Monday, January 4, 2010

Monks Who Eat Cheerios and Go to the Zoo

A wise man once said, “Either you’ll keep going deeper in faith or you’ll give up.” I’ve often found myself at this latter point. I remember thinking as a new Christian some 6 years ago, “This shouldn’t be this hard.” I read book after book and listened to sermon after sermon trying to figure this God out. I had perfectly planned out “quiet times” where I was anything but quiet; I believed God only heard the prayers of those eloquently worded. I strived to always say and do the “right” thing. Looking back now, it’s quite obvious why I found faith to be so difficult—I was trying to do so much in my own strength to impress this God who resided far, far away, instead of simply acknowledging the God all around, and even within me. I was doing and not being.

Along with this legalistic view of spirituality, I also had a very dichotomic perspective: some things were spiritual, and some were not. Churches often tells us there are certain things that are “holy”—reading the Bible, praying, tithing—but we forget the not so obviously (though they should be) spiritual things like loving, silence, community, and nature. I use to look for God in worship services and Bible studies, and often came home empty-handed. I’m now learning to look for Him in the everyday because that’s where He is. God doesn’t need pews or stained glass windows to exist; He certainly does reside in these places, but He’s a lot bigger than that, a lot bigger than I’m confident I’ll ever be able to comprehend.

God is found in the everyday and I’ve never seen this more demonstrated than at a recent trip to St. Leo’s Abbey. I was able to start 2010 exceptionally and spend a day there with Dr. Cotton, Anna, Professor Corrigan, and Ky Prevette. Monks, who I once considered hyper spiritual, do a lot of ordinary, day-to-day things like eat breakfast (whether it be Cheerios or Flan), wash dishes, work, and of course, pray. We shared breakfast with Brother James, who has been a monk for 72 years, and talked about the monastery and changes that have occurred over the years, orange trees, new roads being built, and even his trip to the zoo—it’s all spiritual: I’m convinced.
--Jennica Durbin


Paul Corrigan said...

Thank you for this, Jennica.

I also spent years having noisy "quiet" times. Those left me wanting.

I thought it was particularly poignant when Father James said, "So the green swamp leaves us with a dilemma; when we're going to Disney, which way do we drive around it?"

Indeed, it's all spiritual!

living stones said...

Jennica, thanks for writing this entry, and I'm happy to share the journey with you. Like you said, "God is found in the everyday..." Amen.
Blessings--Anna (PS. What a great title!)

RC said...

Great post, Jennica. Thank you! It was indeed a special day. And the most special part for me was the "community" the five of us who were on the "mini-retreat" experienced with each other. I'm very grateful.

John Orzechowski said...

Thanks. This reminds me of a great scene in the documentary "Into Great Silence." The Carthusian monks climb up a snowy hill and take turns sliding down, some falling over and rolling down the hill; they all laugh and have a good time. In addition to the prayer, the reading, the labor, the monks have light-hearted fun, too.

Daniel said...

Jennica, I'm excited that you were able to spend some time at St. Leo's! Though it's true that God is a part of our most common activities and interactions, it never hurts to carve out special places and opportunities from our daily life to increase our awareness of His presence. I certainly treasure the handful of 'mini-retreats' I enjoyed at St. Leo's, singing with the monks, journaling by the lake, and praying with friends. Your reflection reminds me of the peace I experienced there. Thank you!

Joy said...

Excellent post, Jennica!

Your experience sounds an awful lot like my own, striving to live as a "good" Christian in a black and world of prescriptive legalism. So much of what goes on in Western churches today is nothing more than modern day Pharisee-ism. We must transcend the line between the sacred and the secular - after all, isn't this was the cross was all about? Christ, in whom all the fullness of the Deity dwell, died a physical death in a human body to usher in His eternal kingdom here and now. Everything is spiritual because Jesus abolished the dichotomy. So why in God's name do we continue to live as though the cross is meaningless? Why do we wait for God's kingdom when he said it's here, it's among us, it's in us - whether eating Cheerios or visiting the zoo.

My big sister here in Korea shared her story of when she received the gift of speaking in tongues, which just happened to be when she was on the toilet. She laughs as she remembers, saying that God really has a sense of humor in the ways He reminds us that He truly is everywhere. ^_^

May we attune ourselves to the sacred in every moment...and in every place.

In His unfathomable love,

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