I wonder if, like me, you’ve ever felt like there were two people inside of you. There’s the “busy self” who does all the everyday stuff: working, shopping, running errands, cooking, cleaning, paying the bills, taking care of everyone…and the “quiet self” or some might call the “holy self” who is focused on quiet prayer, listening to God in the stillness, going on retreats…all those great things we’re encouraged to do but never seem to find the time for. And so we struggle with this feeling that when we’re dwelling in the “busy self” we’re not quite “holy.” We’re not measuring up to the ideal.
Well, I don’t believe God wants us to live in this fractured or compartmentalized way—when we’re praying, we’re praying…but when we’re working, we’re working. It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s entirely possible to encounter God, or spend time with Jesus, amidst the hustle and bustle of all we have to do. In the words of St. Theresa of Avila… “God is in the pots and pans.”
As you go through the mundane tasks of an ordinary day. It’s hard to imagine God hanging around. This is pretty boring stuff! As you sit pouring over your tax return. It’s hard to imagine God sitting there with you. God is about prayer and connection. Not money and math. As you stand at the sink washing dishes, it’s hard to imagine God standing with you. This chore is absolutely void of any divine spark.
Or is it?
Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, was devoted to this teaching of St. Theresa of Avila and he promoted a form of spirituality called The Practice of the Presence of God. He came up with this when he was assigned to the monastery kitchen, where he spent all day cooking and cleaning for his superiors. He found this common kitchen work to be an ideal place to discover and feel God’s presence. He writes:
“Men invent means and methods of coming at God’s love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God’s presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”
This is a beautiful and appealing idea to me. The fact that our kitchens (or any place, really) can become a chapel, where God is wholly present. This chapel can be our office, our car, our backyard…wherever it is that we find ourselves conducting the busy chores of our day. When we invite Jesus into our workspace, whatever routine thing we’re doing is immediately elevated to the holy. Because God is there, and God loves us, and we can feel God’s presence with us at all times.
For Brother Lawrence, there is no fractured self. He found a way to be his “holy self” no matter what he was doing.
And those mundane chores? God cares about all of them! You don’t have to worry about God being too bored, too busy, too specialized, or too lofty. God cares about every little thing you do. All you have to do is remember to invite Him along. Don’t put Him off, saying: “I’ll get to my prayers as soon as I’m done with this list,” or “I’ll spend quiet time with Jesus when I get the chance.” Remember, Jesus was called Immanuel… “God is with us.” Whatever you’re doing (working, cooking, running errands) take Jesus along with you.
It just might transform the experience for you.
Questions for Reflection:
- Are there times when you feel a conflict between your “busy self” and your “holy self”? How is your relationship with God affected by this conflict?
- Do you believe that God cares about your average, everyday work and daily family life? What do you think Jesus might say to you about the work that you do?