I had a professor in college whose class I loved. I looked forward to it; I never missed it; I was on the edge of my chair in our discussions. I just knew I loved the material and the professor’s teaching style, but I didn’t really know much about his life, though, other than he mentioned he was married and had kids. Late in the afternoon I was studying in the basement of the library. I sat in a comfortable chair in the corner; the room was darker, but I had enough light to read. It was almost a hiding spot, and no one would find me unless they were looking for me. I look up from my book, and I see my professor. He’s meeting his daughter there, and they’re leaving to get dinner. He’s glad to see her, asking about her day and curious about where she wanted to go. He never saw me there; I was an unobserved observer. I remember thinking, “I like how he treated his daughter.” I knew I liked his class, but seeing him with his daughter made me admire him more. If he was dismissive or uncaring I might have viewed the rest of the class differently, but because he was obviously interested in his daughter his teaching took on more significance.
The fourth conversation recorded in The Practice of the Presence of God mentions that Brother Lawrence regularly recommended “walking in the presence of God,” but “his example was a stronger inducement than any arguments he could propose.” It says Lawrence had a calm demeanor, he was never in a rush, and he did everything with an “even, uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit.” I realize the description might be an exaggeration, but you get the picture: Lawrence’s way of being was as much of a teacher as his words. People were drawn to his words because they saw how he lived.
I forget this, that my life is a teacher. The way I treat the checkout person, the way I listen or don’t listen, the way I handle an interruption--they all say something to those around me. People notice it. Our lives are a constant teacher to those around us; there’s a subtle lesson happening, for good or for bad, all the time in how we live. Lawrence had many good things to say about living in the presence of God, but the way he lived said even more.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict