A few years ago, I renewed contact with an old friend and mentor, a pastor who figured prominently in my childhood, influenced my conversion to Christ at seven years of age, and baptized me two years later. His name is Albert R. Siebert and he recently went home to be with the Lord at 96 years of age. More than 50 years had passed since we had seen each other, when I “Googled” his name and discovered that he lived just 20 miles from my home. I found his name and phone number, picked up the phone and scheduled a meeting at a local restaurant.
After reminiscing with him over lunch, Al, as he preferred to be called, invited me to his apartment overlooking Tampa Bay, and we began sharing God’s working in our lives. Just before leaving, he pulled an old thin book from the top of the stand next to his easy chair. He said, “You know what this is?” Bending closer, the faded brown cover read, The Practice of the Presence of God, its author, Brother Lawrence. “Ed,” he said, “I’m going to be sharing selections from this with my Golden Heirs group at Northside on Thursdays.” Al then shared with me how he had rediscovered Brother Lawrence a few months earlier and how it had encouraged his walk in Christ.
Al struggled with loneliness since the death of his wife Sue, a few years earlier. She had been his closest companion and friend for over sixty years, when she died quite unexpectedly in her sleep, after what seemed an uneventful day. They had kissed “Good Night,” drifted off to sleep, and she died. But then his eyes brightened as he spoke of experiencing God’s presence, even in his loneliness. And then he read the following passage from Brother Lawrence’s last letter,entitled “From his death-bed.”
GOD knoweth best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter; all would please that came from Him. The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the wrong light. When we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them: when we know that it is our loving FATHER, who abases and distresses us: our sufferings will lose their bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.
Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.
Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible favours (how elevated soever) which He has or may do us. Such favours, though never so great, cannot bring us so near to GOD as faith does in one simple act. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere. Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave Him alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and perhaps offend Him? ‘Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dear.
Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast everything besides out of our hearts; He would possess them alone. Beg this favour of Him. If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I cannot thank Him sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. I hope from His mercy the favour to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one another.
Those were Brother Lawrence’s last words!
Tears welled up as Al read those words, and I looked deep into the heart of a man who loved Christ more than life itself. Oh, that I would love Christ like Al, MY pastor, and my friend.