Good Zeal

Random Moments

seashell turtleAnyone who has spent much time in a monastery knows that random objects appear in random places at the oddest moments. It makes one ask, “Is this on the way to somewhere else? Was it forgotten? Who left this here? Will they remember where they left it?” A coffee mug on top of a fire extinguisher cabinet near the elevator is surely on the way back to the dishwashing area. And if not a mug, then it is a cereal bowl or a glass. For months there has been a miniature turtle made out of seashells on this same fire extinguisher cabinet on the second floor. It moves around the metal top, but there it remains to greet those who pass by.

Other curious finds in my monastic life include a hammer on a cooling rack on top of the gas stove in the old kitchen, a banana at the foot of the St. Anthony statue outside of chapel, a golf ball in a small patch of grass across from the old retreat center entrance and a walking cane hooked on the top of the card catalog in the library with its owner nowhere in sight. Random things in random places at random times.

There is a story about how each of these things got to be where it was, often one that is somewhat rational or at least reasonable. However, to the ordinary Jane or John Doe in the isolated moment of encounter, the story and context remain hidden. One is left to wonder or to say simply, “Now that’s interesting.”

That which appears to be random to us is, most likely, part of someone else’s agenda or plan. What we see in a chance moment is only a one step in a longer process that has yet to come to fruition. And so, it is with life. So much of our lives seems to be random happenstance with no logic or purpose. Yet, when we pause and look back at our lives, the threads of a hidden plan can be seen. Whether it is God’s plan or our own unconscious agenda might need to be carefully discerned. Regardless, those threads got us to where we are today—have made us who we are today.

A random article in a magazine, a random poem someone else posted on Facebook, a random comment from a coworker, a random stranger in an airport, a random song heard on the radio, a random butterfly fluttering outside our window…these chance encounters might not be so random after all. They just might be part of a hidden plan still unfolding. Perhaps it is God trying to get our attention or point us in a new direction. Perhaps it is God’s way of bringing a smile to our face or of lifting our spirits. Perhaps it is Christ knocking on the door of our hearts seeking welcome and communion. In random moments there is an opportunity to discover something more at work in our lives.

Additionally, on the flip-side, we can be the source of random blessings in the lives of others—a plan of our own design inspired by the love and joy of God. Hearts “overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love,” to borrow a phrase from St. Benedict’s Rule, naturally share that love with others in random acts of kindness—offering one’s seat to an elder, giving a sincere expression of thanks to a service provider, holding a door open for a stranger, spending some time with the homebound, bringing a flower to a coworker to lift her spirits. This was how Jesus lived and ministered, offering random acts of meaningful and impactful encounter with deeply sincere love. Perhaps this can become a new “Easter resolution” for us, to be an embodied Alleluia in the world, an agent of God’s plan for humanity in establishing the Kingdom of God.

By Sister Therese Haydel, OSB

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