Posted by David
My brow is furrowed. I’m staring at the computer screen trying to solve a problem with a Flash animation. Hours have passed and I’ve hardly moved. My wife walks in and asks me, “How are you?”
My focus is broken and I look up at her and take a moment to respond. In this condition, I’m sometimes a bit more terse, but this time, I think of Brother Lawrence first. “I’m just flipping burgers for the Lord,” I say.
We made up this saying from reading The Practice of the Presense of God, a short book printed over a century ago about Brother Lawrence. This man was known for his closeness to God, as well as his obscure and simple life. He worked much of his life in a kitchen at a Carmelite monastery in Paris.
Our saying, “Flipping burgers for the Lord,” is what keeps me going with the work and tasks that come to me within this society. If I didn’t have this purpose, I would care less to take part in the ongoing folly embedded within the depths and breadth of human civilization.
I’ve found that without God, everything in which our society endeavors is folly. What’s most important is how we go about doing our work. The way we do things colors all of the products of human creativity. So few of the products are colored in love. So many of the products are tinted and tipped with poison.
I remember once taking a bus in Peru. It wasn’t the lowest fare bus, maybe two up from the bottom. Afterward, I wish I had taken the lowest fare bus, the one that didn’t offer video service.
About 20 minutes after we departed from the Lima bus station, the bus driver’s helper put in a video for everyone to watch. It was a film clearly produced in the United States. It was a slasher-sex film. What was most alarming wasn’t the movie—I know the kind of things that humanity produces—but was the responses of the people in the bus. It seemed to me that everyone was watching this film as if it was normal. Even parents weren’t shielding their children’s eyes.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it any longer. I stood up and yelled to the passengers something like, “what are you doing!” But in my moment of righteous indignation, when only a few people broke their gaze and cast a glance at me, I realized, “I’m an American and this video came from my country. This is a product of me and my culture.” So, I just slinked back into my seat and tried to keep my half-wandering eyes off of the screen. I also learned that we can’t shield our ears. I suppose I could have hummed, “la la la , rum-tum-tiddle-um-tum, la la la…”
Over the years, I have come to think of human technologies as fruitless, whether it be our products, media, medical technologies, our even services. Humanity loves to glorify its creations. Look at the cover of any technology magazine and you’ll see a sales pitch that makes you glad you’re on board. But is technology really fruitless? Even though I am highly emersed in technology with my work, I still feel that technology is the manifestation of our pride and selfishness. But how then do I resolve the fact that I am clearly and deeply engaged with civilization and its technologies?
“I’m just flipping burgers for the Lord.” And not only do I just get it done, but for Him, I do it well. That’s not to say that I always will be involved with technology. I pray that one day God will extricate me from this line of work.
Solomon knew the purposelessness of man’s endeavors. He wrote all about it in Ecclesiastes, the Bible’s existential book. It’s no different today with our advanced technologies, our space exploration, or our health care than it was in his time.
And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after the wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.
– Ecclesiastes 1:17-18
I still feel that the Kingdom of Heaven is more closely akin to what we think of the Garden of Eden, which as Genesis describes it, was pre-agricultural. I just love taking hikes in the wilderness for the simple purpose to marvel in the Lord’s handiwork apart from our technologies. But even this is missing the point that Brother Lawrence had to offer.
The most excellent method of going to God is that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing people but purely for the love of God.
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.