In seventeenth-century Paris, there lived a devoted man—a pauper turned soldier turned injured turned footman turned monk. Brother Lawrence, he was called, in that final occupation.
After being injured in the Thirty Years’ War, Brother Lawrence joined a monastery as a humble kitchen aide. I picture him, lame (and barefoot as his order of monks usually were), limping to the stove to turn the cake that is frying on the pan, scrubbing pots and pans and plates, and peeling potatoes in the heat of the kitchen. Every day. Turn, limp. Fry, wash. Limp, peel. Again.
This humble, simple, painful work of the kitchen was, for Brother Lawrence, a practice of the presence of God. He scrubbed for his Lord. He ran errands for his Savior. He poured wine, cleaned tables, and wrote letters all in service to God. Brother Lawrence completed tasks and immediately forgot the tasks, remembering only that he had done them for the love of God. “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
In Brother Lawrence, we “meet a brother busy as we are in outward activity… but a brother who, in the middle of all the demanding tasks, had learned how to wed contemplation to activity.” To wed contemplation to activity…what a goal. In his turning and frying and limping and washing, Brother Lawrence wove together his deepest desire—to serve, love, and be with God—with his everyday tasks. Every detail of his life gained surpassing value when practiced in the presence of God.
My work, the everyday stuff, has value. Sure. But in this new year, I’m challenging myself to be more like Brother Lawrence, contemplating continually on the Lord and His presence in the midst of doing my outward activity.
God is good. Send the email.
His steadfast love never ceases. Fill the car with gas.
God is near. Scramble the eggs.
His grace is sufficient for me. Wash the sheets.
God is trustworthy. Log onto Zoom.
His ways are better than mine. Walk the dog.
God is faithful,
and able to save.
Here’s to working and worshiping and rising happier than a king in the new year.
If you’re interested in reading about Brother Lawrence, Google Books has the entirety of The Practice of the Presence of God available to read online.