Expectations become driving forces in our lives. We are taught to expect certain results from actions and pursuits. The more the results meet perceived needs and satisfy self-perception, the more the inclination toward the pursuit. The end result of the pursuit really depends upon the perception of needs and self.
There was definitely a Larger Hand working behind the scenes of my own stumbling and groping about for simplicity and sustainability where spirituality is concerned. I prefer to think that I stumbled upon St. Benedict Providentially, that I was being led, unbeknown to me, toward a guide that would lead me on in my pursuit.
My own love affair with monastic spirituality began several years before I discovered and began studying Benedict and the Rule. This love affair began during a season of circumstances, circumstances that necessitated living in seclusion in the hills of Northern New Jersey for two years. It was a season of recovery, a season of discovery.
It was, in numerous ways, some quite obvious and others still budding, a season of new beginnings after years of being pummeled and bludgeoned. Over the decades I had been emotionally and spiritually beaten to a raw pulp. Some of it by my own stupidity. The most debilitating of it though came at the hands of well-intentioned others carrying out their own hidden agendas, agendas perceived by their own selves as Christian.
There really wasn’t much left of me. Even physically. I was practically penniless and clerking a midnight shift in a convenience store. Except for my old camper, parked on the back of a friend’s yard, I would have been homeless on the prairie. I was down to little but skin and bones.
Desperate days. Firmly believing in the Gospel of Christ but no longer knowing just what to believe about it or how to go about living it. Firmly desiring to pray but no longer knowing how to pray.
Thinking back, I have to think that Providence was also involved. Not to reduce me to desperation, confusion, and nothingness. But to deliver me from it.
A lot has changed since then. Exteriorly. Interiorly. Geographically and in the realm of the heart.
I’m still recovering and discovering these years later. In terms of Benedictine monastic spirituality, recovery and discovery, conversatio morum, are never ending. Conversatio morum, continual conversion, becomes our life-agenda and our expectations tend in its direction.
Stewed down to its simplest intent, I think these are the two life-processes that the whole of the Rule focuses on – recovering our true self out of the mess of falsehood that the world heaps upon us and discovering how to live in the dimensions created by realizing our true self in Christ.