What Am I Working For Today?

Years ago, when I was studying for the bar exam, I felt unfulfilled and incomplete.  I knew that passing the bar was necessary for me to progress in my career as a lawyer, and I knew that as a lawyer I would be able to help people.  However, each day felt lonely, tiring, and tedious.  For an entire summer, I did nothing but study.  

Even though I had a long term goal, I still wanted to find a purpose in my individual days.  

One of my friends introduced me to The Practice of the Presence of God, which includes the teachings of Brother Lawrence.  Brother Lawrence was a monk, and he sought purpose in the mundane, everyday life.  The book is titled the practice of the presence of God because Brother Lawrence spent his days cultivating ways to experience the presence of God in everyday tasks.  

I remember reading in awe how Brother Lawrence concentrated on finding the presence of God in a task as simple as washing dishes.  Brother Lawrence recognized that God could be in every task, no matter how small, when he stated, "we ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed."  I began to imagine how my day could be transformed if I did not focus on the large or small work, and began to view studying criminal law with love - striving to do my best to honor God.

In theory, this sounds like a beautiful concept, but in actuality, applying this practice to life is incredibly difficult.  I often go to work thinking that I will do my best to "practice" finding God in each situation and being thankful.  However, as soon as the first crisis arises, I lose my focus.  Brother Lawrence said, “Do not be discouraged by the resistance you will encounter from your human nature; you must go against your human inclinations. Often, in the beginning, you will think that you are wasting time, but you must go on, be determined and persevere in it until death, despite all the difficulties.” 

We will get distracted, but that is why we must continue to practice.  Like any discipline - music, art, writing - it is through practice that we become more disciplined and hone our skill.

Brother Lawrence also realized that we will not achieve perfection, and God does not expect perfection.  Brother Lawrence said, "He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank him fro the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can... He is nearer to us than we think."  

We often convince ourselves that our attempts to know God are never enough.  I remember searching for Bible study methods and finding blogs and videos of women that spent hours in Bible study. Many of these women had developed sophisticated techniques - they color coded their Bible when they highlighted passages, they had beautiful journals, and they had prayer binders with tabs and sections for all of their prayers.  I sat on my porch and felt inadequate, discouraged, and inferior.  Instead of looking for ways that I could use some of these techniques in the time that I did have in my day, I focused on all the time that I did not have and all of the ways that I was not measuring up.  Brother Lawrence addressed this as well when he said that "there needed neither art nor science for going to God, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only."  God does not judge us based on the technique or approach that we use to draw nearer to him, God is concerned with our heart.  

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.  Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)

When you start to worry that you do not have a purpose in your day, pause and make time to practice the presence of God.  


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