A Kingdom at Hand

We ought not to grow tired 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.

   -- Brother Lawrence

At the end of her life, my mother had dementia and resided at an assisted living facility nearby.  She had a live-in aide, a remarkable Ghanaian woman named Akosua.  Akosua was unfailingly patient, cheerful and kind.  She attended to my mothers every need all day long, day after day, night after night, for months on end.  She cared for my mother with greater devotion than most of us care for ourselves.  She acted as if this was God's single purpose for her life.  

Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century Carmelite monk, entered the monastery in late middle age with the intention of devoting his life to prayer.   Instead, he was relegated to the scullery, where he spent long days scrubbing pots and pans.  This became his spiritual practice.  Rather than regarding it as drudgery, Lawrence devoted himself completely to a seemingly menial task and thereby found his pathway to God.

"The kingdom of God is at hand," Jesus proclaimed.  We are mistaken if we think that we will ever find God's kingdom somewhere other than in the midst of our daily lives. "At hand" is an apt turn of phrase.  Look at the fleshy object at the end of your wrist.  Bring it up close to your face and take a good look at it.  How far away is your hand?  It's in your face right now, and it's never farther away than you can reach.  That's how far you are from the kingdom of God. 

If there is a secret to life, this is it: you need to pay complete attention to what is happening right now.  It's not about what might have been, what we would rather be doing, or what we hope might happen in the future.  This is it.  This is all there is, right here, right now, always.   So we might as well make the best of it; pick up that scrub brush, mop or hammer, whatever is at hand, and get to work.

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

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