Brother Lawrence for Normal People
"That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had increased in above forty years that he had lived since."
A. An Experience that Changed His World View
(1) what he sees: a cold and bleak winter scene, deadness, no apparent hope. Might as well chop the tree down and have some fire wood. However, what he sees in the here and now is not all that there is. From experience, he knows that in just a short while, the leaves, the flowers and fruit will most certainly come out upon this tree.
(2) As sure as the sun rises and sets, the earth turns upon its axis, tilted at just the right angle so that as the earth revolves around the sun, the seasons change with perfect regularity. He knows that as winter turns to spring, the sun's rays will hit the tree for longer and longer periods every day. Photosynthesis, taking solar energy, water and nutrients drawn up from the earth through the tree's roots, will produce the compounds that the tree needs, and the tree "knows" that it is time to sprout leaves and blossoms and fruit. Every year it is the same. He may even notice the leaves turning to follow the sun as it courses through the spring sky. He may stop to look at the beauty of one of the blossoms, and marvel at the artist who designed it. He may wonder how in the world that blossom turns into a peach -- but he knows for certain that it will.
B. So what was his worldview before? Perhaps it was as simple (and prevalent) as not taking God into account, or assuming that what you see is all there is or all there ever will be. But what Brother Lawrence sees in the dead and barren tree is that there is Someone who is a designer, provider, planner, and executor of those beautifully designed and wonderful plans. He sees that it is God who is the author of this universe, the designer and creator of the planet and the plant and animal kingdoms. He established it all according to His plans and rules, the laws of thermodynamics and gravity, planetary alignment and rotation, plant and animal DNA, ad the reliability of organic and inorganic chemical reactions that have and will continue to support and sustain life on this planet.
C. Before this revelation, Lawrence did not have a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD. Now, he does, and it is permanent. God opened Brother Lawrence's eyes and heart to see this truth. He was given a powerful revelation of the real providence and power of God. This was something that Lawrence saw, a reality that overtook his former ignorance of God and replaced it with a view of the world that included God as the force to be reckoned with, who was foundational to Lawrence's view of reality. From then on, he lived, breathed, walked, talked and thought with this foundation. God must be considered and factored in to everything -- since He is the source of all that this tree needs for life, God must also be the source of all Lawrence needs for HIS life.
D. This revelation cut him loose from the world. How did it do that? Perhaps it was seeing that the creator of the world and all that is in it, might be a better "bet" than what is in the hands (i.e., at the mercy) of that creative power. He saw that the world and all that is in it is subject to and dependent upon the creative and providential power of God, and not the other way around. Perhaps it was seeing the love of God and having a love FOR God kindled, that cut him loose from the world... the expulsive power of a new affection, as Thomas Chalmers wrote.
E. This revelation not only cut him loose from the world, it also kindled in Brother Lawrence a love for God -- an appreciation of the majesty, glory, and character of God. This God who does all this must be good and loving, a provider for those whom He loves. He is much smarter than we could ever imagine. He is more powerful than any human being who ever lived, because He is the Creator of every human being who ever lived (and every tree). God is someone who can be trusted and depended upon; someone you know will care what happens to you. Someone who will not pull the rug out from under you.
F. Brother Lawrence stopped and took the time to ponder. He did not hurry to his destination, whatever that might have been. He thought and meditated with a readiness to see whatever God might put in his path to see or to do. He wasn't so intent on his own agenda that he whirled past what God wanted to show him.
G. It had been forty years, and in that time, his love for GOD was so big that he could not even tell if it had grown in that span of time. How did that happen? How can I have that kind of love for God? Perhaps it is as simple as "you have not because you ask not."
September 24, 2011