As a young man Nicolas Herman (1614-1691) had little choice except to join the army, that is if he had any hope of regular meals or collecting even a modest stipend. Born in eastern France to poor parents and with limited education at best Herman’s options were few, thus he remained in the army for several years where in fought in the Thirty Years’ War and later served as a valet until an injury rendered him unfit for military duty.
Following his release Herman entered the Discalced Carmelite Priory in Paris as a lay brother, not having the education necessary to become a cleric. There he spent the rest of his life within the walls of that priory assigned to working in the kitchen, a lowly position, tending to mundane chores of cooking and cleaning at the constant bidding of his superiors. Such was the life of Nicolas Herman, quietly serving God and mankind expecting no acclaim whatsoever.
No acclaim indeed! Whoever even heard of Nicolas Herman? No one I suspect . . . unless you are perhaps familiar with the man better known as Brother Lawrence, the religious name Nicolas Herman took upon entering the priory, where in spite of his lowly status he touched so many lives with his wisdom and spiritual guidance that after his death his letters and conversations were compiled in a book called The Practice of the Presence of God, which for centuries has remained one of the most widely read books among Christians. Yet Brother Lawrence simply spent his life serving God and mankind expecting no acclaim whatsoever.
We all hope to leave some sort of legacy, don’t we? But are we willing to do so without some hope of acclaim for our deeds? “Are you ready to be not so much as a drop in the bucket,” Oswald Chambers challenges, “to be hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served? Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?” Brother Lawrence was. Are you? Am I? Yet, isn’t it ironic that among those within the priory during that time only Brother Lawrence, the lowliest of servants, is the one so famously remembered?