Brother Lawrence’s Tree

School’s back in session and I’ve decided to read portions of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God to my freshman Bible class for a brief devotional thought at the beginning of each day.  This classic little book is ideally arranged for devotional reading and presents simple and sound concepts on the Christian life.  So on Friday I read to the class the following portion of the first “conversation” of the book.  I’ve read the book a couple of times, but I haven’t read it in a while, and I had forgotten that the book begins with a teenage Lawrence coming to an initial awareness of the glory of God through observing a tree in winter:

“The first time I saw Brother Lawrence was on the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me that God had done him a singular favor in his conversion at the age of eighteen. During that winter, upon 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; Brother Lawrence received a high view of the providence and power of God which has never since been effaced from his soul. This view had perfectly set him free from the world and kindled in him such a love for God, that he could not tell whether it had increased in the forty years that he had lived since.”

It’s an amazing thought, isn’t it:  an eighteen-year-old kid stunned into the awe of God by the simple cycle of nature.  Of course, this is a thoroughly biblical idea.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

It also provided an interesting angle to approach the glory of God for a class of freshmen, many of whom are thoroughly immersed in the vestiges of the old Bible belt and are therefore accustomed to being approached with “Have you accepted Jesus?” but virtually never with, “Have you considered how the cycles of nature themselves speak of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the glory of God?”  Or, “What might a tree tell us about Jesus, the One who created the Heavens and the Earth?”

Indeed, we are surrounded everywhere by reminders of the glory and grace of God.  So thank you, Brother Lawrence, for reminding me of these reminders.

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