“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5
As a young man Nicolas Herman 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 1614 in eastern France to poor parents and limited education opportunities, Herman’s options were few, thus he remained in the army for several years where he 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.
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 despite 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 spent his life modestly, serving God and mankind in simple ways, 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? As Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Are you ready to be not so much as a drop in the bucket, to be hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served?” Some have encouraged those of us who have experienced good fortune to shift our life focus from success to significance. Perhaps an even more noble step might be instead to shift from success to insignificance. Notably, Jesus mentioned neither the successful nor the significant among those who would inherit the earth, only the meek. Blessed be you, Brother Lawrence, for setting the example.