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August 3, 1666
The first time I met Brother Lawrence was Friday, August 3, 1666. That's when he told me how he had been converted -how God had worked in a great way in his life when he was eighteen years old.
That winter, the sight of a bare tree started him thinking of how it would soon regain its flowers and fruit. That image of the leafless branches never left him-and actually gave him a powerful vision of God's power and providence. In fact, this vision helped derail him from his worldly point of view. It sparked in him a love for the Lord so intense that he could never really tell if it increased in the forty-some years that followed.
Brother Lawrence told me he'd served as a footman to a Mr. Fieubet, a government accountant. He also said that during that time, he was a big, clumsy guy who broke everything. Thinking he could pay for his clumsiness and sins, he decided to enter a monastery, where he would sacrifice the pleasures of his life. But God surprised him by giving him a life of satisfaction instead.
He explained that we should practice God's presence through a continuing conversation with Him, that it would be shameful to trade such a relationship for trivial foolishness, and that we should feed our souls on the highest thoughts of God. We can find deep joy, he said, by simply being with the Lord.
He went on to say that our faith needs revival, and it's too bad we have so little faith. Instead of using it as the guidepost for the way we live our lives, we amuse ourselves with trivial devotions that change every day. Faith, he said, is enough to bring us a complete and mature spiritual walk.
In this walk we ought to give ourselves completely to God, both physically and spiritually, and look for our own satisfaction only in doing His will. Then, whether God leads us into a path of suffering or apparent blessings, it will be the same because we are wholly surrendered to God. We need to hold on to our faith in the spiritual desert when prayer is hard and God refines our love for Him. This is the time for complete surrender to God. A single step of this kind takes us closer to Him.
Brother Lawrence said he wasn't surprised to hear of all the daily sin and misery in the world. Considering what darkness a sinner is capable of, he was actually surprised there wasn't more. He said he prayed for people outside the monastery, but he didn't let it bother him too much because he knew God could set matters straight whenever He liked.
He said that to reach the level of surrender God requires, we should keep a close watch on the motives and impulses that mingle in both spiritual and physical affairs. God gives seeing eyes to those who truly want to serve and know Him.
Toward the end of our conversation, he told me I was more than welcome to return as often as I pleased-if I really wanted to serve God. If not, then I shouldn't visit again.
Excerpted from PRACTICING GOD'S PRESENCE by ROBERT ELMER Copyright © 2005 by Robert Elmer. Excerpted by permission.
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