“No conceited scholar was brother Lawrence; theological and doctrinal debate bored him, if he noticed them at all. His one desire was for communion with God. We find him worship more in his kitchen than in his cathedral.” (pg. 11)
This, is Brother Lawrence.
This vivid description of Brother Lawrence encourages me, as these days, theological and doctrinal debate seems to have become more important to many Christians than the pursuit of union with Christ.
Through a collection of conversations, letters, spiritual maxims, and accounts from M. Beaufort, this little book gives readers a glimpse of how Brother Lawrence practiced the presence of God throughout his life. Brother Lawrence “walked among the lowly” and, “Where he was, Light was there.” (p. 13)
Brother Lawrence had great insight on prayers, “It’s a great delusion to think the times of prayer ought to differ for other time.“ He was one who lived out Psalm 16:11 — In thy presence is fullness of joy — for even after he had finished his prayer, he continued in the same way of living with God which was marked by an ever-flowing joy (p. 26). Sometimes, the joy exhibited through him was so great that he needed to intentionally hinder it outwardly (p. 40).
To be united with God, according to Brother Lawremce, comes first a denial of self that can only be done through love and a steadfast gaze on Him. A steadfast gaze is essential if we desire an unclouded vision of the Lord. This way may not be easy, but God grants those who earnestly desire such a vision (p. 75).
Brother Lawrence sees love as the end of all actions. We do not need to be “great men who do great things”. Even frying a cake for the service of the Lord can bring us great joy. There is no need for a specific method to attain happiness or excessive words in prayers. In his love for God, he forgot self; there was no thought of heaven or hell or his past sins (p.93).
In contrast to what many perceive as “godly” and “holy”, Brother Lawrence, in the words of Beaufort, was “intensely human” with a “frank and open” manner. Those who met him felt immediately as if they had found a friend.
Such a description reminds me of Eugene Peterson’s saying, “We don’t become more spiritual by becoming less human.” Sometimes people find Christians unapproachable. Nevertheless, our God was the one who took a revolutionary step by taking the form of humanity.
It is also interesting to note that Brother Lawrence was someone who spent more time on the gospels than the other books of the Bible. He wanted to soak himself in the words spoken by Jesus Christ Himself when He walked upon the earth.
The most profound passage that I came across in the book is the following,
“All that he (Brother Lawrence) had heard others say, all that he had found in books, all that he had written himself, seemed savourless dull and heavy, when compared with what faith had unfolded to him of the unspeakable riches of God and Jesus Christ.” Brother Lawrence on said, “He alone can reveal Himself to us. We toil and exercise our mind in reason and in science, forgetting that in there we can see only a copy while we neglect to gaze on the incomparable original. In the depths of our soul, God reveals himself, could we realise it, yet we won’t look there for Him.” (p. 87)
“It is not enough to just know God as a theory or some fleeting emotions,” said Brother Lawrence. The Lord is always present as the King who lives inside us, waiting for to commune with Him (p. 87). The question is, will we be those who desire to live in such a reality, where we experience the infinite riches of the “incomparable original”?