Monday, June 02, 2014
Monday morsel: "stability is brave" (from Micha Boyett)
I've just finished reading Micha Boyett's memoir Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer.
I started reading Micha's former blog, Mama:Monk, a few years ago and loved how her writing blended life as a mom of two small boys with reflections on prayer and spiritual disciplines. Found explores how Micha struggled with whether she was doing enough for God as a mother, and how she slowly came to terms with her calling and learned to experience joy -- hers, and God's -- in her ordinary here-and-now life. In this section, Micha reflects on the Benedictine vow of stability:
The Benedictines take three vows when they offer themselves to the monastic life: obedience (to the rule and to the abbot, or leader, of their monastery), conversatio moralis, sometimes understood as "conversion of life," and stability. Every instruction in Benedict's Rule flows out of these three commitments.
That vow to stability is the thing that sets Benedictines apart from every other monastic order, something I didn't know when I first began to study Benedict's Rule. It's a concept that feels countercultural. After all, I am from a generation that values change above all else: technology and careers should always be evolving. We transform in order to remain necessary. If we don't change, we're left behind.
When a monk makes a vow to stability, he is not committing to a general spiritual concept; he is vowing to remain in a single place, with a single group of people, for an entire lifetime. The monastery is his lifelong home, the monks and nuns his family. For better or worse.
Maybe St. Benedict chose stability in response to his own choices. After all, his story starts with a teenage boy leaving everything to follow Jesus. Changing his home and his lifestyle and his future for the sake of his God. Did those three years in the cave at Subiaco teach him to grow weary of the human desire to find something more interesting, more challenging, or more demanding?
Leaving often masquerades as the more courageous choice. But in reality it's often easier to leave a relationship than to pursue it despite the difficulty. Stability demands forgiveness, discomfort and, often, a sacrifice of the more interesting, more exciting possibility. Stability is brave.