I know that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things; because GOD will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him.
Maybe it is the fact that Br. Lawrence refers in this letter to a sister who is just taking her vows to become a nun, or something about the passage above, but today's reading draws my mind to the person of St. Francis of Assisi. I have always had a fascination with Francis and have read and studied quite a lot about him. One of the key feature of his life and the religious order that he founded is an insistence on complete poverty (for the individual and for the order as a whole).
Murray Bodo, a Franciscan Friar, Priest, and Author, describes it this way: ". . . for Francis violence and the will to exclude others and harm them is intimately tied to possessiveness. He tells his brothers that if they have possessions, then they will need arms to defend them . . . Francis' antidote to war is poverty, which frees him and his followers to embrace and include and give. They have no need to be defensive because they have nothing to defend" (The Way of St. Francis, p. 7).
I think this has something to do with what Br. Lawrence is talking about. When we come to God with a goal in mind - some level of spirituality that we are trying to achieve - we often fill the space in which God desires to dwell with our own ambition. Likewise, if there are resentments that we hold, can we expect God to completely fill us? If we come to God with our plans already laid, expecting God to bless them, how can we be certain that we are not missing the voice of the Spirit calling us to something altogether different? If we with with our fists clenched around anything, they cannot be open, ready to receive what God has in store.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). If we come to God in complete poverty, we can do nothing apart from God intervening. It necessitates a filling from God. We can be present to God, present to others, present to ourselves, because we have no agendas, no hidden motives, no divided loyalties. I must confess: this is very attractive to me, but I'm not there yet. But today, I choose to "make the next right choice," the next baby step on the road there. What about you?
Ecclesia Writer's Consortium
We are blessed at Ecclesia to have a number of gifted writers and teachers. Here, you'll find devotions, meditations, and musings from a sample of those writers.