I was talking to a woman who described her favorite ministry at her church as ironing tablecloths. She felt it was holy work and very peaceful. She said she felt closest to God in that simple act. I hate ironing, in fact, I never buy clothes that need ironing for that very reason, so I was intrigued by her story.
What she said reminded me of what I read about Brother Lawrence, a French mystic who lived from 1611-1691. He didn’t set out to be a great spiritual teacher. He didn’t even enter a religious order until he was middle-aged. His jobs were menial, like washing the dishes. He didn’t like his jobs but he used that time to talk to God in prayer. Years later an Abbot made four visits to Brother Lawrence and was struck by his deep and simple love for God and others. After Brother Lawrence died, the Abbot wrote a book in Brother Lawrence’s name using the four interviews and letters that Brother Lawrence had written. The book is called, The Practice of the Presence of God.
I love the idea that God is everywhere and that all things are sacred, even something as mundane as washing the dishes. So, the next time you’re stuck with a chore you don’t like, such as vacuuming or raking leaves or dusting, try seeing it as an opportunity to connect with the Divine. You might pray for those eating food off the plates you are washing or for people who can’t afford the car you are vacuuming.
All things, done with intention toward God, are holy.
I recently visited a monastery in Northern California called, The Abbey of Our Lady of New Clairvaux, where I’ve brought four people on a retreat. The Dominican monks here make amazing wine from their vineyards and grow walnuts and plumbs to sell. They say that they spend their time in prayer, physical labor, and hospitality and these three practices form a three-legged stool, each being equal in importance. When it comes to spirituality we often put prayer at the pinnacle and I love the idea that work, prayer, and hospitality are equal spiritual endeavors. All are sacred occupations. All can bring us closer to God.
In what ways has God met you in ordinary life?
Photo credit, Woman, Vines (mine from the above-mentioned monastery).