Of Monks and Men

"Be still, and know that I am God"  Psalm 46:10a

I've been away a little while working on some doctoral work at Gordon-Conwell Seminary (www.gcts.edu).  While there studying in my last residency, we were addressing the issue of the spiritual formation of the leader/pastor.  As a result, we spent a three day retreat at a satellite monastary/Retreat house where some brothers from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist live in community.  I think that their faith background is Episcopalian/Anglican (or some hybrid thereof), and though there are certain theological differences that we would clearly have, I learned some things while there.

First, I learned the value of silence.  They didn't talk to us, and we didn't talk to them (except the first day at a meal, and the very last meal on the third day).  We also didn't talk to each other (those in our class who were a part of this retreat), with the exception of some times of processing together with our professor once or twice a day.  So, literally, it was quiet all the time.  We didn't talk, have a cell phone, no computers, no televisions, etc.  QUIET.  It was cool because silence has a way of scaring you, and making you appreciative at the same time.  It scares you because when you really get alone and quiet for a long time, you realize how much noise is going on in your soul that impedes your ability to hear God.  And it makes you appreciative of the mysterious work of God in other people's lives as you observe people really trying to listen to His voice.

Second, I learned about the power of lingering with God and His Word.  In our western culture, we try to get as much information as we can, as fast as we can.  I have made an observation that is relevant here I think:  We live in a time where there is more information available to us than any time in all of history combined, yet we seem to be getting more unwise.  Information does not translate to wisdom by necessity.  So, in my time at the Monk house, I spent time in basically one passage of Scripture for three days.  You heard me right.........same Scripture, three days.  I learned to linger (and, as a result, I really began to hear God with a higher clarity).

Third, I realized that you can't hear God until you de-clutter.  That took me an entire day to do.  The bottom line was that my mind was focused on unfinished tasks (like dissertation proposals that were due), the pace of my thoughts were Mach-2, and I wasn't sure I wanted to release control to have God say all He wanted to say to me.  So, I had to decompress and declutter to get the spiritual ear wax out of my spiritual ears to hear God.  I had to let go of every hindrance impeding my ability to hear from God.

Fourth, I realized the interdependent relationship of community and solitude.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that you can't really experience community without solitude, and that you can't experience real solitude without community.  I started to understand that.  When someone has been alone with God, they bring to community an authenticity and wisdom.  They don't just talk with wasted words of no substance or consequence....they have something to say and bring to the community.  Also, when we go out of community into solitude, we carry with us a real sense of belonging to God and others that helps us as we talk with God.  We are with God as one of many. 

I will let you meditate on these thoughts for a while, and see if God may want to say something to you.........if you get alone with Him long enough to listen.