Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fro-ing and To-ing.

"Go to your cell and your cell will teach you everything you need to know."

I love this famous instruction from a desert father to a young monk. It seems more true for me with every passing year.

Retreat and solitude. On the one hand, these bolster us against the lies of the world. On the other, they teach us how strong and self-sufficient we are.

When we went to Canada, contrary to expectation, I found being removed from all the trappings of 'normal' life very helpful. Because I simply couldn't meet obligations to see friends or family, communicate with them, allow them to help, etc, the extent to which I should do so never bothered me. I didn't need to decide how and when to get 'back into' my usual run of activities after giving birth. Even the decision about a return to work was removed. I could focus 100% on learning to be a mum, largely (thanks, snow!) within four walls. It was very affirming to have that freedom. And see that I could handle the relative quiet, solitude and intensity.

And leaping from the ridiculous to the sublime ..... Jesus famously went into the wilderness for a long period before he entered society as a rabbi. And there, in solitude and desert, he saw that he did indeed have the strength to fight the demons that would assail him throughout his life. (The temptation to take the easy path, to seek his own glory, to exploit God's goodness.)

Usually, our escape is only meaningful because of its impact on our return. I didn't want to stay in Canada and I want to re-establish myself as an actor in the world. Jesus did not stay in the desert (though it is interesting to compare the number of years he spent incognito with the fruitful number spent in the public eye.)

I have heard friends say - perhaps shockingly - that it is hard to let go of a period of difficulty or illness. Within its grip, you have good reason to turn your back on the demands of the world. You are able to be victim rather than agent. If you become 'whole' again, all those expectations and demands bombard you once again. Surely this is why Jesus always has to ask 'Do you want to be healed?' Do you want to be forgiven? Because if that happens, life will get more complicated. It's easier to cling to the notion that we are weak than accept the responsibility of being strong.

So, please go to your cell and learn who you are. And then come out and show the rest of us.

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