“‘I do this thing for God, not for success in the work,
or for happiness in my soul or for anything else.
I am here for God.’
“Life is grandly simple when the spirit of calculating results and consequences, has been left among the things that are behind, when obedience is the one thing that matters, when God Himself, and no mere ‘experience,’ is our exceeding great reward.” Leaflet A Ripened Life
Brother Lawrence (born Nicolas Herman), in his quest to “be wholly God’s,” joined the Carmelite Order in Paris, in 1638 at the age of 24. To his dismay, he was assigned to work in the kitchen “for which he had a strong aversion.” Yet, it was in this very place (where he served 15 years) that he not only found contentment and skill but he found his way to God: “. . . doing everything there for the love of God and asking His grace to do His work.” The sink became his altar; his work a sacrament. Little wonder Brother Lawrence would become, in a manner of speaking, the patron saint of homemakers!
His view of work alone would be sufficient to commend him to women or, for that matter, anyone assigned to less than desirable duty. Yet his “Conversations, Letters, and Maxims” collected in a little volume, The Practice of The Presence of God, goes beyond a sacramental view of work to a sacramental way of life. With simplicity, candor and humility Brother Lawrence cuts through the programs and practices of his Order to the very essence of a relationship with God – the Object of all the above efforts and exertions. Each action, each interaction, he asserted, provides opportunity to “practice the presence of God.”
Brother Lawrence offers a MO that spans the centuries penetrating the frenzy and fragmentation of 21 Century mentality – sacred as well as secular. We would be better served by turning off our computers, cell phones, iPods more frequently and talking with and listening to God with regularity, maintaining, in the words of Brother Lawrence, “a secret conversation of the soul with God.” We would fret less about the work we have been assigned and the status we have not been accorded if we, like him, would bring to the same the premise: “The shortest pathway to God is by a continual exercise of love, while doing all things for the love of God.” We would be less concerned with our level of achievement or, for that matter, our own personal satisfaction – “happiness” if you will – if the one thing that mattered was, in fact, doing it for God.
Philip Yancey put it this way: “I ask myself how my life would be different if I truly played to an audience of One, if I continually asked not ‘What do I want to do?’ or ‘What would bring me approval from others?’ but “What would God have me do?'” (Rumors of Another World)
At the end of the day we are called only to be faithful: obedient to God’s purposes for our lives. The rest is over to Him. And yes, life is grandly simple when obedience is the one thing that matters: “I am here for God.” The results are beyond our calculations but the reward is certain: “God Himself… is our exceeding great reward.”
Watercolor from Travel Journal: “A Week in a Strong City” 1908