makes me want to believe that there is someplace I can go where Your presence will not, but I know this is just foolish denial and a desire to hide. May Your gift of increased eyesight not be an occasion for despair, but rather a clear indicator of what it might look like should I choose simple belief in You over all the wisdom and riches of the present age. Amen.

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