Monday, August 31, 2009

A time for every purpose

Hello. It's been a very, very long time. Camp came and camp ended. I drove from Missouri to Austin, Texas. I drove to Columbia, South Carolina. I drove to Atlanta, Georgia and flew to Anaheim, California. And now I am sitting at home again, at last.

So many wonderful people, wonderful stories. Although I haven't (and probably won't, unless someone asks or I write a memoir) typed any of it up, I kept up my little silver Mound Ridge journal pretty well. The internet broke about halfway through camp so I couldn't have blogged even if I'd felt like it. (After a week with those kids, just getting laundry done is an accomplishment.) It's kind of nice because I've never been that devoted to hand writing in a paper journal. I could write a lot more personal stuff, and God stuff, that would bore you or make you squirm. Don't feel you missed out too much.

It's weird coming back to this blog. I really don't know what to say. I guess I'll say that I'm a very changed person after this summer. God taught me many lessons, particularly about humility. I was used to seeing my life as my big picture, with God and other people fitting into it. I'm learning to see my life in terms of God's big picture, with others in there and myself as a tiny piece of it.

I read a book called Monk Habits for Everyday People. It's a Protestant's guide to applying the wisdom of St. Benedict's Rule to modern life. It was recommended to me by pastor Christian Boyd whom I think Pam mentioned in my previous post. It was just the book I needed to read in that place and time, thinking about discipline and purpose, what it means to be in community, submitting your own will and desires not just to God but for the people around you.

Then I went straight to the source and read the Rule itself. It's a quirky thing, full of archaisms, absurdities, humor and deep wisdom. It's hard to explain how these two books intersected with my story weaving its way across far-flung locales. In Austin, after enjoying the Barton Springs Sunday Circus and all the oddities therein, I'd read about monks who never laugh or engage in "idle talk" and somehow identify with both worlds. I took the Rule to the Full Time Training in Anaheim, one of the strictest but also most spiritually living Bible schools in the nation. Although most people there would not see their life in terms of monasticism, I do. The parallels were truly striking.

I guess brother Benedict has given a particular color cast to my whole summer, added a certain brilliancy that's hard to explain. Those two books, combined with repeated themes of experience and fellowship with the Giver and Purposer, brought me to a perspective that cut out a lot of the fluff and revealed the true sheen and worth of the essences of life.

In six months, I will be enrolled in the Full Time Training. This is what God has been preparing me for. This is the true desire of my heart and something I will be willing to strive toward harder than I have pursued graduate school. (Not that I won't be a librarian - that's still the plan. It's just on hold for two more years. I'll still be done with grad school before I'm 25.) On the other side of the country, my contact with parents, friends and family will be reduced to weekly phone calls. I will not see any of them for stretches of five months. My entire life will be structured around one thing - God. Not just learning about Him or doing some kind of obesience rituals supposed to make Him happy, but gaining Him. Breathing and eating and drinking Him. Getting Him into my being in in a way that transforms me not only into His image, but into His very life and nature. Not just because I want to be a better person but because I want to be a part of the reason for the universe, to bring joy to the heart of the Creator, to fully inhabit my place in His. . . His . . . I can't even think of a word big enough to describe it, big enough to capture the feeling I feel of His utter vastness and the smallness of my heart within Him.

With that goal in view, how am I to approach the next six months? What is truly important? God, family, friends. Living in a way that glorifies Him, benefits them, and draws us all closer together. I've been thinking and doing far too much. I need to truly live. It will require some painful sacrifices and I hope those reading my blog will understand. The things I have been a part of in Spartanburg have been good and wonderful things and I continue to fully support everyone involved in them. I believe it is all a part of God's plan. But I have to step out now. I realize many of those things had become reasons to neglect the people God put into my life to cherish and the more personal responsibilities I must now learn to bear as an adult. I hope that over the next few months, I will get to develop deeper relationships with all of you as human beings, whoever you are, and maybe even that we could spend time together, not doing, doing doing, but just being.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

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