Be still and you will know that I Am

Monday 10 December 2007

In my more cynical moments I have questioned whether those of us who are the Church in the world believe that God is there at all. Or if he is, whether he is away, off doing something else, and perhaps if we enter into the deathly silence we shall find that there is nothing there but the sound of our own breathing.

If we do believe he is there, why do we of all people persist in filling up our lives and our meetings with talk, our worship with noise? Are we afraid of the silence? Why are we so afraid of the silence? At times I am guilty of the cynicism of thinking that all the Church is contributing is clanging cymbals.

So watching The Monastery, a three-part BBC production, exposd my own levels of cynicism, humbled me on a couple of levels, and inspired me greatly. This series was produced in 2005, and saw 5 modern blokes, only one of who claimed a Christian faith, spending 40 days in Worth Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in England. What a fascinating journey. It is so easy, even as Christians - perhaps especially as Christians - to label others. The man at the beginning who I tipped to be the one who would fall and be cracked open on the experience was the one who was cracked open, but not in the negative way that I expected. His outward shell fooled me (will I never learn to stop being fooled by outward bluster?); his job writing sex scripts for the soft porn industry set me to thinking that this man would not be open to God (will I never extrapolate what has gone in in my own heart and apply it to the rest of the world?). My heart is nothing like God's. By the end of his 40-day stay, Tony had come out with a real, questioning, mysterious beginning to the journey of knowing Papa.

Gary, the Christian of the group but also one of the most wounded, had a run-in with Anthoney, the other wounded soul. They just clashed. Both were irritating in their own ways, but the end of the show saw Gary come to the wise conclusion that even though he could well have been right in his arguments with Anthoney, there is a way of being wrong even while being right if your attitude is sucking. Speaking the truth in love - sometimes in our zeal to speak the truth, we turn it into lies by our attitude. It is better to say nothing if we cannot speak it in love. What a great challenge this is. To be vulnerable in the world. Soften my heart.

This show brought me up against my own humbling. For many years I derided the Catholic Church and all of its traditions - basically the entirety of Christendom for centuries, when you think about it - and found little of value within it. These days, I have begun to see that my rigid doctrinal stance had me throwing babies out with bathwater. My attitude cancelled out any rightness there may have been in my summations by the wrongnness of my spirit. This community of monks were a true community, regardless of whether or not living by the rule of a man who lived 1500 years ago is turning tradition into a pointless idol. I disliked Gary's treatment of Anthoney because it reminded me of my own stance at times; in his zeal to defend himself, he inadvertently trod on the soul of another person. Oh to learn to prefer the other over myself.

I tend to make the same mistakes when it comes to institutionalised religion. Sometimes I find myself mistaking the structure of the building instead of the structure of people's hearts as the problem. But God is found even within bad structures, within rigidities that he may not have originally planned, rigidities which do damage, but which he still moves into. Because he is gracious and graceful. He will come into wherever we are, even if that happens to be a rigid place. I should know. He came into me :)

Papa, I will never be satisfied until you have made me like you. May we know your goodness, your kindness, your gentleness and your life so intimately that it binds up our wounds, salves our hearts and spills outwards into the world. May we live as contemplatives in a world which is screaming out for peace and silence. May we all experience the continued peace that comes from being still and knowing that you are God.

No comments

Post a Comment

Newer Older