Spin it until you see it: Finding God’s presence in the everyday and ordinary


Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite monk at a monastery in Paris in the late 1600s.

Most of what we know about him comes through a small, if not timeless, book entitled “The Practice of the Presence of God.” As I have noted before, this small book had a profound impact on my life several years back and continues to influence me to this day.

The overarching principle of the book, the principle that guided the life of Brother Lawrence, is the foundational principle of my weekly literary offerings. As I noted in one of my earliest articles, “Every week, I hope to publish a new post that will hopefully serve to inspire, challenge and engage people in an exercise of seeing and experiencing God and his Word in the everyday and the ordinary.”

Brother Lawrence had a keen awareness of the power and presence of God from the very outset of his faith journey. I was reminded of his story as I watched the leaves fall from the trees outside my office window.

As the story goes, at the age of 18, Brother Lawrence noticed a leafless tree standing in the middle of a field. It occurred to him that in just a few months’ time, that same tree would be renewed with the coming of the spring.

As he considered this truth, he realized it was the same with the hearts of humanity, that God was able to bring new life and restoration to even the most worn-down of souls. Brother Lawrence was able to take what appeared to be inconsequential and mundane and spin it until he was able to see where God was working and moving.

By all accounts, there was nothing special or spectacular about Brother Lawrence. He grew up the son of peasants and had no formal education. He didn’t hold any positions of note in the monastery where he served. For the better part of 50 years, he essentially served as a busboy and dishwasher.

If I were to create a list of my least favorite jobs in my own house with my own family, dishwashing would be close to the very top of the list, and all I have to do is put them in and take them out of a machine that does all of the actual work for me.

For Brother Lawrence, however, this most basic, menial and mind-numbing of tasks became a means through which he could commune with the divine while discovering and living out a life of deep purpose. He famously prayed, “Lord of all pots and pans and things… Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.”

In our increasingly “post-Christian” world, we have gotten extremely adept at recognizing and illuminating where God is not. One might say we have fallen into a trap of practicing the absence of God. I admit that in my own life, there are moments when I wonder where in the world God is and what in the world God is doing. I wonder, however, if the failure to see God in the public eye isn’t, at least in part, a result of a failure to open ours.

Perhaps we need to take a page out of Brother Lawrence’s book. Practicing the presence of God wasn’t simply the title of some book credited to his name. Rather, it was a lifestyle he lived.

He writes, “But when we are faithful to keep ourselves in his holy presence and set him always before us, this not only hinders offending him and doing anything that displeases him, at least willfully, but it also begets a holy freedom, and if I may so speak, a familiarity with God… by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and the presence of God rendered as it were natural to us.”

Or if I might borrow the words of Jesus, when we seek God, we will find what we’re looking for.

Jesus promised he would be with his followers to the end of time and that he would never leave us nor forsake us. This means wherever we go, whatever we experience, the presence of God is there for us to see and experience. We can find meaning in the mundane because the sacred is present in the everyday and the ordinary.

Sometimes, all it takes is for us to spin the situation until we see it. And as we practice, we can celebrate God’s presence in something as simple as scrubbing the silverware.

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