Today, Don’t Change The World

On January 11, 2012 by Eddie

Hey everybody, I know it’s been a month or so since my last blog update, sorry for the delay. I’ll explain why in the next post, but needless to say we have a beautiful baby girl at home and are not getting much sleep these days!

Every once in a while I will see a date associated with a saint, or other historical figure in the church, and it will catch my attention. Today just happens to be about one of my heroes– January 11 is the feast day of Brother Lawrence. Nicolas Herman (he took the religious name “Brother Lawrence”) lived in the 17th century in a monastery in Paris, France. For many people, as for me, the writings of Brother Lawrence have been a huge inspiration. His small book, The Practice of the Presence of God, is life-changing and definitely worth the read.

But to me, the most interesting thing about Brother Lawrence is not what he accomplished in his life, but what he did not accomplish. He wasn’t a revolutionary thinker, he didn’t fight to change the world, he didn’t devote his life to solving poverty or hunger, in many ways he was overlooked and under-appreciated. Brother Lawrence didn’t even have the education to become a religious figure, instead having to enroll as a “lay brother,” the enlisted man of the monastic community. Lawrence was a dish washer. Literally, he washed dishes in the monastery for most of his life. But he was a dish-washer with a relentless desire to experience God in all His fullness. He was known for his peace and intimacy with Christ. God was real to him, walking alongside him in every mundane task, and people flocked to him for wisdom, trying to find the secret of how he drew so close to his heavenly Father.

In our current world, especially in our current Christian culture, we are quick to encourage people to make bold, revolutionary changes in the world through their lives. We encourage everyone to devote their life, and all their energy, to a cause or an accomplishment. Of course, there is nothing wrong with desiring to impact the world in a huge, tangible way. We need leaders, we need prophets and visionaries, they are all essential to the kingdom. But we also need dishwashers.

Imagine if someone stood up in your small group or church service and said, “I feel the Lord calling me to wash dishes.” What would the reaction be?

“You mean, to wash dishes at a food bank or homeless shelter?” We might ask, trying to find a bow to tie on the story.

“No…just wash dishes. For whoever needs clean dishes. Washing dishes and spending time with God, that’s my plan.”

…awkward silence and polite smiles, no doubt.

Please hear me, this is not a prescription. This is not me saying we should all quit our jobs and go “wash dishes” for a living, so that we can know God. But I think the story of Brother Lawrence is shouting out to us, as members of the Church. It is shouting a message that often gets lost, especially in American/western culture. The life of Brother Lawrence reminds us that life is about becoming someone, not accomplishing something. The short life God gives us on this earth can be spent in a thousand different ways, working on a thousand different projects. But if we accomplish the most earth-shaking feats and miss out on intimacy with God, we’ve missed the point. If we are the most revolutionary leader, but “have not love,” then we are literally background noise to the story of God that is playing out in our souls.

So if you think about it today, take a moment to remember Brother Lawrence. Pick up his book, read his Wikipedia page, whatever you have time for. I pray that God would use today as a reminder to slow down, stop stressing about climbing the next mountain, and remember that God’s most important work is not what He will do through you, but what He is doing in you.

What would it look like in your life, if you stopped focusing on changing the world, and instead asked God to change you?

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