Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lenten Reflection on Brother Lawerence

For my holy reading during Lent I am reading selections from Brother Lawrence. I have decided to occasionally post some of my thoughts that arise from that meditative reading. A major (perhaps the) emphasis in Brother Lawrence's life and thought is practicing the presence of God, in fact that is the name of the work that is a collection of his sayings. So it is not surprising that the first installment of these Lenten reflections is on the awareness of God's presence and what distracts us from that awareness.

In what I read today Brother Lawrence speaks of keeping a sense of God's presence through continually conversing with God. We quit this conversation to think of "trifles and fooleries". We can remove ourselves from the sense of God's presence by replacing a devotion for God for a devotion to other amusements and trivial things. However, all this can be misunderstood unless we hear this not as an abstracted reflection but as coming from one who could find a sense of God's presence in peeling potatoes or in other simple menial and seemingly meaningless activities. If one remembers this about Brother Lawrence's life then we realize that what makes something an empty amusement, or a trifle or foolery isn't necessarily in the activity or thought itself but in how the one approaches and engages the activity or thought. Does one's washing dishes, or driving or small talk consume one so that there is no means to retain the sense of God's presence in the activity? There may be activities that to do them would simply be antagonistic to retaining a sense of God's presence but such activities would have to be in themselves set against God. However, I do not think such activities are addressed in what I read from Brother Lawrence today. Rather "trivial devotions", "trifles" and "fooleries" have to do with approaching otherwise neutral actions, activities, and thoughts without seeking to be in continual conversation with God. In other words the above named activities are as Brother Lawrence describes if we allow them to distract us from seeking to be continually aware of God's presence and in conversation with God. We can allow certain activities to cause us to put God over there in those things and not here with me right now in what I presently do, in so doing the activity has lost its explicit connection to that which enlivens all things and makes them true beautiful and alive. When we do this we have fallen into "trifles" and "fooleries" as the activity takes over our consciousness and becomes our devotion.

I am aware that so often during the day this is exactly what I allow what I do to become. Even work in and for the community or as pastor of Reconciler becomes trifles and fooleries, when all my attention and devotion is given over to them without a thought for God's presence. It is so easy for what we do or think to consume us and drive away our sense of being in God's presence. This is why there is Lent, and spiritual disciplines and the liturgy, because we need reminders and means for practicing the presence of God.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

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