Some people inspire us, sometimes they are great men like Martin Luther King, but at other times they are ordinary people, like a seventeenth century monk working in a kitchen. Brother Lawrence lived in the presence of God. As far as he was concerned God was interested in every area of his life and it was his act of worship to include God in them. God permeated his life and, furthermore, others noticed. Still, he was a monk with a vocation for spending time with God, which is not quite the same as the world I inhabit. So how realistic is this for me?
I got my answer through Frank Laubach, an internationally recognised educator from the twentieth century. He too learned to pray without ceasing, but in the midst of a busy modern life. For sure, he did not find it easy, but as he involved God in the daily demands of life, things somehow fell more readily to hand. What surprised him most was that the people he worked with seemed to be drawn to him, as though they wanted to follow him. He felt himself ‘God intoxicated’, to use his expression. I like the idea behind that.
My journey with Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach has gone on for a long time now. My God had been too small. If my God is willing to count the hairs on my head, then he is more than willing to be involved in the rest of my life – even the reports I write for the bank I work for. Oddly, I recall struggling with that. I took pride in the reports I did. They were my craftsmanship and I was scared that I’d loose that, as I could, perhaps, no longer claim them as mine. That pride needed dealing with, yet I still have pride in the reports I write, often more so, but they feel more like joint efforts. For sure, the graft is mine, but I am less willing to claim credit for the inspiration that often lies behind them. I still enjoy the satisfaction of finding solutions to difficult problems or the craftsmanship of the things I do, yet I no longer do this alone. I have to admit that my journey has been a bumpy one. It still is. I let God in far less than I intend. Often the task still takes over leaving God outside waiting for me to remember him again. I have a long way to go before I catch up with Brother Lawrence or Frank Laubach, but I am not disheartened. God is closer than when I began.
I recently read John Wesley’s ‘Plain Account of Christian Perfection’ and it struck me that he was saying much the same thing. When you love someone you want to be in their presence and being in God’s presence changes us. This also seems to be at the heart for both Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach, though I am not sure what it says about my efforts. Still, my desire for being in God’s presence has not diminished over the years. I have realised that it is not just about finding God in the big events of my life, which may be few, but in the limitless ordinary moments: moments of work, play and even while reading a book, of which I do a lot. I too easily get distracted, but when I remember to look up, I find that God is always there waiting and is only too pleased to be involved in my ordinary life.