Have you ever sat there at your desk or workspace, in the car taking calls, in the kitchen while toddlers swirl, tug and scream… wherever the physical places are that you take up work and thought:
What is the point or real value to this tedious and redundant work… Here I am day after day chipping away at this seemingly rote behavior and what’s it all for?
There once was a man who understood the answer more profoundly than most. He was a 17th century dishwashing monk, his name was Brother Lawrence and I only learned of him very recently. But I’m very glad someone pointed me in the direction of Brother Lawrence.
He is best known for the published work “The Practice of The Presence of God,” which only served to present the way this remarkable man lived his very simple life all for the love, devotion and worship of God.
Ironically, it is said that Brother Lawrence, born Nicholas Herman, came to faith whilst in the military. Standing one day in the open field, gazing upon a barren tree-he realized its deciduous nature was a metaphor for human beings-capable of death and new life… it reminds me, squarely, of my last post by the way…
Here is a great snippet from the above link that represents a mantra for how Brother Lawrence lived his life, in which I would LOVE to emulate…
Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.
Anyway, the point is, the memory of this humble man could not have come at a more opportune moment for me as I dwell on purpose, focus and renewal for 2017.
For the week between Christmas and New Years I felt in a scramble to somehow artificially create some spark or revelation about the new year.
The truth is: I felt at a totally unoriginal loss of God’s voice, direction or newness.
And then it happened 2 or 3 days after New Years, where things were coming into focus and it was only THEN that I realized:
‘how hilarious it is… that we somehow believe that God’s revelation is dictated by a holiday or a ticking clock or a year-end or really any of our amusing human expectations.’
The revelation centered around three things, and it’s how, at this point in my life, I’ve learned to acknowledge God’s voice:
a word from a friend/mentor
The whole reason I’m even talking about “Brother Lawrence” is because of Jerry. While praying with me the other day, Jerry mentioned Brother Lawrence as, “the one who washed dishes if only for the love of God.”
Instantly, rather distractingly while he was still praying, I thought, ‘whoa, what the heck is he referencing right now?? Is that an author or a book I need to run out and purchase right now?’ There was just something that, in a brief utterance, struck me immediately about a person writing about washing dishes for Jesus that convicted me in that moment.
In other words, it spoke to me. It spoke to me in the way that the comment intersected with a personal need. I believe that is probably how God operates when he speaks. In fact, somewhere else I was reading recently that if only we could stop acting like we need to somehow drum up the activity of God and instead join the work that he is already actively creating on his own, we would be just fine.
That’s at least one way he speaks… if we are only willing to be patient and put ourselves in a position to listen.
a word from a movie
The next place I met with God, heard his voice, felt that conviction was after my wife and I went to see the movie La La Land. In short, it’s a musical about a struggling musician (Ryan Gosling) and a struggling actor (Emma Stone), who must fight to keep their dreams alive.
At this point I’m starting to see the constellation of aha moments that I’m chalking up to the actual voice of God. My conviction, what I now believe God was speaking, was patience and faith in the midst of waiting for action and next steps within doing God’s work.
Do you think it’s strange that God could use a ridiculous blockbuster film to speak to you? Well he was fond of using burning bushes, donkey’s, fire and all manner of natural forces… why couldn’t he use a hollywood movie? He will use ALL means by which he intends to fulfill ALL ends.
a word from a podcast
Next, rather I should say first, as this was earlier than the other two occurrences (but it’s funny how the first one doesn’t come into focus until it has been reinforced by 2-3 other things, moments, messages), was a podcast called Robcast (by Rob Bell).
In it Rob interviews Scott Reynolds, one of the key writers on the show Dexter, who shares his amazing slog of years at an L.A. bookstore before finally earning a position with a team of writers and then years still before he got his big break writing for Dexter for 7 seasons.
Now… now, this is not tenuous, this is not thinly veiled… this is thematic. And you cannot underrate God’s voice in the thematic.
And so yet again I’m hearing: patience, presence, take delight in the work that is in front of you, take nothing for granted, devote yourself to the very worthy work that you’ve already been given.
a word from my brother’s chosen profession
Finally as a connection-almost a thread that was woven between all of the above-I walked away from the film that day thinking of my brother David.
Dave has worked very hard to land a steady job in the film industry working in animation and effects, but his aspirations lie much bigger within the creative realm… directing.
And it was David, who saw the film too and we debriefed the meaning of the film, who made me think of the directors chair (you know that vaulted, boom directors chair typically with that guy sitting in it wearing a hat, glasses and headphones around his neck… whose never under 40 years old.)
I wondered to myself: ‘how many directors are there currently under the age of 50?’ I’m guessing not many. And for my brother David, just 28 this past December, how long of a road does he have yet ahead of him to get even close to a role like that?
Here I am thinking I should be the boss and run the world before I’m 30. What kind of wasted energy and thought leadership have I expended not fully devoting myself to the task and day at hand when so many others are patiently toiling?
But one of the key things in all of this is:
I almost missed it.
If I had not been paying attention, if I had not (very recently!) been trained to know who I am and what God’s word says, if I had simply be going my usual foolhardy speed in life… I could have missed it.
I’ve said it before, but one of the hallmarks of a strong leader is being a life-long learner.
Learn from my wrong behavior and attitude: don’t miss what God is speaking to you…
What connections can you make in your life right now that you’ve been avoiding or numbing, turning down the volume on? What do you feel God may be speaking to you by any means necessary?