Three years ago, I moved as a result of a job change. For three years, my afternoons would follow a similar pattern: I would throw the door open and fling my bag on the nearest chair. As I passed a mirror, I would glance at the wreck I had become: overweight, dark bags under my eyes, and (worst of all) emanating an aura of anger and frustration. I hated my job, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I became aware of an inner emptiness, a starvation of the spirit: it had been nearly three years since I last uttered a prayer. I was depressed, empty, and angry.
Suddenly, the words would break through my pursed lips:
“I hate my life! My life would be so much better if I worked at another school!”
Before I moved, I was a healthy, happy, and seemingly grounded guy. What happened?
Simple. I lacked stability.
It happens all the time to people. In fact, there is even an idiom about it: “The grass is always greener on the other side.” In other words, if only I was in that situation, or if only I had that boss. How easy it is to see possibilities in situations and people that are alien to my current reality, totally unaware of their own shortcomings and problems. This sort of day-dreaming seems completely harmless, but in fact, desiring to be somewhere other than where we are only weakens our ties to the present and enslaves us to our variable emotions.
Benedictine spirituality strives to rid us of these shackles by making us aware of why we are doing what we are doing, why we choose to live our lives with our partners, and even why we exist at all. How? Through a value called “stability.” Benedictine stability reminds us that God is the reason for everything in our lives, the origin of our being, the end to whom we are returning.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gave as the first condition for discipleship the total renunciation of everyone we hold dear. Jesus said:
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.
– Lk 14:26
Why? Stability tells us that everyone around us, while some of God’s greatest gifts to us, are not the reasons we exist or labor in this world: that honor belongs to God, and only God can offer us the peace we long for. Stability teaches us to root ourselves in God. Jobs change. Loved ones die. Friendships break.
But God does not change. Benedictine stability pulls us from volatility of life and plants us in the presence of God. Benedictine stability teaches us how to see God in everyone and everything around us. We are immersed in the sacred as the world, its inhabitants, and its realities are transfigured before us, and we are brought face-to-face with the Divine. Suddenly, the words of psalm 45 become clear:
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
Be still. Stop moving. Stop fussing. Stop worrying. Stop looking for bigger and better things.
The words of the Beatitudes also take on new meaning:
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
Purity of heart is what stability is all about. To be pure of heart is to see God where we are. God calls us to stop searching for the divine. Instead, we are to continue doing what we are doing and allow the divine to transform us.