I love being right, don’t you? When I stop to think about it, I probably spend quite a bit of time figuring out ways to be right about nearly everything. After all, who wants to be wrong? Who wants to make decisions that lead to poor health, difficult finances, painful problems, or damaged relationships with others? Who wants to hear, “You sure blew that one!”
Reading step four in chapter 7 of the Rule of Benedict always takes me aback. I hold my breath just thinking about intentionally choosing that which asks me to “quietly embrace suffering and endure it without weakening or seeking escape.” Theoretically, I know that the most valuable lessons I’ve learned have come during periods of suffering and hardship. These have been the times that drew me closest to God, often causing me to rely solely on that mysterious experience of somehow knowing or sensing his nearness and intercession. Yet I know the workings of God are not formulaic, and that I should not try seeking this kind of solace for its own wondrously desirous sake. I still cannot keep from wanting to choose the way that seems right to me, which usually means the way that seems best for me. After all, I can usually find a way to procrastinate and even prevaricate, if it’s helpful to the cause I deem most noble and best.
Perhaps it is more about who does the asking, or who presents the demand that I choose the difficult thing, the trying circumstance, the thing that seems as if there is nothing about it good or right. “…. (T)he faithful must endure everything, even contradiction, for the sake of the Holy One….”, the Rule declares. Yes, here lies the reason for choosing what seems to be an impossible task, the undertaking that will surely be my undoing: The Holy One. Here is Love asking me to reach beyond self-doubt and self-interest, perhaps even self-preservation. Love steps out and extends a pointed finger indicating the very place I must move into if I am to take him up on his Word. That is when I must incline my heart toward those words in the form of a hesitantly anxious rejoinder, “Remember You said You will never leave me nor forsake me!”
And so it goes, that now I must “do the thing you think you cannot do,” * and what’s more, I must realize it is not for my own sake, or even yours I do it. Yet, when I come to the end of it, what is it I find? Once again, it is not I who bore it, suffered it, overcame it. Yet here I am, pressed closer to the realization I am not my own for good reason and that I have been freed to respond in kind, not from being pressed into service, but choosing willingly, unreasonably for Love.
By Noel Poston, Oblate OSB