Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Growing in the midst of Distractions

The NT calls me to "remain in Christ" and to “pray continually without ceasing.” In the light of our fast-paced society this seems impossible. There are so many distractions, and responsibilities not to mention the issues going inside my own head. Henri Nouwen once said that his mind was like a banana tree full of monkeys. I can relate. So, I dream about what it would be like to ‘get away’ or think about having more hours in the day, or more gadgets to save me time.

I could be a monk but that doesn’t seem to be practical. No doubt I look good in brown but I’m married, have kids and responsibilities. (One of my favorite monks was a guy named, Simeon the Stylite. Simeon fled society and entered the monastery. After a few years he decided that even the busy monastery interrupted his communion with God so he built a little hut and chained himself to a pole. But people kept coming by asking him to pray for them so he moved into a cave, then atop an old pillar about 10 feet high. Amazingly he found that people still stopped by, yelling, asking him for advice or for prayers. Finally he built a 60-foot pillar where apparently he lived for the remainder of his life. Simeon the Stylite was serious about removing himself from all distractions!)

While I truly appreciate the goal of one heading off to the monastery and shedding all worldly attachments it's not something I'll be able to do. My goal has got be building "little monastery's" right inside my own life. Places I can briefly go to get away. Times I set aside devoted only to God. Practices that often remind me of Him.

In many ways cultivating these habits in the midst of everyday life is more difficult than retreating into the mountains. But... difficult only in the sense that I tend to quantify difficulties, measuring them against each other, against what others are doing and getting caught up in thinking how spiritual I am to make them all a part of my routine. On the other hand, the picture Jesus painted - "I am the vine, you are the branches...", "Remain in me and I'll remain in you..." - is much less stressful. I've got a lemon tree in my backyard. I've never once heard it groan or strain in order to produce lemons. It just does. This is my goal in the middle of distraction... to remain in Him... to grow in Him... to just be....

(BTW - This is different than being like Him. Being like Him is impossibly hard. The NT asks me to be in Him. That is radically different than being like Him.)

So, I'm learning what it means to "remain in Him" at all times and to grow in spite of all the chaos around me.

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jtc said...

It's funny because this morning I was just reading about Henri Nouwen and the sabbatical he took at a Trappist monastary and his perspective and desire for a deeper prayer life. I was also reading the perspective of a single mother of three who worked full time, and who's hectic schedule left her no ideal condition for prayer and to wonder, "just what did God expect from her in her prayer life?" The answer she had was that God wants a love relationship. He doesn't want a hired servant; he wants a bride. A true love will always find a way. It may not always be the same way, or the prescribed way, but it will always be a way that reflects love... I like that.

Life today, and it’s barrage of noise definitely conspires against regular, satisfying time with God ... I guess maybe that is the point, and the need.

Jonathan Foster said...

it's like in a relationship between two lovers... one doesn't say, "i love you so much that i bought this book about how to love better." or "i found this website with five easy steps to being better lovers." what do they do? they usually just spend a lot of time together. that's ultimately how we express our love. we just like being with that person. (i can certainly respect that about the monastery. i think people are there to spend more time with God.)

on another note - "i guess that's the point and the need" should be a song lyric somewhere. we need to work on that.

Lori G said...

What a great analogy...so much easier to think of and remember it that way.

Jonathan Foster said...

thank you.