Brother Lawrence, living in 1660, is no moralist, no success guru, no super-human monk. Brother Lawrence works in a kitchen!
He cares about the raw ingredients of soup, the textures and flavors of things. He cares that everyone gets fed. Brother Lawrence is a saint, yes, but not the marble statue kind. Brother Lawrence is a sinner-saint, messy with sin and honest about it, burning passionately in love for the One Who made and saved him.
This little book is him, covered with flour and grease, sweat-soaked from kitchen heat, hands offering bread and wine, body and blood. If you want 10 steps to being a better person, look elsewhere. The Brother is cooking a richer meal.
Here’s the thing. Brother Lawrence knows that just because saints don’t look like they have it all together, doesn’t mean they aren’t all together. The Big Work’s done, and messy saints have a new heart.
Practicing the presence of God is a hearty and hefty lifestyle, filled with dropped dishes and greasy hands. Worth the practice because we’ve got all the ingredients! Set free in the kitchen, there’s no formula for Christ-likeness, just a loose recipe you learn by heart following the Master.
I am not good at cooking. But I love it. I burn stuff. I make messes. I get in trouble when I question why people use microwaves when the stove is fine. Some folks might question whether the plain cooking of Brother Lawrence, circa 1660, has a place in this world. Flip the question, and things change. Can I have a place in Brother Lawrence’s kitchen?
Brother Lawrence said, “Yes!” over 300 years ago. Yes, if you and I agree it’s not his kitchen. Yes, it is possible to live and work there minute-by-minute, second-by-second. Yes, God is real and the place is the living presence of His Son.
Some years ago, my wife and I foster-parented a group of young women. Each was abused, hurt, beaten uniquely. We cooked a lot of meals together. I asked myself, “what if they could hear Brother Lawrence as if he were speaking to them today?” What if he spoke in the broken and easy sentences of young adulthood? Would they listen? Could they find their place in the Brother’s kitchen?
Fair Warning! This little book is a fresh paraphrase of an aged English translation from Brother Lawrence’s French. Others have tried this, with mixed results. I believe this one’s different, but see for yourself.
The only words completely mine are the short poems I've inserted as conversation starters between you, me, and the Brother. In the process of re-translating the aged English version, I found this: the Brother says it way better than I ever could.
It’s his thoughts, set in our millennial rhythms. But the place--fellow sous chefs, line cooks, and bumbling apprentices--the place is God’s.